University of Santo Tomas forward Aljon Mariano
MANILA, Philippines – University of Santo Tomas forward Aljon Mariano is determined to end his collegiate career on a high note, especially after a disappointing performance in the UAAP Season 76 basketball tournament.
"Last chance ko na ito," Mariano told ABS-CBNnews.com. "Last opportunity ko na ito para makuha 'yung championship."
"At saka mas gutom ako ngayon, kasi ang sama talaga ng nilaro ko last year," he admitted.
Mariano was the subject of criticism after the Growling Tigers lost in the Season 76 Finals to De La Salle University, especially after the final game of best-of-three series. In a crucial possession, Mariano badly misfired on a long three-pointer instead of passing the ball to a wide-open Jeric Teng.
Mariano said he has moved on from the issue, and is now using it as motivation to become even better.
"Hindi na ako nag-dwell doon," he said. "Ginawa ko na lang na motivation 'yun. Nag back-to-zero ulit ako, back-to-basics, para makapag-focus ako this year."
Moreover, Mariano is finally healthy this year after dealing with a pesky ankle injury that bothered him for much of Season 76 and robbed him of his lift and lateral movement.
"Okay na 'yung ankle ko," he said. "Nagpa-opera ako after the season, mga October, so okay na siya ngayon."
UST has made two consecutive Finals appearances in the UAAP, falling to La Salle last year and to Ateneo in Season 75. Mariano believes they have what it takes to make it to a third straight Finals, even if they have a new coach in Bong dela Cruz and no longer rely on the services of Teng, who is now in the PBA.
"Kaya, siyempre," said Mariano of another Finals stint. "Ayun talaga 'yung goal namin, kasi twice na kami nag-short, eh. S'yempre, 'yun na lang 'yung goal talaga namin. Bawal na bumaba doon."