Becoming champion in your third year is a Nieto family tradition

Becoming champion in your third year is a Nieto tradition
Matt and Mike Nieto won their first UAAP Seniors championship 30 years after their father won his first UAAP Seniors championship

Three decades ago, Ateneo de Manila University won its very first championship in the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Now in 2017, Ateneo just won its first title since its fantastic five-peat.

Three decades ago, third-year player Jet Nieto was a key cog in that very first championship.

Now in 2017, Nieto remains a big part of that latest title – and not just one Nieto, but two Nietos.

Nieto twins Matt and Mike, also playing in their third year, are now celebrating their first championship in the UAAP Seniors after helping the Blue Eagles top archrival De La Salle University last Sunday.

They follow in the footsteps of their father Jet who was a contributor in Katipunan Avenue’s first-ever Finals win in 1987.

And so, 30 years apart, Nieto father and sons are champions.

However, the Nieto father can say something his sons cannot – not yet, at least. “Sabi ni daddy, ‘di ko pa siya natatalo kasi siya, back-to-back. Ako (at si Mike), first pa lang,” Matt said through chuckles.

Jet and the Ateneo of his time won two championships in a row in 1987 and 1988.

Matt and Mike can match the feat of their father a year from now – with the help of a Blue Eagle side that will remain mostly intact, of course.

Whatever happens, though, the now 51-year-old elder Nieto is always proud of his 19-year old twins. “He’s really proud of us. Lagi niyang sinasabi sa amin yun,” Matt shared.

As it turns out, even before Matt and Mike were able to hoist their first Seniors trophy, their father had already told them that they were going to make it happen. As Matt narrated, “He actually wrote us a letter (in the morning of Game 3) and that really inspired us to play. He just told me he believed in me and he knew I’ll make the right decisions.”

He then continued, “Sinabi niya, parang, ‘Mr. Big Shot, I know you’ll do it. Make me proud, son.’”

For the twins, that meant so much – especially because doing something like that was out of character for the elder Nieto. “Actually, to be honest, si daddy kasi, umalis agad tapos ‘di na niya kami nakita (nung morning ng Game 3) so nagsulat na lang siya ng letter. Nagulat nga kami kasi parang ‘di naman gumagawa si daddy nang ganun,” Mike said.

He then continued, “Sinabi lang niya dun yung dream namin when we were like five or six-years-old habang pinapanood si Larry Fonacier. Pangarap namin ni Matt na one day, we will win a championship against La Salle.”

That, Matt and Mike did and from then to now, Jet Nieto always knew his sons had it in them. “What a way to win it in Game 3, do-or-die tapos against our archrival. Ang sarap,” Mike said.

With that, 30 years apart, Nieto father and sons are champions.

And in 30 years, another Nieto – or even Nietos again – may very well win another title for Ateneo. “Sana, lalaki rin muna (maging anak namin). Of course, tuturuan namin yun,” Matt said, talking about the possibility that his or Mike’s children would continue their legacy.

He then continued, “Iba yung blood line ng Nieto e. We never give up.”

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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