That’s how Aljun Melecio described his announcement via Facebook last January that he is throwing his name into the 2021 PBA Rookie Draft in March, touted as the deepest in recent years as it drew a record 97 applications.
“This is a painful announcement,” wrote the 22-year-old point guard in his heartfelt post that has reached over 2,000 reactions and nearly 300 comments, “but it is one I have to make: I am entering the 2021 PBA Draft.”
When asked why during his guest appearance in Tiebreaker Vodcasts’ The Prospects Pod, the answer was simple. It was tough to leave De La Salle University — a place he has called home for the last few years.
“Masakit na iwan ‘yung La Salle na parang hindi pa tapos ‘yung season ko,” said Melecio in the podcast presented by SMART, as he was about to play his fifth and final year before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic struck.
It’s an understandable feeling. Melecio had several fruitful years in Taft Avenue, beginning in 2016. He won UAAP Rookie of the Year honors, and helped his school cop the Season 79 gold medal at the expense of Ateneo.
“Gusto ko pang maka-isa sa La Salle. Parang gusto ko munang bigyan ng chance na baka mag-champion,” he said.
“Pero may mga bagay talaga na dapat mag-decide ka para sa ikabubuti, para sa kung saan ka sure.”
Tough as it was, though, Melecio is at peace with his decision. Now, he has his sights locked on the virtual draft event, looking to become the latest Green Archer to join the pros after Kib Montalbo and Prince Rivero.
Montalbo was the first-round pick by TNT in the 2019 draft, and already went to the Finals in just his rookie year in the Clark bubble. And according to Melecio, his former teammate had some advice for him for the draft.
“Actually, hindi kami masyado nag-uusap about sa PBA mismo. Nag-uusap lang kami about sa draft, kung ano ‘yung pinagdaanan niya during the draft, kung ano ‘yung mindset. Mostly about doon lang, wala masyado doon sa PBA.
“Ang sabi niya lang relax lang ako, ‘wag masyadong mag-overthink kasi hindi naman kontrolado ‘yung mga ganyang bagay. Maging ready lang palagi, kasi ‘yun ‘yung bagay na mas control mo sa sarili mo. Ganun lang,” he explained.
The Bukidnon-native, though, knows there are many other guards on the radar of the ball clubs. But he believes that his defense and improved decision-making are his advantages over his fellow aspirants.
“‘Yung edge ko over other guards siguro defense. Kung kailangan naman maka-score, nandiyan naman ako palagi kung kailangan. Nung last season ko sa UAAP, medyo kumalma na ‘yung game ko, so better decision-making,” he said.
He also has an edge in adapting to multiple systems, said Melecio, since he played for four different coaches — Aldin Ayo, Louie Gonzalez, Gian Nazario, and Derrick Pumaren — during his time in La Salle.
“Medyo mahirap kasi pabago-bago ‘yung timpla ng sistema. Maraming adjustments na nangyari, so ‘yung natutunan ko doon is paano mag-adjust sa system ng coaches and adapt,” said the UAAP Season 78 Juniors MVP.
“Malaking bagay ‘yun kahit na ganun ‘yung nangyari sa La Salle. At least may positive side, na marunong ka mag-adjust sa system na iba’t ibang coaches. Tingin ko malaking factor ‘yun pagdating sa pro.”
Asked if he prefers any PBA team in particular to play for, Melecio is alright with whichever team chooses him in the draft proceedings. What matters most to him is to realize his childhood dream to play in the league.
“Bata pa ako dream ko na talaga mag-PBA. Kahit anong team.”