MANILA, Philippines -- Ping Exciminiano won the first championship of his professional career on Sunday, after leading KCS Computer Specialist-Mandaue to the top of the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup-Visayas Leg at the Civic Center in Cebu.
It's an achievement that would not have been possible if not for his mother team, the TNT Tropang GIGA.
Exciminiano had been in training with TNT assistant coach Josh Reyes late last year together with the likes of Gryann Mendoza, Valandre Chauca, and Chris Javier. For his efforts, he was signed to a one-year deal by the Tropang GIGA.
However, TNT knew that Exciminiano, a two-time PBA All-Defensive Team member, needed game reps in order to regain his fitness after recovering from a ruptured Achilles. They decided to loan the 31-year-old guard to KCS-Mandaue, a team handled by Reyes's uncle, Mike Reyes.
"Sobrang blessed ako after all ng mga nangyari sa akin. Na-Achilles injury ako at nag-work hard ako para makabalik," Exciminiano said.
"Thank God na kinuha ako ni Coach Mike at pinapunta ako dito ni Coach Josh at ng TNT. Nagpapasalamat ako sa opportunity na ito at naka-champion pa, first time sa career ko," he added.
Exciminiano was not at 100% when he entered the Alcantara bubble last month, as he was still nursing a hamstring injury. Reyes let his ward recover, and it paid off in the Finals against powerhouse MJAS Zenith-Talisay.
"'Yung patience at tiwala ni Coach Mike sa akin, hindi nawawala 'yun. Nung nagka-hamstring injury ako, talagang ang concern niya sa akin nandun," said Exciminiano, who only averaged 5.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 12 minutes of game time during the elims and the semis.
"Kailangan daw healthy ako ng second round. Pinagpahinga pa nga ako ni Coach Mike nung second round," he added.
Exciminiano pushed himself to the limit in the finals, which took place over three consecutive days. Not only did Exciminiano pile up the points and rebounds, he also guarded all of the Aquastars' big guns -- including team captain Paulo Hubalde, Darrell Menina, Egie Boy Mojica, and even Patrick Cabahug.
"Ever since sa career ko, ang paniniwala ko lang is hard work lang talaga. Kahit san 'yung bola, hahabulin ko -- 'yan yung trabaho ko e. 'Yan 'yung ginawa ko dito," he said.
In the winner-take-all Game Three, Exciminiano ended up with 15 points, five rebounds, and three steals while helping hold the trio of Hubalde, Menina, and Mojica down to just a combined 7-of-15 shooting clip. Moreover, Hubalde, the league's top guard, was forced to commit five turnovers.
"Ubusan lang siguro. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, pagod ako pero pagod din sila. Matira na lang matibay," Exciminiano said regarding his mindset in the finale.
Exciminiano's efforts led to KCS-Mandaue ruling the Visayas leg with an 89-75 Game Three win. The veteran emerged as the Finals MVP as well.
Exciminiano's future is not in his hands, even as Mandaue is preparing for the Grand Finals of the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup which will happen in August. The PBA is currently looking to start its season in mid-June. According to the player, his fate will be up to the Reyeses once again.