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Bonleon credits seniors for defensive turnaround

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Former Batang Gilas member Mario Bonleon Jr. is continuing to prove his doubters wrong.

The former La Salle Greenhills Greenie was a shoot-first wing and a dynamic scorer when he came out of high school. Recruiters found his offensive game as his key to a college scholarship. After a year away from the game, Bonleon found himself with the University of Santo Tomas and with a frame molded in the likes of former Growling Tigers Dylan Ababou and Khasim Mirza, he was a perfect fit for the Espana cagers.

After missing the first game of the season due to an injury, Bonleon has been one of the key role players for the league-leading UST Growling Tigers. “Well para sa akin grateful kami na ganun na yung record namin,” Bonleon remarked about the team’s run so far. “Alam mo yun every game mahirap, nabibigyan lang ng grasya. Grateful talaga kami doon.”

The UST rookie is currently averaging 18 minutes of court time for the Growling Tigers. Beside his offensive prowess, the lanky wing has displayed tenacious grit on defense, which is a huge bonus for UST. This defensive tenacity has earned him the confidence of his coach Bong dela Cruz. “Yun nga e. Minsan nga natatakot na ko kasi parang sobrang tiwala niya. Ako naman lagi nagtuturnover,” Bonleon, who is currently averaging 2.3 turnovers a game, said.

“At least kahit papaano, this game [against NU] nakabawi ako ng kaunti. Thank talaga ako sa tiwala niya,” he reflected about the team’s win against the defending champions, National University. Bonleon played just 13 minutes in the game but was one of the key pieces that helped limit the Bulldogs to just nine points in the pivotal second quarter.

Jokingly, the young Bonleon quipped that, “ewan ko nga ano pinakain kay coach kaya sobrang tiwala niya sa akin.”

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Bonleon credits seniors for defensive turnaround    “Embons” knows that in being a rookie, he has to be effective on both ends of the court whenever his name is called. That is why, with the help of his seniors, he worked hard on his defense. “Dahil sa kanila naging all-around player ako. Dati kasi nung nagsimula ako maglaro offensive player ako. Ngayon kasi, dahil nagsisimula pa lang ako, kelangan maging role player muna. Lahat kasi ng seniors namin magagaling, lahat scorers,” he reflected.

Bonleon has utilized his length to front and check the likes of Kiefer Ravena, Mike Tolomia, Jeron Teng, and other marquee scorers in the league night-in and night-out. “Dahil dun nadevelop defense ko hanggang sa ako na nagbabantay sa mga key players sa kabila. Mas focus ako sa depensa ngayon kaya nadagdagan ako. Hindi tulad ng dati na puro offense lang,” he added.

Even with the high praises he receives, Bonleon keeps his head leveled as he knows that his game is still far from being a finished product. Besides working on his ball-handling skills, he is also working on the mental aspect of the game. “Ngayon, dinedevelop ko din yung mental toughness. Minsan kasi kahit ginagamit ako ni coach nawawala pa rin ako sa offense or defense,” he closed

Bonleon will look to stop Ravena once more as he and the rest of the UST Growling Tigers are set to face Kiefer Ravena and the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles on Wednesday, October 21 at 4:00pm in the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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