Known around the Philippines to have a keen eye for young talent, San Beda’s legendary mentor Ato Badolato invited the youthful Tyrone Bautista to try out for the grade school varsity squad after the boy caught his attention playing basketball in P.E. class.
Bautista proved Badolato’s talent for finding gems because a couple of years later in 1991, he was named the NCAA Juniors MVP. With the young guard in tow, the Red Cubs were claiming championships left and right, winning three out of four possible NCAA titles, and their star caught the attention of the top local universities.
What may have seemed like a difficult choice was easy though. “Actually, it was really my dream to play for La Salle. I was hoping that they would recruit me because when I was in elementary, I was watching a lot of La Salle-Ateneo games with my cousin in Rizal Memorial,” he shares.
The former Green Archer adds “When they approached me, I thought to myself that it was a no-brainer, although a couple of schools were also trying to recruit me, but my mind was set on La Salle.”
From Red to Green
The San Beda high school alumnus would then suit up for La Salle in 1992, joining a roster bannered by stalwarts Jun Limpot and Tony Boy Espinosa. During his time as a Green Archer though, Bautista unfortunately never got to taste the championship glory that he grew accustomed to in high school.
The last three seasons of Bautista in the UAAP were unfortunately identical. The Green and White fell to the dominant Growling Tigers for three straight years in the finals. It was not all heartbreak though for Bautista as he had his fair share of highlights, but more importantly, he grew as a player. “My game developed a lot in college and I learned how to play team basketball; It was too bad that we didn’t win a championship.”
One of Bautista’s fondest memories came during his third year as a Green Archer in 1994. “We made the Final Four and played FEU but Tony Boy Espinosa got an ACL tear so Jason Webb and I had to play the point guard position. It was a close game and FEU was up by one and had the ball in the waning seconds of the game.”
The left-handed guard was now beaming brightly as he recalls the events from almost twenty years ago, “They committed a turnover, I got the steal then passed it to Jason [Webb]. He went straight for the lay-up and for some reason I just followed him down the court. He was being trailed also by an FEU player and when he took off for the lay-up, he missed. Maybe it was instinct but I jumped and followed up the miss.”
“My shot went in with time almost out and we made the finals. The crowd was really in a frenzy and they were all jumping and celebrating. It was too bad though that we lost to UST in the finals,” shares the AB Political Science graduate who still vividly remembers the details of the ordeal.
The journey continues
Following his career with La Salle, Bautista continued to strut his wares in the Philippine Basketball League (PBL) and the now-defunct professional league, the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA). He would then play overseas in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei before hanging up his sneakers and starting a new chapter of his life.
“I decided to go into coaching because of my love and passion for the game. It is very fulfilling for me to share my knowledge on the game and to see other players also getting into the sport,” shares the current head coach of the DLSU Lady Archers.
Coaching wasn’t always in his plans for the future though. Bautista considered several different fields before the allure of basketball drew him back. He says, “There were times before, especially when I was about to retire, when I thought about going into another field or venture into business. I was thinking, ‘maybe I could pursue my master’s degree or get into law since I’m a Political Science graduate’, but it’s always been basketball for me.”
The six-foot-two Bautista says that he always considered coaching and mentions that he would study his coaches during the course of his career. His coaches also saw the coaching potential in the young Bautista and they would egg him on to make it count. “I can remember one time the legendary coach Ron Jacobs, on my last year in La Salle when he was a consultant, told me that I should try coaching,” recalls Bautista.
The competitive former NCAA Juniors MVP says, “I won a UAAP championship as an assistant with Franz [Pumaren] in 2007, but as a player, not winning a UAAP championship was my biggest regret.”
But Bautista remains grateful for a lot of things. “I want to show gratitude towards those who I have played under such as Jong Uichico [in college] and of course, Pumaren whom I consider my mentor as a coach.
“Most of the things that I have learned I credit to Pumaren because he made sure that he shared his time and talent with me to help me grow,” he says. “I just want to show my thanks to these guys who inspired me.”