When Kai Sotto was given the honor of making the first pick for the 2019 Chooks-to-Go/NBTC All-Star Game, the UAAP Juniors Basketball Most Valuable Player did not bat an eyelash.
“With my first pick, I pick – sa opinion ko lang, best player in high school,” the best under-17 center in Asia declared.
“I pick Mark Nonoy.”
The 18-year-old combo guard made a name for himself during his only year with the UST Tiger Cubs in Season 81. Then in the PBA D-League, he has proven that he belongs with the big boys.
“Parang [Mark] Barroca at [Jio] Jalalon.
“May opensa at depensa,” gushed Team Hustle head coach Chris Gavina.
“I’ve seen him play before. I covered his game in the D-League, UST vs Cignal-Ateneo,” added assistant coach and San Miguel Beermen floor general Alex Cabagnot.
“I told coach Chris, our strongest five, Nonoy has to be there. You just have to give them confidence and let them do their thing.”
But the UST-commit failed to show why he was the first pick during the first 30 minutes of the contest, as he was limited to just seven points. Possibly, he had chills from playing inside the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
“Kabado pa nga eh kasi malaking arena, tapos yung experience na kalaro mo pa si Jalen Green, yung magagaling na NCAA players din,” quipped the Negrense standout.
“Pero yun lang, trabaho lang.”
Then the fourth quarter came.
The 5-foot-8 playmaker turned it on when it mattered most, scoring 14 straight points in the last four minutes to put the Jalen Green-led team away.
And for his efforts, he was named as the Most Outstanding Player.
Plucked from obscurity, Nonoy is now seen as a known commodity. And for him, it’s a result of hard work and determination.
“Ito ngayon, big arena, madaming tao, madaming coaches, iba yung feeling so tinrabaho ko lang talaga. Makukuha mo lahat ng gusto mo ‘pag tinrabaho mo talaga.”