From being a Blue Eaglet to now a Green Archer, Joaquin Manuel has carved out a role for himself as an all-around forward determined to leave it all on the court for DLSU. Known for the intangible aspects of his game and his defensive plays, the 6-foot-3 sophomore is focused on helping La Salle rediscover their winning ways one game at a time.

Continuing to prove himself as a mainstay in representing the Green-and-White, Manuel reflects on his basketball career—past life-changing decisions, present challenges as an athlete, and the mindset he brings to every game.

A path full of turns

Though his skills may hint at a lifetime of dedication to basketball, Manuel’s first sport was actually football. In fourth grade, however, he started playing pickup basketball games every Sunday, building an athletic lifestyle that has since become the foundation for the seasoned athlete he has grown to be today.

His family played a major role in kickstarting and molding his basketball career, as it was his parents who saw his potential for basketball and propelled him into the sport instead of football. After making the life-changing shift in sports, Manuel further shared that his brother Jett Manuel—who formerly played for the UP Fighting Maroons and Philippine Basketball Association team Barangay Ginebra—served a strong contributory role in motivating him to pursue basketball. “[It was] my brother who inspired me to play [and to] be more competitive,” he acknowledged.

Manuel spent his high school basketball career playing for two different schools, spending his freshman and sophomore years playing for Xavier School before making the move to Ateneo High School for Senior High School.

The highly experienced Manuel proved to become a key player for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets in the UAAP Juniors division. With many fond memories, he recalled, “My best memory was in Ateneo because that was when I really won a championship with the team.”

After an illustrious career playing for the Blue-and-White, Manuel decided that it was time for a new challenge—this time, donning different colors. The Archer explained that the “opportunity that La Salle offered” was what he felt was best for his progression as an athlete, prompting him to make the bold decision to represent the Green-and-White.

Apart from the opportunity in sports, Manuel also revealed that he took his education into consideration, “A big factor was ‘yung studies, and [as] a kid from Xavier, we really value our studies, and we grew up valuing how important it is in our lives.”

Great opportunities, inspirations, and a positive rivalry

After suffering a Finals defeat to the ADMU Blue Eagles in UAAP Season 80, the DLSU Green Archers lost vital members of the squad such as Ben Mbala, Abu Tratter, Brent Paraiso, and the Rivero brothers. Seeking to fill in the holes in their lineup, the team from Taft offered an opportunity for Manuel to play an important role in his rookie year.

During his first season for La Salle, Manuel was an instrumental part of former head coach Louie Gonzales’s rotation as a stretch four able to guard any position and utilize his dribbling ability to space out the floor on the offensive end. Despite his affection for Kobe Bryant’s gameplay, the Green Archer has found his niche in the squad as a contributor immeasurable by a statline, with his role on the court resembling the National Basketball Association’s Draymond Green.

Manuel explains, “I look up to Kobe [Bryant], but my brother keeps telling me that ‘yun nga, Draymond Green, Scottie Thompson of Ginebra—those kinds of players, they’re different. Those are the players each team should have, and I’m just gonna give it my all lang, and if that’s what my role is in this team, I’ll do it.”

Because of his Atenean roots, Manuel had the chance to play alongside current National University star Dave Ildefonso in high school. From winning a title together to rivals on different teams, Manuel expresses admiration for his former teammate because of their influence on each other’s performance, “It’s something that not a lot of people have because we bring each other up…Our competitiveness is not because of [an] ‘I [want to] beat you’ [mindset]…It’s really both of us helping each other, finding our weaknesses, and then, ‘yun nga, we’ll improve each other din when we always play.”

Looking toward the apex

Each season spells a different system. Now that Manuel is on his second year with the Green-and-White, the versatile wing aims to progress as a player and adapt to whatever the team needs him to be on the court, staying level-headed while on the road to improvement. Recently, his style of play has emerged as an unselfish brand of basketball.

“I’m most effective [when] I feel like I can create [chances] for my teammates to score. But aside from that, basic fundamentals [like] shooting, dribbling…I’m a big wing, so if I have the handles—which I will by next year—then I’ll pretty much be better,” Manuel explained.

Alongside the rest of the team, Manuel is aiming to improve his skills to bring glory to the University, while keeping in mind his mantra to take it one step at a time.

“You can’t really dwell on the past, because it’s game after game—everything is squeezed into one month. That’s the hardest part about it; you only have a few hours to [evaluate] what we did wrong here, or take blame for this and that, but at the end of the day, you really have to focus on the next game,” Manuel discusses the difficult challenge of getting better with each match, using frustrating performances as motivation to try “fixing” his gameplay.

Contributing his unselfish playmaking combined with his drive to keep progressing as a student-athlete, no one can argue that the sophomore Archer has cemented his place in La Salle’s lineup. The team is gearing to reassert itself as a strong contender in the UAAP basketball scene in the years to come, and when he steps onto the court for the Green-and-White, Manuel always reminds himself that, “It’s [about] staying ready, being ready to go at any time.”

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