In just his second season in the University of the Philippines, Juan Gomez de Liano already turned himself into a worthy selection to the Mythical Team.
To do so, he posted per game counts of 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.5 assists all while serving as the table-setter in the Fighting Maroons’ feel-good run to the Finals.
And oh, the 19-year-old also became the first player to tally a triple-double in the UAAP since 2006.
So what’s next for Juan GDL in his third year?
As it turns out, nobody will see it in any statistics or any awards. “They told me it’s my turn to lead the team. I hope I’ll live up to it,” he said, “they” referring to graduated players like Diego Dario and Gelo Vito.
Indeed, with the exit of Dario, Vito, Jarrell Lim, and, most importantly, team captain Paul Desiderio, a big void of leadership has been left behind in Diliman.
And just as expectations for UP are at an all-time high, the need for a leader for the Fighting Maroons is likewise at a fever pitch.
Of course, Season MVP Bright Akhuetie and now-stalwart Jun Manzo are also only ready and raring to step up in that sense.
At the same time, though, Juan GDL is nothing but determined to prove he can also carry the burden of being a team leader – especially with high-profile names such as former De La Salle University star Ricci Rivero and ex-US NCAA player Kobe Paras also joining the fold. “With Ricci and Kobe, the most important thing we gotta to is jell together,” he said.
In that light, the 6-foot-2 playmaker can learn a thing or two from State U’s pride in Desiderio.
In his time in maroon and white, the Cebuano had to find his voice after the graduation of Jett Manuel and with the entries of prized prospects such as Akhuetie and Juan GDL. “Siyempre, hindi talaga naging madali kasi dati, ako yung unang option, pero nung dumating si Juan, dumating si Bright, ibababa mo pride mo para yung team ang umasenso,” he said.
And once he did, Desiderio led UP to its first Final Four in 21 years and its first Finals in 32 years. “Yun talaga ang ginawa ko – nagpababa ako ng pride kaya nakarating kami rito,” he said.
The good news for the Fighting Maroons is that Juan GDL is confident, as he always is, that he will do just that. As he put it, “I gotta live up to that legacy so, for sure, I’m gonna give my 100 percent as a leader.”
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