An Abarrientos will get a chance to showcase his craft overseas.
This as RJ Abarrientos has signed a two-year deal with Korean Basketball League team Ulsan Hyundai Mobis.
“Blessing yun sa kanya,” said Johnny, who is an assistant coach in both Ginebra and FEU. “Unang-una, I want to thank the FEU community because they are very supportive not just to me, but also kay RJ. Nakita nila yung opportunity at gusto nilang matulungan si RJ na i-grab yung opportunity.
“RJ decided na kunin na niya.”
Johnny knows a thing or two about getting an offer to play abroad. In fact, it is one of his biggest regrets.
Back in 1996, Johnny won the PBA’s Most Valuable Player plum after leading Alaska to a rare Grand Slam.
It caught the attention of an NBA scout by the name of Joe Bettancourt. Bettancourt was working with the Charlotte Hornets.
“Yung Charlotte Hornets, they invited me to either join them for a three-month training camp or give me a 10-day contract,” recalled Johnny, who was 27 years old during that time — still at the peak of his powers.
Though getting the support of the entire management of Alaska, the 5-foot-7 guard out of Naga decided to forgo the opportunity.
“Gusto ko talaga, siyempre NBA yun but nung time na yun, hindi ako maka-decide kung gusto ko ba talaga o hindi kasi ongoing yung PBA nun,” he continued.
“Every move and situation, sinasabi niya sa akin yun. Hindi puwedeng hindi kasi alam niyang kung sino ang unang magagalit sa kanya. Kung ano yung marating niya, nasa likod lang niya ako,” quipped Johnny, who is 29 years old than RJ.
“Siyempre, not too serious nung una. Habang wala pa naman nun, hindi mo pa puwede i-count. Pero nung nandiyan na, reality na ito. So why not? Let’s go.”
Seizing the moment is one of the mantras Johnny has lived by.
But unlike him, RJ’s young career so far has been about never turning down a challenge.
Back in 2019, he had multiple offers from other schools but opted to stay in FEU despite needing to sit out an entire year before getting to join the collegiate ranks.
Though COVID-19 derailed his seniors’ debut, he was still invited by Coach Tab Baldwin to join Gilas for the Asia Cup Qualifiers and the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments — stints that literally put his name on the map.
Then in UAAP Season 84, he took the leadership role in FEU despite being technically just a rookie.
Now, he, along with good pal SJ Belangel, gets to make history as being the first Southeast Asian to play in Korea’s premier league.
Whatever happens from there, Johnny reminded his nephew to live his life with no regrets.
“Sobrang happy ako kasi kailan pa niya makukuha yun? Na-layoff siya ng two years. Good thing nakapag-Gilas siya, nagkaroon siya ng exposure, tumaas yung level ng basketball niya kay Coach Tab,” expressed Johnny.
“Very grateful ang pamilya namin na in-add siya sa team at na-bless siya sa hard work na pinut-in niya.”