When Matt Nieto walked into the SMART Araneta Coliseum on Friday afternoon, the 6-foot-1 floor general could not help but reminisce.
It was the first time he stepped foot on the Big Dome since Game One of the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball Finals which took place on November 16, 2019.
“Siyempre, nakaka-miss pumunta rito, almost three years din,” the three-time UAAP champion recalled to Tiebreaker Times. “Ang sarap sa feeling na nakapasok ulit ako rito.
“Tsaka simula bata pa lang ako, pangarap na namin ng papa ko (Dr. Jet) at ni Mike na makalaro dito sa PBA. Dream come true talaga yung kanina.”
Nieto only had four days to prepare for his first-ever game with NLEX. But in those four days, Road Warriors head coach Yeng Guiao made sure to give him just the basics of his system.
The 24-year-old former full-time Gilas player did not expect to be given heavy minutes. That is why he was surprised that he was in the game for the entire final frame.
“Sabi naman ni Coach Yeng na bibigyan niya ko ng pakalat-kalat na minutes kaya nagulat ako kanina,” he admitted. “Pero sanay naman tayo sa ganun at laking pasasalamat ko kayla Coach Yeng at sa coaching staff sa tiwala na binigay nila sa akin.”
In 21 minutes of gametime, Nieto netted 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting with two assists and zero turnovers. Not too bad for someone whose last competitive game was back in August of last year.
Nieto though was not happy with his game, believing that he could have done more. And it’s not about putting up the numbers but giving the intangibles.
“Ang natutunan ko kanina is kailangan ko pa maging mas vocal,” he said. “Alam mo yun? Kasi kanina tahimik lang ako e, parang nahihiya pa ko pero as a point guard, trabaho ko na kausapin yung team.
“Kailangan ko maging mas vocal para same page kaming lahat, para maka-keep pace din kami sa kalaban namin.”
And Nieto has five days to get more acclimated with his new teammates.
The second game of each playdate is also livestreamed on SMART Sports.