A rivalry can define someone’s sporting career.
When one thinks of Aljun Melecio’s rival in the UAAP, one might go for a Matt Nieto or a Tyler Tio since they are part of La Salle’s blood rivals Ateneo. When it comes to Jerrick Ahanmisi, one might say Paul Desiderio or Jun Manzo since Adamson and University of the Philippines were heated rivals over the past five years.
But Melecio and Ahanmisi, both of whom entered the UAAP in Season 79, were actualy the quintessential rivals.
“Hindi eh. Sa akin, hindi ko iniisip na rival ko si Jerrick, siguro tough competitor lang. Pero not in the sense na rival talaga. Kapag hindi paghandaan, patay talaga,” said Melecio in an episode of The Prospects Pod, presented by SMART.
“Oh yeah for sure!” Ahanmisi quipped.
“If we didn’t try our best to stop him, Coach Franz [Pumaren] would give us hell in the locker room for sure, so our whole team had that mindset of stopping him or stopping Andrei [Caracut] from scoring as much as possible. And it was definitely fun to compete against both of them.”
Their rivalry began during a heated UAAP Season 79 Rookie of the Year race.
Though Ahanmisi was leading the SP race, 44.5 to Melecio’s 36.57, the Soaring Falcon was disqualified as he stopped for an academic year before entering Adamson.
Since the two have been on each other’s radars.
“I think it’s really fun. It’s always really fun to compete against Aljun and La Salle of course.
“You always know that they’re always gonna come with everything that they have, especially play[ing] against him. Kib [Montalbo], Andrei, Jeron [Teng], Ben Mbala was there; Abu [Tratter] was there. We really played against like a whole La Salle community over there,” recalled Ahanmisi.
“For four years na nagkalaban kami ni Jerrick, grabe ‘yung competition, grabe ‘yung challenge na binibigay sa amin sa team. Hindi niya siguro alam kung gaano kami maghanda sa kanya on defense before ng game,” continued Melecio.
Though Melecio owns the head-to-head match-up versus Ahanmisi, 9-1, their per-game counts are almost identical. The latter had averages of 14.19 points, 3.22 rebounds, and 1.69 assists compared to the former’s 11.53 points, 3.32 rebounds, and 2.59 assists.
And it was only right that Ahanmisi was the first UAAP senior to forego his final year, doing so moments after Season 83 was cancelled. Meanwhile, Melecio was the last player to throw his name in the 2021 PBA Draft.
Ironically, it was Melecio who told Ahanmisi that the UAAP was going to be cancelled again last November.
“One of the reasons why for me actually was I got some news from Aljun over here. He told me that the PBA wasn’t requiring any D-League requirements. So after I heard the news from him, I took it upon myself to actually think about it, talk about it with my family. And they all agreed and I agreed to myself,” shared Ahanmisi, who was already planning to leave Adamson to finish his studies in the States.
“It was a good idea to take a chance and enter this year’s PBA draft.”
On the other hand, Melecio thought long and hard about his decision, going back and forth on whether he would enter the draft. But with UAAP Season 84 not happening this year as well, he decided to take the leap as well.
“Gusto ko pang makaisa sa La Salle.
“Parang gusto ko munang bigyan ng chance na baka mag champion ganon so masakit siya na iwan yung La Salle na parang hindi pa tapos yung season ko pero may mga bagay talaga na dapat mag decide ka para sa ikabubuti ko at ng family ko,” expressed the 22-year-old out of Valencia City, Bukidnon.
Both 6-foot-1 guard Ahanmisi and 5-foot-7 guard Melecio are highly-rated guards heading into the March 14 festivity. And an impending showdown between the two is almost a lock.
And even in the pros, the two will still treat each other the same way they did in the amateur scene – as rivals.
“Once we get to the PBA, I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be the same thing whether we’re playing against each other or with each other,” said Ahanmisi.
“I’m excited na magkalaban kami ulit in the future,” closed Melecio.