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Spitfire guard moves to the next stage of his promising career

Foregoing his final playing year for the Green-and-White, Aljun Melecio looks back on his legacy with La Salle and how his journey has propelled him in achieving his dream of becoming a professional basketball player. Melecio was recently drafted by the Phoenix Super LPG in the second round of the 2021 PBA Rookie Draft.

A former captain for the men’s basketball team, Melecio, who played the point guard position, has led DLSU into countless nail-biting victories and has made clutch moments that will forever memorialize him in the University’s basketball Hall of Fame. Cementing himself as a one-time UAAP champion and Season 79 Rookie of the Year in his four-year stint for La Salle, he ended his collegiate career with an average of 11.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists.

The decision

After UAAP announced that they will cancel this year’s 83rd season due to health and safety concerns, many student-athletes who were going to play for their final year have opted to go professional. The 22-year-old captain from Bukidnon decided this was also the wisest choice. The uncertainty of the new season following the cancellation of UAAP 83 was the underlying reason as to why he applied for the draft.

The original plan was for Melecio to play his last season under Coach Derrick Pumaren, but the unpredictability of the country’s situation changed his plans. “Uncertain nga lahat kasi ‘di ko alam kailan UAAP, so wala akong gauge and yung kailangan kong gawin if I should rest or work out, [so] I decided to apply for the PBA draft para kahit papaano may assurance kung kailan yung games,” Melecio shares.

(It was all uncertain because I do not know when the UAAP will start so I do not have any gauge as to what I needed to do, if I should rest or work out. So I decided to apply for the PBA draft because at least there I have assurance on when the games will happen.)

Nasasayangan ako kasi the managers and my coaches know kung gaano kong tinry talaga mag-stay sa La Salle to play my last season with them, [pero] wala talagang sure ngayon in this pandemic,” he reveals.

(I am disheartened because my managers and coaches know how much I tried to stay in La Salle to play my last season with them, but there is really too much uncertainty during this pandemic.)

The memories

Although it was not the farewell Melecio expected, the memories and accomplishments he made along the way are what are most important. The former captain was bleeding green since his high school days, as he played for the De La Salle Zobel Junior Archers, where he was once crowned as the UAAP Season 78 Juniors MVP. He shares that one of his most memorable experiences during his stay was reaching the finals in his fourth year playing for his high school squad.

In his time in Taft, Melecio imparts that playing for them is his most notable experience. He remarks, “‘Yun ‘yung pinakamemorable sa akin kasi ever since dream ko na maglaro doon eh. ‘Di ko inexpect na marerepresent ko ‘yung Green-and-White.”

(That was my most memorable experience because ever since then my dream was to play there. I did not expect to represent the Green-and-White.)

Outside the hardwood courts and the sweaty training gyms, his experience at the University trained the Phoenix guard on how to balance his studies and extracurricular activities. As Melecio finds, time management in games, workouts, academics, and friends has helped him mature to the person he is now. “From my first year to fourth year, mas naging mature ako with the help of my coaches. Kasi may times na I make poor decisions during games, and I think nag-mature ako sa part na ‘yun,” he says.

(From my first year to fourth year, I became more mature with the help of my coaches. There were times that I made poor decisions during games, and I think I developed maturity in that aspect.)

Fulfilling lifelong dream

With the resumption of the PBA still in limbo, Melecio continues to develop his game and hone his skills. “First of all, yung conditioning ko, ‘yun naman yung importante sakin, especially na maliit ako […] ‘Yung second is yung mental aspect ko. Kailangan ko i-prepare yung self ko kasi ibang liga na ‘to eh—professional na ‘to,” Melecio expounds. As the physicality and talent of the players continue to ascend, the athlete must seek a way to crack the crowded rotation of Phoenix with the new acquisitions of Chris Banchero, Larry Muyang, and Vic Manuel. 

(First of all, conditioning is very important for me because I am small […] Second, I need to focus on my mental aspect. I need to prepare myself because this is already a different league—this is professional already.)

Despite his small stature, Melecio can use his terrific shooting prowess and pesky defensive awareness to provide a boost for the Super LPG. He shares, “Pressure defense, quality minutes and sa scoring, pero kung ano naman kailangan ipagawa sakin, I’m willing to adjust naman.”

(I can provide pressure defense, quality minutes and scoring to the team, but I can adjust to whatever the team needs me to do.)

With immense potential to succeed at the professional level with his dedication and hard work, Melecio’s first year in the PBA will be looked forward to by the fans. As fans are eager for this hiatus to finally end, the talented 2021 draft class will be given the opportunity to showcase their wares and the gifted and skilled young man in Melecio is sure not to disappoint. 

By Dayne Aduna

By Diego Vergel de Dios

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