In his colorful two-decade-long career as head coach in the collegiate ranks, there are a lot of prospects who turned out to be superstars that Franz Pumaren came so close in recruiting to La Salle.
There are James Yap and Kevin Alas, both of whom trained in La Salle during the pre-season but ended up in University of the East and Letran, respectively. There’s Matthew Wright, whose parents wanted him to go to La Salle, but decided to study at St. Bonaventure University.
“Of course si Chris Tiu, I must admit we tried recruiting him,” Pumaren bared when asked about his biggest “the one that got away” player during last Thursday’s episode of Coaches Unfiltered presented by SMART Sports and supported by Mighty Sports and Choi Garden.
There was no doubt that Tiu would head to Ateneo after his days in Xavier. But Pumaren firmly believes up to this day that he had the upper hand.
Prior to Tiu, Pumaren had secured the commitments of Golden Stallions Joseph Yeo in 2001 and TY Tang in 2002. Tiu graduated high school in 2003.
Things would have turned differently though if the 5-foot-11 combo guard went to La Salle.
In Ateneo, Tiu helped steer Ateneo to two Finals appearances — including a championship victory in Season 71 during his final year. Tiu skipped Season 69 due to him taking his junior term abroad.
La Salle, on the other hand, would appear in three Finals during that time — winning the Season 70 crown but having their Season 67 championship stripped.
Tiu would have still missed Season 69 as La Salle was suspended that year.
For Pumaren, one more thing would have changed for Tiu — a two-time member of the All-UAAP team.
“Kung nag-stay siya sa amin he would have been maybe top 10 player sa PBA siguro.”