When the iWalk Chargers released their lineup in the 2019 PBA D-League Second Conference, the team listed 10-year PBA pro Jonas Villanueva as both a player and their coach.
But in two games, the 6-foot combo guard has yet to suit up for iWalk. And he has no plans of doing so just yet.
“Actually, naka-line up ako dito pero sabi ko, ‘Walang magco-coach kung maglaro ako.’ Magkakagulo kami lalo,” said the now-36-year-old, who was the ninth overall pick in the 2007 Rookie Draft.
Right now, Villanueva is focused on coaching iWalk. After all, he doesn’t want to waste the opportunity to learn from one of the country’s best coaches in Jong Uichico.
“May offer ako actually pero, like I said kanina, kasama ko si Coach Jong. Sabi niya sa akin, ‘tapos ka na ba maglaro or are you into coaching na?'” shared Villanueva about the nine-time PBA champion coach and now the head of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ Coaches’ Academy.
“Sabi niya, ‘If you really want to coach, I can help you.'”
With the Bataan Rivers, where Villanueva serves as a team official, he was able to learn the tricks of the trade under Uichico. In just his few months under him, Villanueva noticed a huge difference between playing and coaching.
“Sobrang iba pala.
“Before, I was more of a mental player. I used my experience. Pero sa coaching, iba-iba yung players. I have to make sure to connect with each player, isa-isa. I’m still adjusting. It’s a good experience for me at matututo rin ako eventually,” said Villanueva, himself a two-time PBA Champion.
Villanueva’s debut did not go as planned, though, as iWalk fell to AMA Online Education last August 1, 92-110. Still, he simply charged the loss to inexperience.
“Well, like I said, rather than putting a system, I’m adjusting to my players. I’ll adjust to their strengths. Also, sa kanila, kung sa’n sila comfortable. For now, yun muna ginagawa ko,” Villanueva admitted.
His team was able to bounce back 11 days later, as the Chargers trounced Hazchem, 90-76.
Villanueva knows he has a long way to go, however. But as he finds his groove in this new field he has chosen, he is not closing his doors on the Chargers.
“The owners were hoping na maglaro ako pero sabi ko, ‘Relax lang tayo. Let the kids play.’ I’ll stick to coaching muna, pero ‘pag okay na yung team, baka makisali ako.”