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That tough little guy named Nico Elorde

Ateneo's Nico Elorde (left) with Joma Adornado. Bleachersbrew.blogspot.com

There’s a rule of sorts when it comes to sports writing. On how you are not supposed to use terms commonly associated for one sport for another.

Since it is not a hard and fast rule, sportswriters and sportscasters like to take liberties. For instance, there’s “hitting a line drive jumper” that’s from baseball. There’s that long heave for a bucket described as a “Hail Mary shot” that is all American Football. And there’s “pound-for-pound” that is oft reserved for boxing’s kings.

While Roi Sumang owns that tag in the UAAP, there’s another guy tugging the UE Red Warriors star’s cape – Nico Elorde.

Before you picket outside my house, I know that the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ point guard isn’t tops in any category, be it points, rebounds, assists or steals. But he might very well lead the league in a couple of categories that will never make the official stat sheet of Pong Ducanes’ Imperium Technology – floor burns, split lips, bruises, knockdowns and elbows.

It seems strange that even after all these years there’s an “Elorde” playing hoops when the family name is synonymous with boxing (and should you open an encyclopedia for Philippine boxing, the late Flash Elorde will be right there next to Manny Pacquiao).

Older brother Mig Elorde recalled how they would spar as kids. Mig couldn’t defeat the eldest of the Elorde brood so he would take it out on the younger Nico.

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Halos iyak si Nico tapos magsusumbong sa parents namin,” said Mig.

When the Elorde brothers see Nico get roughed up or double up in pain, they suck it up.

“Every time na bumabagsak siya naiisip ko na part ng game yun,” admitted Mig. “Experience din para sa kanya kasi kung makapag-PBA siya mas malalaki at pisikal yung makakalaban niya.”

Mig paused on that thought, “Pero minsan may mga times na gusto ko gantihan yun kalaban lalo pag intentional yung pananakit sa kanya katulad nung ginawa sa kanya nung isang player ng FEU dati nung si Coach Norman pa yung coach nila. Saka yun tinira siya nung player ng Adamson nung nasa Team B pa siya tapos sobrang laki ng sugat niya sa ulo.”

“I tried boxing but only for self-defense and physical fitness,” clarified Nico, who smiled when reminded of his spills on the UAAP hardcourt. “I enjoy basketball more and I wanted to be different from my brothers.”

Different.

During their Elorde brothers’ younger years, they all went to La Salle where they booed Ateneo whenever they played their rivals from Loyola Heights.

Little did they know that Nico would transfer to Ateneo.

After he was cut from La Salle’s senior team, Nico made the decision to transfer to the blue side.

“It was not an easy decision to leave La Salle because I was there since prep. I built my foundation there and the community became close to my heart. My family and I sat down to discuss my options. I then decided to transfer to Ateneo,” Nico recounted.

Ibang-iba po yung feeling lalo na po nung first game ni Nico bilang player ng Ateneo,” recalled Mig. “Tune-up game po yun kalaban Chinese team versus Team B. Sila nila Chris Newsome yung nasa team. Yun po yung first time namin buong family na makita siyang naka-blue at kami din naka-blue!”

The entire Elorde family shows its support when one of the sons is competing, whether it be boxing or basketball. They all pile into the family van to go to the venue.

Pati nga yun isang van namin pinapalitan ng papa ko nung color. Dati green talaga original color nun kase lahat kami taga-La Salle. Ngayon, color blue na yung van.”

After his benching in La Salle, quite a few basketball observers wondered how he would hold his own on a Blue Eagle team that was gunning for an unprecedented five straight championships in the UAAP. However, Nico has proven to be a valuable player for the blue and white, whether under former coach Norman Black and now, Bo Perasol. After a trying first season, Elorde has gotten better not only with his playmaking but also with his scoring and defense.

Now in his final playing year for Ateneo in the UAAP, the Blue Eagles are in an excellent position to make the finals for the sixth time in the last seven years. Nico would love nothing more than to end his college days with a championship.

“Nico,” described UAAP Commissioner Andy Jao, “is a tough player. He’s a throwback, and I say that as a compliment.”

“I am very grateful and honored that I was given the opportunity to play for the Ateneo team,” glowed Nico. “It was a dream come true for me to be part of the five-peat run. I will always treasure that and never forget that moment in my life.”

“I'm very happy with the situation that we have right now in our team. My goal is to graduate with the championship trophy going back to Ateneo and eventually achieve my dream of playing for the PBA.”

It surely won’t be easy, but knock Nico down, and you can be sure he’ll get right back up and give it that old college try.

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