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DiGregorio spends birthday with showdown against ‘idol’ Romeo

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Mike DiGregorio’s typical birthday celebration is just relaxing and hanging out with friends and family to enjoy his day.

But on Saturday night — DiGregorio’s 23rd birthday — the Mahindra backcourt player was already inside the gym at 6:30 in the morning, doing his usual shoot-around routine.

DiGregorio, the 36th overall pick in this year’s PBA Draft, says he takes up to 500 shots just to get his rhythm and be as prepared for the game as he can.

With a game slated at three in the afternoon against the Globalport Batang Pier, DiGregorio’s birthday was a special one, as he went up against Terrence Romeo, whom he admits is his idol in the league.
Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times DiGregorio spends birthday with showdown against 'idol' Romeo
“Terrence is my idol. That is the guy I look up to a lot. That is my favorite guy in the PBA. To go up against him and I knew I was going to get good minutes. I wanted to show well against him,” DiGregorio said.

And with main playmaker LA Revilla out for Mahindra, DiGregorio knew he was going to be in for a treat; he wanted to make a statement against one of the most promising backcourt stars in the league today.

“I really wanted to do well on my birthday. I knew coach would give me (an opportunity) to play with LA (Revilla) being hurt,” he said. “I’ve worked so hard for this. It has nothing to do with the birthday, it’s just on top of it but I’ve worked really hard for this (moment).”

And so, DiGregorio started to draw the attention of the fans at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum as he did an excellent job manning the point for the Enforcers.

In only his third game in the pro ranks since being activated by Mahindra, DiGregorio played close to 35 minutes and fired 19 points, including 5-for-7 from three-point area.

“I think Kobe Bryant says all the time in his farewell tour is like ‘the most respect people can give me is to play hard against me’ so I want to go at him. I know he (Romeo) is going to go at me,” DiGregorio shared.

DiGregorio also did an excellent job with his on-ball defense on Romeo. Romeo struggled from the field, missing 12 straight three-point attempts — mostly contested ones. But towards the end of the back-and-forth affair between the two sides, Globalport had the last laugh.

Romeo sank a triple with under a minute in overtime to tie the count at 116-all, before finishing with a crossover move against DiGregorio which led to the go-ahead layup.

Coincidentally, the string of five straight points came after DiGregorio taunted Romeo by clapping in front of his face after the former knocked down a three.

“It’s nothing against him. It’s just the heat of the moment, the competitiveness,” DiGregorio said later on. “I look up to him and to play well against him means a lot because he is such a great player.”

It would have been better with a win, but DiGregorio says leaving a lasting imprint during the game will go down as one of his more memorable birthdays.

“(There are) not many (birthdays) like this,” he shared. “This is high level, professional basketball. There is another one in high school where I hit a halfcourt shot. But this is against some great players.”

Sharing the moment with his idol, and slowly making a name for himself as he worked hard all year long, DiGregorio made sure to make his day a special one.

“This is a pretty special birthday. Obviously I wanted to win but to play well against him means a lot to me for sure.”

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