For five years, Rodrigue Ebondo served as the Centro Escolar University Scorpions’ anchor.
For five years, the six-foot-six Congolese helped bring glory to CEU, winning numerous titles in leagues such as NAASCU, UCBL, and the PBA D-League.
For five years, Ebondo served as the main attraction, all thanks to his talent that banked on length, athleticism, and of course, versatility.
But as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
Ebondo played his final game in a CEU jersey last Thursday, in the 2018 D-League Aspirants’ Cup quarterfinals versus Zark’s-Lyceum Jawbreakers. Just like what he does in every given time, he gave it his all, having 22 points, 16 boards, three assists, two blocks and a steal in over 38 minutes of action.
But it wasn’t the kind of exit fit for someone like Ebondo.
His efforts went for naught, as CEU squandered an 11-point lead in the fourth and bowed to Zark’s-Lyceum, 77-82, thus crushing their semifinal hopes.
The loss, moreover, would truly be tough to fathom, as the Scorpions had a twice-to-beat advantage only for the gutsy Jawbreakers to blow it up.
“What can we do?,” Ebondo rued. “That trapping defense of Lyceum at the end.
“I didn’t even expect that we will lead the whole game and lose like that.”
It may be painful, but Ebondo doesn’t want to dwell on the loss anymore. And he could not let this one defeat define the great, five years he had in CEU.
“This is basketball. There will always be a winner and a loser. And no matter what, you just have to go there and give your best,” said the Marketing major, who had his graduated ceremony last Wednesday.
“We lost today but this is just a learning experience for me. I don’t care if this is my last game or my first game, but the most important thing is I enjoyed the game and I just gave my best today.
“I hope that we could have won and go to the semifinals to make it a memorable season for me, but sadly it didn’t happen the way that we wanted,” added Ebondo.
“We just have to move on.”
Now that he’s set to leave the university in Mendiola, all that he hopes for this current batch of Scorpions is to grow and learn even without him.
“The team needs more maturity,” said the 23-year-old big man. “The talent is there. I can’t demand. The only thing they can improve now is maturity.
“The talent is there. They are all good basketball players. But as we know in basketball, talent is not enough. You really need to put in the effort.”
Just like any other graduating player, Ebondo sets his sights for the future.
Ebondo bared that offers from various teams have been coming at his doorstep, asking him if he can have his services as their reinforcement. However, playing professionally isn’t on top of his priorities — for now.
“I wanted to go to play somewhere but I got a call again for my national team,” said Ebondo, who has played for Congo in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.
“I’m leaving on June to go to Tunisia for training camp with the national team. We have a second window to play for the FIBA Qualifiers. I will focus on that first.”
For him, that training camp in Tunisia would be a vital part of his development, as he feels that it will help him be ready for his pro ball aspirations.
“The training camp will help me to be ready to play to the next level.”
It’s kind of surprising that someone as good as Ebondo won’t head straight to the pros. But for him, he’s all about improving himself first.
“I don’t really want to rush things like money and everything,” he said. “I know that the money’s there, but the only thing that I want to do is to be patient, to trust the process, and focus in improving my game.”
Being in the country for half a decade has made Ebondo become known, especially to the scouts — he even bared that some are asking him to stay put.
“The funny thing is, many guys don’t want me to leave, saying ‘just stay here, you’re gonna make a lot,'” shared Ebondo with a chuckle.
But, is he open to the idea of playing in the Philippines as an import?