Everything had been a tough hill to climb for an underdog like Brian Heruela, so much so that winning a championship in only his fourth conference as a pro hadn’t even crossed his mind when he entered the big league.
“I did not expect it at all. Right now it happened. I hope there is going to be more coming for us,” Heruela said after San Miguel sealed the second of their back-to-back PBA Philippine Cup titles Wednesday night.
The 26th overall pick in the 2014 PBA draft, Heruela hadn’t been one of the most highly-touted prospects out of the draft pool, but he had worked hard to establish a name in the league.
He brought his impressive playmaking skills and toughness to the table, and was a starter on the Blackwater Elite roster. He led the PBA in assists in the 2014-2015 season with 5.3 APG.
During the off-season, he was traded to the San Miguel Beermen, and the deal quickly got Heruela excited about his chances to win a championship — not unusual, considering the Beermen have been one of the top contenders for a title over the past two seasons.
“From the moment I was traded to San Miguel I already thought I would have a good chance to win a championship,” Heruela shared.
Heruela’s numbers dipped to only 8.6 minutes/game from 33.1 in the previous season. He averaged only 2.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG, and 1.2 APG, but deferring to team success was all part of the process.
With big backcourt names like Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross, Heruela found joy in just pushing them and making them better every time in practice. He knew it was the role he had to do, and he was willing to contribute.
“I am just thankful I am able to help out every way I can. I am able to help the team win a championship whether it comes just from practice or playing. I just give it my all when I go to work,” Heruela said.
Even in the finals series, there was still doubt if San Miguel could pull it off given the circumstances.
“It was sad at that time. His (Fajardo) health was more important for us,” he said.
But Heruela kept believing good things would come, the same way he always has since starting his PBA career. And he is a champion now because of that.
“As a team we have a very solid group with or without June Mar. We kept believing in each other and right now we prevailed. I am thankful,” he added. “Now we are just going to savor it. I am thankful for this opportunity to be part of the San Miguel team and we will just continue moving forward. I want to enjoy this day.”
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