MANILA, Philippines -- Mark Nonoy and Deo Cuajao will never lose their love for University of Santo Tomas (UST), but they are now pledging their allegiance to a De La Salle University squad that welcomed them after their exit from their former school.
Nonoy and Cuajao were part of the exodus out of España, amid the controversy stemming from the team's training camp in Capuy, Sorsogon in June. They announced last week that they had transferred to La Salle, a decision that did not come easy for both players.
"Sobrang hirap po kasi ayaw talaga naming umalis eh. Wala kaming ibang iniisip, nakalaan na ang future namin sa UST kasi may four years pa kami para maglaro," Cuajao said during an appearance on "Power and Play" with former PBA commissioner Noli Eala.
Nonoy was the Rookie of the Year in Season 82, averaging 11.1 points, 3.83 rebounds, and 2.78 assists while helping the Growling Tigers reach the finals.
Cuajao wasn't used as much as Nonoy, but he showed great potential earlier this year during the Tigers' abbreviated stint in the PBA D-League where he averaged 17.5 points and shot over 56% from long distance.
Cuajao said their decision was a difficult one, but they had to make a choice as time was running out on them. They had to enroll as soon as possible so they could start their residency year.
"Mahirap na iniwan namin ang UST," said Nonoy during the pair's interview on "2OT." "Doon kami na-expose, nasanay na kami doon. And grabe yung kapag nag-cheer sila all throughout the season, andyan sila sa tabi namin."
"Hindi pa nga namin masyadong napi-picture na 'di na UST ang dala namin. Kasi grabe talaga ang suporta ng UST sa amin. Grabe talaga, walang mas hihigit pa doon," said Cuajao, for his part.
Now that they are both Green Archers, however, the pair said they will give even greater effort and try to elevate their game.
Both players will sit out a season before becoming eligible in Season 84.
"Kahit anong mangyari po, ibibigay ko lahat kasi malaking opportunity 'to sa amin," said Cuajao. "Siyempre, La Salle, sobrang laki na rin."
"Ibibigay po namin lahat, doble, triple sa kung ano pinaghirapan namin sa UST, bibigay namin lahat para sa La Salle," he vowed.
Nonoy, for his part, said: "Siguro, kung anong ginawa ko sa Season 82, sana higitan ko pa sa Season 84."
Even now, with still some ways to go before they can suit up for La Salle, they are already looking forward to their rivalry game against Ateneo de Manila University.
"Kumpleto din kami," said Cuajao of the Green Archers. "Excited na po kami makipag-sapalaran sa Ateneo."
As for the prospect of playing against the Growling Tigers, the pair admits it will be strange at first, especially as the UST crowd will no longer be cheering them on.
"Masarap pa rin pakinggan ('yung cheer), pero iba na 'yung jersey na suot namin," said Nonoy. "Siguro, gawin na lang namin na motivation."