From the looks of it, Aldin Ayo’s starting to get the hang of high profile matches.
A year after leading Letran to the promised land against bitter rival San Beda over in the NCAA, Ayo is now pitted in another rivalry match as his La Salle squad takes on Ateneo in a battle of supremacy in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament.
The spotlight’s a whole lot bigger now and the coverage for this match will definitely be through the roof.
And from coaching in small leagues back in his hometown in Sorsogon a few years back, it’s safe to say that Ayo has definitely come a long way.
“Syempre excited ako tapos di ko alam kung bakit, noong first year ko sa NCAA, biggest rivalry ng NCAA, Letran and San Beda. First year ko sa UAAP naman, La Salle tapos Ateneo,” Ayo said.
But while Ayo’s used to coaching in stages like this in college basketball, he admits that it’s a whole lot different now that he’s handling a powerhouse team like the Green Archers, considering they’re entering the finals as the heavy favorites to win it all.
Back in Letran, there weren’t really any expectations for Ayo. There were no high-profile stars like Jeron Teng, there was no dominant foreign athlete in Ben Mbala. All he had was a group of hardworking veterans who have had their hearts broken for far too long.
Now he’s handling a team that looked invincible at times, with depths that could be split into two and still remain competent, and size which could match a few pro-teams.
“Magka-iba kasi yung pressure, mas mahirap. Ako yung pakiramdam ko sa 14 wins, hindi dapat i-celebrate e. Every won game for me it’s just relief e. Palaging feeling ko, ‘Ay salamat, nakaraos din,'” Ayo said.
“Hindi katulad nung nasa Letran na every won game, kailangan mo i-celebrate kasi nobody was expecting us to win. It’s different, different situation. But if there’s one thing na parehas, syempre it’s just basketball,” he added.
Ayo will not only have the chance to prove that he can also win in the UAAP, he also has a shot at history as he aims to be the first coach in a long, long time to win consecutive titles in the top two collegiate leagues in the country.
But that’s far from Ayo’s mind. All he can think of right now is gratitude towards the school and to God for giving him the opportunity to coach in the highest of levels in college.
“Hindi ako nagiisip ng kung ano ang na-accomplish. Bottomline, I’m just grateful to be here, I’m just grateful to have this kind of job. Mahal na mahal ko ang basketball and yun pa ang naging trabaho ko.”