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Bittersweet return to the Philippines for Marqus Blakely



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As he did not play in the Philippines for about two years, Marqus Blakely definitely missed the country that he considers his second home. So when the opportunity to return knocked on his door, he didn’t hesitate to accept.

“Of course, of course. Of course. This feels like a second home. I’ve played in other places, but nothing’s like the Philippines when it comes to the fans, and the game itself,” said the 29-year-old forward from New Jersey.

“It’s a comeback, it was easy, it was a no-brainer.”

But everything is different now. From heading straight to the Ronac Art Center Gym in San Juan, Blakely found himself inside the Ateneo de Manila campus in Katipunan – in particular, at the Moro Lorenzo Gym.

Blakely isn’t with the Purefoods franchise anymore. He’s not with the franchise where he started in 2012 and won a Best Import plum and a couple of championships, including the one that sealed San Mig Coffee’s Grand Slam.

He’s now with the TNT KaTropa, whom he had faced before numerous times in the playoffs.

Seeing the 6-foot-5 Blakely in a different uniform still looks weird, especially for the Purefoods faithful. For them, they’re still used to seeing him wearing a jersey of the B-Meg Llamados, San Mig Coffee, and the Star Hotshots.

But for Blakely, nothing has really changed.

“I would say nothing’s different,” shared Blakely, who had joined his first practice with TNT on Tuesday at Moro.

“Only my jersey’s different. The same mental state, same way I’m gonna approach the game as a professional, as a hard worker.”

And even if he’s not with his old team anymore, Blakely made it clear that he has no hard feelings towards them.

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“All love for Magnolia and all the players and coaching staff over there. I was blessed just to have that opportunity to come over here and play for them and win with them. It’s bittersweet. But I’m glad to be back here,” he beamed.

“I’m glad to be back in the PBA.”

Now, Blakely’s all about helping this KaTropa team, who are hard-pressed to turn things around in the 2018 Governors’ Cup, as they are currently ranked low in the team standings with a 2-4 win-loss record.

“Just trying to help my team.

“I know there’s been a lot of controversy with what’s going on, but you gotta block that out ’cause we’re in a situation right now where we can turn it around and make a good run,” said Blakely.

The Blakely era has now dawned on TNT. But for him, it’s not just about himself, as he is in awe of the talent that surrounds him in his new team, the kind of talent which he thinks has a chance to get the Texters to where they want to be.

“RR [Garcia] used to be on my team, and we’re teammates now. I’ve always wanted to play with Terrence [Romeo] now I’m on his team… [Jayson] Castro, always have to have a game plan for him defensively in the playoffs,” he recalled.

“With them I think we’ll be able to get everybody on the same page and hopefully see us deep in the playoffs.”