PAGADIAN, ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR — Needing chances. Needing opportunities.
That was Embons Bonleon throughout the course of the past years to re-introduce himself to the basketball world after being reduced to a seldomly-used bench player as injuries hounded him.
And he finally got it in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup Mindanao Challenge on Friday night.
The 6-foot-3 forward was picked to start the ball game at the four spot and he did not disappoint, tallying 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, three assists, two blocks, and a steal in over 18 minutes of floor time.
More importantly, his efforts helped Roxas take an 89-79 victory over Iligan at the Pagadian City Gymnasium here.
“Nag-request siya (Bonleon) sabi ‘Coach baka pwede akong mag first five?’,” bared Vanguards head coach Alvin Grey after the match.
“Tama ‘yung ginawa ng bata. Ipinakita ‘yung talent niya sa basketball. ‘Yung promise ko sa kanya sa next game namin i-istart ko ulit siya kasi good start kami eh.”
And that performance boosted the confidence of the embattled Bonleon.
“Kaya ko pa pala. Akala ko mabagal na ako eh kanina ang bibilis ng mga kalaban pero kaya naman pala.”
The 27-year-old cager out of Davao revealed the reason for his request to be inserted in the starting unit.
It goes way back in 2016 when he injured his wrist, still playing for the University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP, which caused him to be out of action for eight months.
Then a shoulder injury followed which caused him to lose his “hunger” for basketball after consecutive setbacks.
After graduation, he still pushed through with his basketball career with Davao Occidental in the Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.
There, he was often on the sidelines, rarely in the rotation.
“Siguro five years na kasi noong na-injure ako hanggang sa nabangko ako sa MPBL tapos napunta ako dito sa VisMin so ayun parang hinahanap ko lang yung sarili ko,” said Bonleon.
Admittedly, the UST product treats this stint with the Vanguards as his last chance in basketball – hence, the starter request.
He bared that he is considering moving to Australia and just having a corporate job there, completely away from basketball.
“Titigil na talaga dapat ako. Hinihintay ko lang magbukas yung border sa Australia, doon na lang ako mag-tatrabaho.”
But the greener pastures in The Land Down Under might have to wait, especially with Bonleon slowly regaining his form.
“Ngayon feeling ko lang magtutuloy-tuloy na pagkatapos dito kasi diretso na sa MPBL so sana madala ko ito papunta doon,” said Bonleon, part of the Davao squad that went all the way to the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Cup championship.
And his passion for the sport he loves most is burning once again.
The fight inside him that he once had when he was still a newbie in Manila has found its way back to his heart.
He has now relearned how to be himself again, the once highly-touted recruit out of La Salle Green Hills.
“Unang dating ko sa Maynila, pag nakakita ako ng may pangalan, pag may magaling sa kabila sabi ko sa sarili ko ‘tatalunin ko ito, papanisin ko’.
“Dito natutunan ko na sarili ko lang pala ang kalaban ko. Sa mga dati kong team hindi ako aggressive, para akong robot kasi sinasabi sa akin bakaw ganon,” lamented Bonleon.
“Hindi naman eh, kung kailan ako mas naging aggressive saka pa ako nakakapasa, nakakalaro nang maayos,” he exclaimed.
With his reignited love for basketball, in line with Grey’s usage of him, Bonleon would not quit on himself yet.
After all, it seems he has a lot left on his tank as shown Friday night.
“Everyday may hope naman at least may kumukuha pa rin. Sobrang thankful ako kay Coach Alvin kasi kinukuha niya pa rin ako.”