MANILA, Philippines – Forced to wait a season and a game before making his UAAP debut, Ateneo de Manila University guard Tyler Tio showed exactly why he was such a highly recruited prospect out of Xavier School.
In his very first game for the Blue Eagles, Tio converted all six of his shots, including two booming three-pointers in the fourth quarter that allowed Ateneo to pull away completely from University of the Philippines (UP) on Wednesday afternoon.
He finished with 14 points and two assists in Ateneo's 92-71 win in the Battle of Katipunan, after missing their Season 80 opener against Adamson University last Saturday due to an ankle sprain.
"It was a lot of fun for me," the 19-year-old rookie said afterward. "Thankfully, okay ang performance ko."
This performance was a long time coming for Tio. He was technically a part of the 2016 recruiting class, but had to sit out UAAP Season 79 due to citizenship issues: Tio only formally became a Filipino citizen earlier this year.
He was solid in Ateneo's preseason tournaments, but then sat out their first game due to injury. Tio could have been forgiven had he played with a touch of 'gigil' against the Fighting Maroons, but instead, the young guard was in control throughout his 11-minute stint.
"Of course, I was very excited to play," said Tio. "But I wasn't thinking coming into the game that I had to score this amount of points."
"I just wanted to make sure that I played correctly, and followed Coach Tab (Baldwin's) system," he added. "Thankfully, okay naman ang nangyari."
He did not play like it, but Tio admits he did feel some jitters. "I just tried my best to fight it," he said.
Mostly, Tio is simply thankful to have finally gotten the first game out of the way.
"It's been a long wait, that's for sure," says Tio. "I just used the time to get better and prepare."
Nevertheless, Tio wouldn't promise that his future performances will be as explosive as his debut. After all, he is still only in his first season, and is still working his way back from injury.
"I don't wanna say anything," he said. "I just want to try my best, and God will take care of the rest."
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