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Daniel Atienza grateful to Phoenix for giving him chance after Valenzuela cut

Daniel Atienza still couldn’t wrap his head around the reality that he is now going up against some of the players he only watched while growing up.

The unheralded guard is part of Phoenix Super LPG in the ongoing PBA On Tour as one of the undrafted players taking part in the preseason tourney.

“Shocked pa rin po ako until now kasi ‘yung mga pinapanood ko, nakakalaro at binabantayan ko na ngayon,” he told Tiebreaker Times.

Atienza never expected this stint to happen. All that he was really going after when he reached out to former college mentor and Fuel Masters interim head coach Jamike Jarin was to take part in workouts to stay in shape.

The National University product, at the time, was cut by Valenzuela XUR Homes Realty of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).

“Last month po ata or three weeks ago, nag-chat ako kay Coach Jamike. Kasi I got cut sa MPBL nun, na if I can practice and get myself in shape para naman po kapag may offers or try-out, ready po ako,” he said.

Jarin, of course, welcomed him to Phoenix. But as fate would have it, Atienza wouldn’t just be working out with the team. He eventually landed a spot for the On Tour, where teams could field undrafted players or draft aspirants.

2023-PBA-on-Tour-Meralco-vs-Phoenix-Daniel-Atienza Daniel Atienza grateful to Phoenix for giving him chance after Valenzuela cut Basketball News PBA  - philippine sports news

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“He’s with us, helping out, scouting, working out. Fortunately for him, the PBA On Tour opened, and you’re allowed to bring in players that are looking into the draft. Everything just fell into place,” said Jarin.

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Atienza has seen action in the Fuel Masters’ two games thus far. He debuted versus San Miguel last Wednesday, then played against Meralco days later. They won both and he made sure to bring significant contributions.

He iced the game versus the Beermen through pressure-packed free throws — his only points of the match — with 14.9 seconds left to play for the 106-101 win. Then he had nine points and four rebounds to help beat the Bolts, 100-93.

Jarin is one proud coach as he’s seeing that same drive he saw from Atienza during his time with National University-Nazareth School in the UAAP juniors basketball, where he fought through dislocated shoulders.

“I saw him when I was head coach at NU. He was in high school,” recalled the veteran mentor, who coached the NU Bulldogs from 2017-19.

“Championship, he needed his shoulders operated on. both, but he didn’t want it to be operated kasi he didn’t want to miss the championship against the Ateneo Blue Eaglets. He couldn’t even put his hands up.

“So, I saw him parang sabi ko, ‘Wow he would make sacrifices, even his career, just to contribute to his team.’ It stuck with me,” he added.

Jarin only coached Atienza in NU-Team B, and the two are now making up the time they never had in the main team through the On Tour.

“I’m happy for him,” Jarin said. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him. not only in basketball. but that type of winning mentality, fight mentality, he will go places.”

Now, Atienza is looking to make the most out of it as his way of expressing gratitude for a blessing he never saw coming.

“Gusto ko po ma-showcase ‘yung talent ko at suklian ‘yung binigay ni Lord sa aking opportunity through Tatay Jamike at ni Boss Bugs (Phoenix team manager Paolo Bugia),” he said.

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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