Melecio excited, nervous for draft

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - February 24, 2021 - 12:00am

It’s less than three weeks before the PBA draft on March 14 and rookie hopeful Aljun Melecio is anxiously waiting for D-Day. “I’m excited but nervous,” says Melecio. “Even now, it’s hard to sleep. I’m taking it one day at a time. I just hope to play in the PBA, that’s my dream. It doesn’t matter for which team as long as I’m given the chance to play so it’s a win-win. I’m preparing myself physically and mentally. Every day, I work out three to four hours, at the Phenom gym in Makati on weekdays and the San Jose court in Alabang on weekends. If you put in the work, do extra, it’s bawas worry. You get ready mentally by working.”

The other day, Melecio was invited to join the Ginebra workouts at Upper Deck. He was with Andrei Caracut, Jerrick Ahanmisi and Loren Brill in the first batch of rookie tryouts supervised by assistant coaches Olsen Racela and Kirk Collier. In four years with La Salle, Melecio gained a reputation as a deadly pull-up triple shooter, fearless slasher, faster-than-lighting pacesetter and high-basketball IQ facilitator. He’ll put everything he’s learned on the table to contribute in the pros. “I’ve asked advice from Jeron (Teng), Kib (Montalbo), Jason (Perkins) and Simon (Atkins),” he adds. “Ang advice nila – learn to adjust, know and master your role, alaga ang katawan. I think I can be a supersub, a spark off the bench. I’m lucky with all my past coaches, they’ve been defense-first kaya I’m trained to play defense and I can also score. My height (5-8) isn’t an issue. It’s not the size, it’s yung diskarte. I’ve been the smallest man on my team ever since grade school, high school and college so sanay na ako playing my height. My idol has always been Kiefer Ravena but I also look up to Kuya LA (Tenorio) and Kuya JVee (Casio).”

Melecio, 22, says every coach he’s played for has been a blessing. “From coach Boris Aldeguer at Zobel, I learned discipline,” he says. “From coach Aldin Ayo, toughness. From coach Louie Gonzales, confidence. From coach Jermaine Byrd, ability to adjust. From coach Derick Pumaren, guidance. I think if I played one full season with coach Derick in the UAAP, I would’ve learned to be a better leader. Up to today, coach Derick communicates with me, asks how I am. I’m grateful for his advice, he’s always been honest with me.”

During the pandemic last year, Melecio was home in Valencia, Bukidnon with his parents Alejandro and Joy. He’s the middle child of three boys. His parents are involved in agri-business and own a hotel-and-venue place. In Valencia, Melecio practiced alone on an open-air cement court, wearing a salakot to shield him from the sun. Now that he’s back in Manila, Melecio says his focus is to get ready and play his best in the PBA. He has 24 units to go before earning his degree at La Salle so that’s another priority for the future. “It will be physical in the PBA with experienced players who are older, bigger,” he says. “It will be surreal to play with guys whom you’ve always admired. I just hope I’m given the chance to prove myself.”

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