By: Ohmer Bautista
Skinny, undersized, flat-footed, and lack of ball handling skills – these were the notions everyone had towards Anton Asistio when he came into the collegiate scene.
But don’t ever tell him that.
Asistio, who has been with Ateneo for the last six years, ended his UAAP career as a two-time champion. And he was champion who proved instrumental in every title conquest of Ateneo, which can be attributed to his fleet-footed, surgical, and confident play.
Despite a glorious end to his collegiate career, his experiences in the Blue Eagles nest weren’t all glitter and gold. Rather, it was a journey filled with obstacles and derailment – a journey that made him the Asistio that most know of him today.
“When I was first year and second year, ‘yun nga, I made it to the lineup. And that was my dream ever since I was a kid,” the former Blue Eaglet bared.
“Pero parang it wasn’t how I saw myself, because I wasn’t really playing.”
Warming the bench throughout his development stages in the collegiate program of Ateneo, Asistio saw himself relegated down to Team Glory Be. However, it did not douse the fire that ignites in his heart. Instead, he turned it into a springboard to propel him past the walls the world seemed to put around him.
As he confided, “… [I]n my third-year, I was set down to Team B. But instead of seeing it as a downgrade, I actually looked at it as an opportunity – an opportunity to get bette. Kasi the fact that they sent me down, it means na parang may kulang pa ko as a player, diba?
“And with the help of coach Bo – siya yung head coach noon eh – I was able to develop my skills and gain my confidence.”
As time ticked on, the then-fourth year Asistio started to gain ground and pick up steam, as he strove to return to the line-up. However, a momentous event turned Asistio’s life around forever, along with the basketball program of the Loyola-based school: the hiring of Anthony Baldwin, widely known in the world of hoops as the cunning Coach Tab.
“And lucky enough, in my fourth year, a new head coach was appointed – si coach Tab. I knew it was another chance. It was a clean slate for everyone; he was a foreigner so he didn’t know anyone.”
For his part, Baldwin stayed true to his nature as a tactician who evaluates everyone through the lens of a coach, and a coach only. And when he evaluated Asistio, he remained frank, as most know him. As the savvy-tactician put it, “He’s right. When I showed up, I didn’t know anything. And when I looked at him, I saw a point guard. I saw his size and then we tried him at the point.
“Not long after that that, I said that who else are we gonna put on the roster, because he’s not gonna make it.
“When we told him what we felt his weaknesses were, the coaching staff were encouraging me. They’re saying, come on, Anton is a great shooter, he’s a great competitor. He’s not gonna back down. And I’m like – he’s too short, he’s too weak, he’s too slow, and he can’t handle the ball. And this is all true and he knows it. So, at least I gave him a fair shot and tell him those things,” Baldwin added.
But these harsh words of reality simply became fuel for Asistio. The gritty, pint-sized guard went on and made coach Tab realize one thing, and one thing only: that he is a relentless fighter.
“From that point on, the one thing I learned about Anton is don’t ever tell him something that he can’t do.
“A tremendous fighter; not just a good basketball player, but a tremendous competitor. A winner in every day, you know; he pushes himself extremely hard,” Baldwin expressed.
“So, what do we end up with? We ended up with a guy that got into the weight room, changed his body, changed his mentality; continued to be a great shooter; became dependable in handling the ball; and also, is one of our more dependable defensive players,” he gushed.
As they sat at the press room’s table, Baldwin made sure that his skipper knew that his coach acknowledges all the efforts he put forward for the blue-and-white community. As he expressed, “Of course, he is sitting here today as one of the graduating senior, with all the laurels that he deserves, because he worked his tail off to get them. And I guess there’s no greater compliment than to see somebody pursue their potential and go a long way towards reaching it. And I would endorse this guy. I would back him in any endeavor. It’s pretty cool if you believe in somebody so much.
“He’s a great kid. He’s a great young man, and he’s gonna do great things in life. And we’re very blessed that he was part of our program.”
As Asistio, an Ateneo lifer, ends his collegiate run, one thing is for sure. He has given Ateneo what they always asked for – One Big Fight.
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