Phoenix-FEU Accelerators head coach Eric Gonzales has always spoken highly of former University of Santo Tomas Growling Tiger Ed Daquioag.
Gonzales had always made it a point to integrate Daquioag into the system of the Phoenix-Far Eastern University Accelerators, a team mostly composed of current Tamaraws and alumni of FEU.
“Ang pinag-uusapan talaga namin is how to integrate Ed,” Gonzales said during their season debut against the Wangs Basketball Couriers. And even when they have been winning, the head coach continues to play Daquioag more than the rest of the roster. “On our team, we are waiting for Ed (Daquioag) to gel. That’s why we’re giving him more minutes,” he said, after Daquioag had returned from an ankle injury.
After eight regular season games, the investment in Daquioag has finally born fruit, as the former UST team captain led the Phoenix-FEU Accelerators in a 90-83 win over the heavily-favored Caida Tile Masters to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three semifinals series in the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup tournament.
“Siguro nakapag-adjust na rin ako sa sistema ni coach (Eric Gonzales) e,” a delighted Daquioag said after the game. “Sa practice talagang in-emphasize namin na kung sino yung libre kelangan hanapin at siya yung titira.”
He was more than free during that game, as he was able to punch in 32 points on 13/18 shooting during the game. Moreover, he was able to grab eight rebounds to help the frontline of Phoenix-FEU.
No one was prouder of what Daquioag has accomplished than FEU assistant coach Gonzales. “Kinausap ko si Ed, sabi ko take charge. Ikaw ang big factor dito,” he said about Daquioag. “Kahit mag-error siya, maglaro lang siya. Nag-take charge talaga siya parang UST lang.”
Daquioag missed their first encounter with Caida Tiles, against whom his team suffered their second loss of the season. “Sabi nga ni coach sa amin (bago yung laro), hindi puwedeng si Mac lang,” he said about his aggressiveness during the game. “Naka-41 points nga siya nung unang laro pero talo naman. Sabi ni coach kelangan may mag-step up talaga sa amin.”
The 24-year-old added that compared to his past PBA D-League team, the Bread Story Smashing Bakers, this team has given him a new mindset. “Ngayon, champion team kasi ito ng UAAP e. Yung ‘winning mentality’ nandiyan na at madami pa ko natututunan,” the Ilocos Norte-native added.
Now in the final step before his entry into the pro ranks, Daquioag is hoping that he ends his D-League campaign with a championship. “Magandang stepping stone ito para sa akin. Mas lalo na siguro pag nakuha namin yung Game Two sa Martes. And then, we’re in the finals na. Tapos bagong laban na naman,” he closed.