When asked how he went from Pangasinan to España, Rhenz Abando simply shrugged.
“‘Di ko rin alam eh. Siguro pinagtagpo siguro.”
Besides being a native of Santo Tomas, La Union, it was Abando’s destiny to be a UST Growling Tiger one day.
Second-year UST head coach Aldin Ayo had been eyeing the athletic 6-foot-2 swingman since he was with Letran and La Salle. It was easier for him to gain contact with Abando since his former Letran Knights teammate Chris Calaguio was the head coach of the Philippine College of Science and Technology’s varsity team.
“Kahit nung nasa Letran ako, pupunta sana si Rhenz. Even sa La Salle, kukunin ko sana si Rhenz,” recalled the decorated tactician.
“Itong batang ito, parang nilagay niya sa dibdib niya na kay coach Aldin ako maglalaro.”
After years of courtship, Abando ended up in UST. For Ayo, it was their connection of being raised in the province that led to it.
“Siguro yung pagiging probinsyano. Parehas kami ng background, naho-homesick sa pamilya namin at wala kaming ibang sasandalan kung [hindi] kami lang. Anytime na kailangan ng kasama, makaka-relate ka,” shared Ayo, a proud son of Sorsogon.
“I asked coach Christian sa background niya. Si Rhenz, breadwinner ‘to eh, so when you have that player, ‘di mo kailangan i-motovate yan. They’re playing for their families and their community. Athleticism, yung skillset okay na, pero na-develop niya yun sa one year niya sa UST.”
Abando delivered in his first-ever UAAP game Wednesday, finishing with 22 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals to lead UST to a 95-82 win over UE.
With his first game finally done, Abando hopes to continue to flourish under his dream mentor.
“Sa akin, kailangan ulit namin mag-focus sa next game. ‘Wag na namin isipin, move forward na kami sa next game.”
And just like how he ended up in UST, he is hoping that the stars align for him, Ayo, and the rest of the Growling Tigers this season.