When Juan Gomez de Liaño committed to the University of the Philippines back in February of 2017, the UAAP Season 79 Juniors Basketball Most Valuable Player only had one reason why.
“The school has been good to me.”
But before he played for UPIS during his secondary school years, Gomez de Liaño attended grade school on the other side of Katipunan, at Ateneo. However, the combo guard and his brother Javi could not crack the Blue Eaglets’ line-up.
“Nung high school, they didn’t get me.
“Nung nasa Ateneo pa ako, Grade Seven, ‘di ako nakapag-varsity. I didn’t have failing grades, I just had one grade na line of seven. Dun pa lang, I have something to prove na,” he recalled.
Then in 2015 he had another tryout in Ateneo – this time for the Blue Eagles.
“I trained na with coach Tab [Baldwin] nung third-year high school and then actually, we had a long talk, like fifteen minutes during the tryouts. Ininvite kami sa Ateneo,” he added. “During the scrimmage, he just pulled me out and we had a long conversation about everything eh.
“After that practice, coach Tab they were saying na they were interested but they didn’t do anything.”
That is why the now-18 year old guard has an added fuel when he faces the Blue Eagles.
During his Battle of Katipunan debut last September 13, 2017, the then-rookie tallied 16 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals in his second-ever UAAP Men’s Basketball game.
Exactly a year later, he upped the ante, tallying a career-high 29 points to go along with six rebounds, two assists, and a steal.
However, both games ended up in losses. And it frustrates the 6-foot-1 combo guard that he could not get one over Ateneo.
“We beat them in preseason,” a determined De Liano said, as he was the main catalyst in UP’s 71-66 win over Ateneo in the elimination round of the 2018 SMART City Hoops Under-25 Summer Classic – their sole win in four tries against the Blue Eagles during the summer.
“You know, every time na we’re going up against Ateneo, it always motivate me.”
Up to this day, the young gun always wants to prove that Ateneo made a mistake in not getting him.
“So every time we go up against Ateneo, I always go all out. Always yun eh. It’s really extra motivation.”
By the way things are going, this Maroon will continue to fight for what he thinks is right.