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Down to their last UAAP game: NU's JJ Alejandro and UP's Paolo Romero

MANILA, Philippines – This Saturday, November 11, National University and the University of the Philippines will square off for a slim hope that they can move on to battle for the fourth and final seat to the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four. While either team needs to win, a victory will not necessarily mean the team will advance because there is also much riding on the game that will follow, which is between Adamson and FEU.

Should the FEU Tamaraws defeat the Adamson Falcons, then any result from the NU-UP tiff is immaterial because the former will have snagged that fourth and final slot.

Right now, both NU and UP cannot worry about that Adamson-FEU tussle. They have to go out and do their jobs. From those two squads, we talked to two players who will are perhaps in their final match (definitely the last year) of their college careers — NU’s JJ Alejandro and UP’s Paolo Romero.

Alejandro was recruited out of Malayan (Mapua) High School as a can’t-miss sniper. Alejandro struggled in his early years with the Bulldogs but came out strong in the latter part and was an integral part of NU’s championship team of Season 77.

Romero, on the other hand, played on the Ateneo Blue Eaglets’ three-peat winning side from Season 71-73 alongside Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal. He joined UP for college, but he found his career derailed by injuries and the constant coaching changes. What many people do not know is that Romero has been playing injured this season as he tore his meniscus in his left leg before the Fighting Maroons left for their Las Vegas training camp. He will undergo surgery when the current season is over.

Your careers have been up and down although you’ve found success as well. How do you reflect on this?

Alejandro: Para sa akin, everything happens for a reason. Kung ano man nangyari sa career ko, negative or positive, yan ang makakatulong sa akin mag-grow as a person and an athlete.

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Romero: What I experienced in UP is certainly not what I had in mind when I first came in. I really had everything planned out for my whole collegiate career but I guess there are things I cannot control such as injuries and bad luck. I guess one of the things I learned is to trust in the Lord in what he has planned for me. If it had not happened, I might not have been a part of this best batch na UP team which has the most potential to make the Final Four. Another thing I have learned is to make the most of what I have in the present because dwelling on what could have been will not help me progress and do better with the other aspects of my life.

How do you feel your college career could be down to one last game?

Alejandro: Excited at nervous. Pero ayaw ko isipin muna. Tapusin ko muna yung game. Mahirap ma-distract. I just want to play my last game or games at my best.

Romero: I am quite excited knowing it is a must-win game for us because there is still a chance for us to make the Final Four. But I also feel sad at the same time knowing this is could be my last playing game (for UP and in the UAAP).

What degree are you graduating with?

Alejandro: Am taking up BS Financial Management.

Romero: I graduated last year with a degree in Bachelor of Sports Science. I am currently taking up my MA in Psychology. I may not have had a stellar career in the UAAP but what I can be proud of is I graduated cum laude in UP which is something I am proud of and never imagined would happen to me. I may not be successful in basketball but I am in my own way.

What is your best memory playing for your high school and college teams?

Alejandro: Yung makalaro sa NCAA kasi hindi lahat nabibigyan ng chance. And to have played for my high school coach, Randy Alcantara. For NU, wala na mas gaganda sa Season 77 UAAP championship namin. And to play for a multi-titled coach na tawag ko Tatay Jamike (Jarin). Sayang lang, one year lang ako nakalaro para sa kanya.

Romero: My best memory with the Blue Eaglets was our second championship in 2009 because we faced a very strong DLSZ team in the finals. For the Maroons, it was during my rookie year in 2011 where I scored 17 points against FEU in the second round. We lost but it is my proof that I can play a different level of basketball. But I hope that my best memory with the Maroons will be making it to the Final Four.

I had my moments and they are truly something to remember.

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