“You need to leave a legacy. Ano naman maiiwan mo if you’re not going to contribute?”
Mapúa Institute of Technology head coach Atoy Co has been known to be very vocal in calling out his players. Being one of the greatest players to ever play the game, the “Fortune Cookie” is known to bench players that he deems not to be workhorses during practices.
Mark Braña is one of the seniors in the team. After not being suited up during the 90th season of the Grand Old League, the 6’4 bruiser was being pegged as one of the team’s energy guys that will help in relieving some of the load off all-around foreign student-athlete Allwell Oraeme this season.
During the end of the first round however, with the Cardinals being plagued with the injury bug, Braña fell out of favor in the team’s rotation. This resulted to Oraeme playing a total of 118 minutes in a stretch of three games. This stretch included a marathon 40 minute outing for the 19 year old Nigerian in an embarrassing come-from-behind loss to the JRU Heavy Bombers.
To end the first round, Braña was averaging just 4.67 points and 1.5 rebounds on 12.33 minutes of play. During the week-long All-Star break of the league, the Mapúan senior was called out by his coach, “Chinallenge ako ni coach. Sabi ni coach sa akin, ‘last year mo na, payag ka ba na ito lang ipapakita mo? Yung tiwala na binigay ko sa iyo dati, paano mo maibabalik iyon? Kelangan mo mag work double-time,’” he recalled. “Ginawa ko lang naman. Tinulungan talaga ako ni coach,” a grateful Braña added.
As of press time, he upped his averages to 6 points and 3.33 rebounds on 15.33 minutes. His improvements was evident in the Cardinals crucial win over the Heavy Bombers last Tuesday, September 8. Braña logged in 21 minutes and had a statline of 12 points and 8 rebounds. Moreover, he made the game-winning three-point play with 5.9 ticks remaining that gave the Cardinals solo fifth in the standings. “Gusto lang namin bumawi sa last game namin against them [JRU]. Panalo na kami nun natalo pa,” he said after the game.
Braña credits the renewed trust the coaching staff is giving him to the hard work he puts in the gym. “Go hard lang. Kelangan ko talaga dagdagan yung rebounds kasi yun yung nakita ni coach Atoy sa akin sa practice. Ang nilalagay ko lang sa sarili ko go hard lang para magkaroon siya ng kumpiyansa na gamitin ako.” He further added that coach Atoy Co does not favor anyone in the team, “ganun naman si coach kahit gaano ka kagaling kahit si Josan [Nimes] ka, si CJ [Isit], or si Andretti [Stevens], kapag di ka nag go hard sa practice, di ka niya gagamitin.”
When asked if whether he has finally earned the trust his coaches, Braña thinks that he still needs to push himself more. “Konti pa. Konting push pa sa sarili makukuha din natin yan. Kasi baka nagdoudoubt pa siya e. Kasi alam mo naman, one of the greatest players siya. Kelangan pang ligawan,” he quipped.
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