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Aris Dionisio forever grateful to ‘Tapal King’ Philip Cezar

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Just a few months ago, Aris Dionisio opened a new chapter in his young career after he Magnolia Hotshots took him as the ninth overall pick in the 2019 PBA Draft.

His long, lanky frame helped him to become one of the top defenders in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League during his two-year run with Manila-Frontrow.

The 6-foot-5 Dionisio even won the Defensive Player of the Year award in the Datu Cup, while also leading the league in blocks with 2.3 per game in the postponed Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season.

Safe to say, defense has been Dionisio’s ticket to the pro ranks, where he was drafted as the ninth overall pick in the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft.

And so the 25-year-old forward credits his recent success to the man who molded him into the player that he is today — the PBA’s very own ‘Tapal King’ Philip Cezar.

“Hindi ako nabigo kay Coach Philip [Cezar], tinulungan naman niya ako.

“Natulungan ko naman siguro siya, kaya siguro nandito ako ngayon,” said Dionisio while looking back on his relationship with the PBA legend in Tiebreaker Vodcasts’ CPT Crossover, presented by SMART and supported by LGR.

When Dionisio first tried his luck in the Metro, he wound up in the Philippine School of Business Administration, where the former Crispa Redmanizer was then calling the shots. Though the two failed to bring a championship to PSBA in the NCRAA, Dionisio and Cezar built a close bond during their four-year partnership.

“Kasi nung fresh grad ako, nag-aral na ako dito sa Bulacan ng college. Tapos isang sem lang ako, nag-try ako sa PSBA. Sa PSBA naman, naging coach ko si Coach Philip Cezar don,” shared Dionisio.

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And when the 68-year-old cage great parted ways with the school, Dionisio immediately followed suit as soon as the NCRAA season ended.

“Tumagal ako ng four years, and then si Coach Philip medyo nawawala na. Kumbaga madalang na siya pumunta sa practice. Parang nawawalan na rin ako ng gana na maglaro-laro doon sa PSBA dahil siya rin kasi ‘yung talagang tumulong sa akin sa PSBA.”

Dionisio then transferred to St. Clare College, where he won two championships and two Most Valuable Player awards in NAASCU under head coach Jino Manansala. After his success with the Saints, everyone thought that Dionisio would play out his final year with the school.

But a call from his former mentor changed the course of his young career.

“Nung may MPBL na nga, tinawagan ulit ako ni Coach Philip Cezar na siya daw magco-coach sa Manila, baka raw gusto ko maglaro,” said Dionisio.

“Eh ‘di sabi ko sige coac,h magta-tryout ako.”

Looking to focus on his semi-pro career, he forewent his final year with St. Clare since he believed the MPBL would be his strongest chance of entering the PBA.

Now that his dreams have finally turned into reality, Dionisio cannot thank Cezar enough for all the opportunities and guidance that he received back when he was still making a name for himself.

And he vows to make him proud once he officially sets foot in the PBA hardcourt.

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