Alapag hopes for lightning to strike twice with Meralco

Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - February 1, 2016 - 9:36pm

MANILA, Philippines – Thirteen years into his PBA career, Jimmy Alapag still refuses to give up, rising for a challenge.

The challenge now is to help the Meralco Bolts advance to the next level. The Bolts' best year was their third year in the league, the 2012-13 season, where they finished fourth, fifth and third in all respective conference. The following season saw Meralco drop precipitously in the team standings; a free fall that continued all the way to the league’s 40th season.

Alapag, of course, wasn’t a part of those teams. He was still with Talk ’N Text and had retired after 12 years with his one and only PBA club. Then he unretired, following his TNT coach, Norman Black, to Meralco.

“It was funny because it happened pretty quick,” related Alapag of that decision to suit up again that caught a lot of people by surprise. "Having the managing position with TNT was very helpful in learning the business aspect of what we do. As time went on, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that kind of job long-term and it started me thinking that I wanted to be involved with basketball in a different way; a hands on manner. Then with Gilas, Coach Tab (Baldwin) asked me to work out with the team and from there, I got to talk to Coach Norman and one time he said, 'Get ready to come in tomorrow.' And after being away for about six months, I got to talk to my wife about it. And one compelling reason to come back and play was my kids. I got a three year old son and a one-year old daughter and I thought I’d give them an opportunity to see me play."

"The other challenge was to help Coach Norman recreate the atmosphere that we had in TNT over at Meralco that is learning to win. I was excited about the opportunity to work with Baser Amer and Chris Newsome who I corresponded with when he was still in New Mexico; he had yet to go to Ateneo.”

Alapag was seen at matches of San Beda and Ateneo giving advice to the two young players. "At this point of my career, it gives me an opportunity to give back to the game and mentor those guys,” related the 13-year pro out of Cal State San Bernardino. "I think I have a lot to share with them and other teammates so why not? Hopefully they will find what I experienced helpful in their own careers. So there was a lot. I was going back and forth if I should come back or not but at the end of the day, I have always been one who is up for a challenge.”

And it is indeed a challenge for the Bolts finished 1-10 in this ongoing Philippine Cup.

"I don’t think in my entire career I finished in last place so I really have to re-dedicate myself for the Commissioner’s Cup.” Despite the poor finish, the 5’9” guard never regretted coming back. “It’s a process. Winning didn’t happen overnight in TNT either. What is important to take the hard-earned lessons of the last conference and get better this next one. A lot of guys got in the gym and work hard to put ourselves in a position to compete."

"When I joined TNT in 2003 it was different because it was a veteran laden team. There was Coach Pat (Fran), Donbel Belano, Asi, Vic Pablo, Mark Telan, and a lot of guys who have been in the league. In this team is relatively young. Aside from myself, there’s JD (Dillinger), Gary (David), Reynel (Hugnatan), John Ferriols, everyone else is under 30. So I think I actually raised the age level here (laughs). It’s the challenge of helping this team make consistent appearances in the playoffs and then the finals. Establishing that culture that we have in TNT. It’s a process. It is no secret that we struggled myself included. Despite what happened, guys are still working hard and trying to improve.”

Even at 38, Alapag is just as fit and conditioned as he was during his rookie year in 2003. He chalks it up to a different league compared to what he entered all those years ago. "You know nowadays there are so many talented and younger guards in the PBA. At this stage of my career, I have to be in shape, really work on my conditioning, to do my job.”

The willingness to put in the hard work even after all these years, Alapag credits that to his father Crispin. "My dad came from humble beginnings. I know how hard he worked to raise six kids to emigrate to the States to try and give us a better life. I remember countless mornings where he gets up at 5am to go to work just for us. Seeing his drive that makes an impression on you. My dad was very particular about a few things. I had to do my school work and get good grades. Cs were not allowed in our house. And he encouraged us to give our best. If not, don’t do it. That is where the work ethic comes from."

"I know Coach Norman brought me here to help this team win. That didn’t happen but it isn’t going to stay that way for long.”

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