Former NCAA champs reunite in Pasig

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July 29, 2018
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(Photo from Jonathan Aldave)

By Miguel La Torre

Fifteen years after winning a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship together, the troika of Ronjay Enrile, Boyet Bautista, and Jonathan Aldave once again joined forces on the hardwood as they banner the Pasig Pirates in the 2018 Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup.

Bautista and Aldave were the first ones signed by the Pirates, while the former Coca-Cola Tiger followed afterwards. Enrile’s inclusion though, as he admitted, all started with a joke.

“Nung una kasi biro-biro lang eh. Magkakasama kami tapos pinag-uusapan nila na maglalaro sila kaso kulang ng isang player,” Enrile said. “Sabi ko naman bakit ‘di nila ako kunin? Then dun na nag start yun,” he added in jest.

Their comeback was also questioned by nobody else more than themselves after playing with and against young guns.

“Sinabi ko naman sa staff na wag sila mag expect na malalabas naming yung skills namin 15 years ago, kumbaga kaya pa naman kasi ng utak, pero nahihirapan na ang katawan,” Enrile said.

But for them, basketball is more than just a physical sport. “Yung basketball ngayon iba na eh, pero the heart of a champion, hindi pwede i-underestimate. Lalabas at lalabas pa rin ang willingness to win. Puso ng isang pagiging champion, yun ang edge,” he added.

As for their contribution to the team, Enrile is willing to share more than his dribbling and shooting aptitudes. “We are all here just to guide our teammates, especially the young players. Hindi niyo lang kami makakasamang maglaro, tutulungan pa naming kayo,” the spitfire guard said.

In 2003, Enrile, Bautista, and Aldave helped the Letran Knights became the winningest team in NCAA seniors’ basketball history as they clinched their 15th title at the expense of the pesky San Sebastian Golden Stags.

Two years later, Enrile left the squad while Aldave and Bautista went on to win another championship under head coach Louie Alas. Bautista was named Finals MVP as the Knights claim their sweet revenge against Jayson Castro and the Philippine Christian University Dolphins who ousted them in the playoffs the season before.

After a stellar collegiate career, the trio tried their luck and declared for the 2006 PBA Draft. Bautista was selected by the Purefoods Chunkee Giants in the first round with the ninth pick while Enrile was nabbed 17th overall by the Coca-Cola Tigers. Aldave, though, was undrafted but later signed by the Talk N’ Text Phone Pals as a free agent.

Joining them in Pasig is former Letran stalwart Kojack Melegrito who is also a member of the Knights’ 2005 championship team.

(First published on The LANCE's June-July 2018 Issue)

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