MANILA, Philippines – University of the Philippines (UP) rookie Diego Dario showed no hesitation when he took a big shot in the Fighting Maroons' game against Far Eastern University (FEU) last Saturday in the UAAP Season 77 tournament.
Dario, fresh from a stint with the Philippine national under-17 basketball team, drained a three-pointer with 2:03 remaining to give UP its last lead of the game, 69-68, over the Tamaraws.
Unfortunately for the Fighting Maroons, it was FEU that finished the game on a strong note as the Tamaraws went on a 7-0 run to steal the win, 75-69.
Despite the loss, Dario earned praise for his performance. He started in place of veteran guard Mikee Reyes, played over 31 minutes, and finished with 10 points and four assists.
"Beforehand, sinabihan ako ni Coach (Rey Madrid) na mags-start ako today kasi maganda 'yung pinakita ko sa practice. I've been working hard," said Dario.
"Tsaka sinabi ko an malakas 'yung confidene ko coming from FIBA, kasi mabibigat 'yung kalaban," he added.
Asked about Dario's playing time, Madrid answered: "He deserves it. We weighed the overall performance ng lahat ng mga guards, and most efficient talaga siya."
Dario was part of the Batang Gilas team that represented the Philippines in the recent FIBA Under-17 World Championships. They finished 15th out of 16 teams, with Dario scoring 13 points in their 115-51 rout of the United Arab Emirates in their last contest.
"Sobrang laki compared sa UAAP," Dario said of their foes in the FIBA Worlds. "Siyempre skillful 'yung nandito, pero mas pisikal 'yung andoon, sobrang laki kasi nila."
His experience in the world stage showed that he still has a long way to go to reach the top level of competition, Dario said, especially after they played against the United States.
"Sa skills, sa athleticism, iwan na iwan talaga," he admitted. "Pero it's a good experience, kasi best of the best na ang mga kalaban mo."
Dario is hopeful that the confidence boost he got while playing for Batang Gilas will allow him to help the UP Maroons, which up until now have only one win this season.
"We need to be consistent in the next game," said Dario. "We need to prepare for next season as early as now. Underdogs kami, kaya kailangan mas mag-hard work talaga kami."