Juami Tiongson came to a point where he was ready to hang it up.
Now, he’s written his name in the PBA’s history books.
The 31-year-old was rightfully named the Most Improved Player of Season 46 in the returning Leo Awards, Sunday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Tiongson never imagined that he would actually win an award since all that mattered to him back in the day was to give new life to his career.
“Ang goal ko lang was to play basketball, to give me another chance to make it to the PBA,” he told reporters shortly after the ceremonies.
The Ateneo product was on the verge of quitting when his contract was bought out by Blackwater, leading to a brief stint with AMA in the D-League in 2017.
“Sinasabi ko sa sarili ko na ‘yun na ‘yung last time ko maglalaro,” he said,
But he played well with the Titans, so much so that NLEX came calling for his services. Eventually, he cracked the Road Warriors’ lineup.
Tiongson has always expressed gratitude to coach Yeng Guiao for his career resurgence, but he dedicated the MIP plum to one so, so special to him.
“I don’t see it as a personal award, I see it as a family award.
“Kasi there was a time na muntikan na ako mag-quit ng basketball, but then, it was my mom who pushed me to give it one more chance,” he explained.
“This award goes to her. It wouldn’t be possible without her,” he added.
Tiongson definitely deserves the award especially after a Philippine Cup run, which saw him reset his career-high in points twice in a three-game stretch.
Yes, that stretch that saw the Dyip rack up consecutive wins against Barangay Ginebra, San Miguel Beer, and then Blackwater.
Ever the team player, though, he refused to take the spotlight to himself.
“As much as possible, I want to give the credit to my coaching staff… and to the rest of my teammates na nagbigay ng tiwala sa’kin,” he said.
“At, nag-push sa akin na kaya ko pa pag-pursigihan.”
Tiongson vowed that he won’t rest on his laurels even after the feat.
“Through God’s grace, nanalo pa ako ng award. It doesn’t stop here. Of course, there’s more work to be done,” he said.