CALAMBA, LAGUNA — There is no Blue Eagle Band of Brothers in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup powered by TM inside the INSPIRE Sports Academy.
Each and every player is out to win in the Philippines’ pioneering professional 3×3 tournament — so much so that champion Ateneans Jai Reyes and Anton Asistio went at each other when the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards matched up opposite Bacolod-Master Sardines last Wednesday.
Reyes, a two-time champion under Norman Black, took it upon himself in the Leg 1 quarterfinals to shut down Bacolod’s top gun with his trademark dogged defense.
At the other end, however, it was as if ‘Jainamite’ was looking at a mirror.
Asistio, himself a two-time champion under Tab Baldwin, also made it a point to be right up on Nueva Ecija’s playing team manager.
All match long, the two were getting too close for comfort.
Of course, both teams wanted to win, but Master Sardines’ main man also had a more personal axe to grind. “Ever since, idol ko talaga siya. Nanood ako ng Finals nun, Ateneo-La Salle, naging idol ko talaga siya,” he said, recalling Ateneo’s UAAP Season 78 championship at the expense of archrival La Salle.
It’s not surprising. Asistio’s game is reminiscent of Reyes’; both pint-sized playmakers who nonetheless go all-out at both ends.
“Siya ‘yung isa sa role models ko nung bata ako kasi nga, hindi ako kalakihan. I thought that he’s one of the best na pwede kong gayahin ‘yung laro,” said the 5-foot-7 youngster, who had a chance to play with Reyes in the MPBL under Bataan last year.
“Maliit din siya tapos may shooting. Most of all, matapang.”
That fearlessness was on full display inside the ‘CalamBubble’ as Asistio did not back down from his idol.
For his part, the 5-foot-7 veteran expects nothing less from his fellow Ateneo Blue Eagle. As he put it:
“Mas okay nang binigyan namin isa’t isa kaysa pinagbigyan namin isa’t isa at hindi go hard sa game.”
Without a doubt, there are no friends, there are no brothers, and there is no love lost whenever two teams meet in the middle of the floor in Chooks 3×3.
Off of it, though, there is also no doubt that 3×3 players are one.
“Nakita niyo naman kami, pisikal kasi competitors kaming dalawa e. Ayaw naming magpatalo,” said Asistio.
“Kahit nagkakainitan, at the end of the day, we’re still friends. Idol ko pa rin siya.”
Clearly, Anton Asistio worked until his idol, Jai Reyes, became his rival.