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Jett ready for take off

Former UP Fighting Maroons skipper and Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas member Jett Manuel | File Photo

MANILA, Philippines — Former UP star Jett Manuel is more anxious than excited about the PBA draft at Robinsons Place Manila tomorrow but there’s no doubt in his mind that he’s ready to make the big leap to the pros.

Manuel, 25, had actually applied for the draft last year. The 6-0 1/2, 191-pound guard withdrew after finding out he would lose eligibility in the Fighting Maroons’ last few games of the campaign if it pushed through. No regrets, said Manuel, because his last game with UP to close the season turned out to be the most memorable in his varsity career. “We lost to UE, 79-67, in a no-bearing contest but in the end, I looked up at the UP crowd, all the way to the rafters, cheering, applauding, saying thanks for never giving up,” he recalled. “I cried and my heart swelled.”

Manuel then took a year off from basketball to focus on the board exams for civil engineering. “It’s nice to hear I’m the first licensed civil engineer to apply for the draft,” he said. “I hope it inspires others to realize something like this is possible to do. Once I get to the PBA, I don’t expect to do an 8 to 5 job. My priority will be basketball. But I’ll try to continue helping out in our family business of logistics and cement dealership. I won’t practice being a civil engineer per se but at least, our family business is construction-related.”

Manuel resurfaced in basketball when his manager Mel Macasaquit arranged for an invite to join the training pool for the recent FIBA Asia Champions Cup in China. He eventually made coach Chot Reyes’ Chooks To Go lineup and in his Champions Cup debut, scored 10 points off the bench in a 73-65 win over Astana. Manuel started in three of the last four games and shot 13 points in his final outing, a 92-57 win over Dubai.

“My first game in China was an eye-opener,” said Manuel. “I was on a high. My coaches and teammates warned me about playing every day and to stay level-headed. I told myself I can play in this league. It was confidence-boosting to perform at a high level against pros and experienced national players from different countries. It was special to play with guys like Jeron (Teng) and Kiefer (Ravena). I thought my showing improved my draft stock and gave me an edge.”

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