HE WILL not be another King Tiger clutching his soaked jersey at the end of the season, wondering why the championship would only let them get close—but never close enough.
Not on his last year.
Louie Philippe Vigil had his fair share of court heartbreaks when the Growling Tigers succumbed to the Far Eastern University Tamaraws last year, and the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles last 2012. Both championship games ended with a bridesmaid finish for UST, worsened by several allegations that marred the team as they tried to bounce back.
“Naramdaman ko na para akong namatay,” Vigil says with a sullen look. “Ang sakit na ayoko na mag-basketball or kung maglalaro ako, dapat laging panalo. Ayoko na ma-feel ang gano’ng pakiramdam.”
As the reigning King Tiger this season, he is determined to steer the team to the path towards redemption—something that he, along with all the Thomasians, dreams of.
“We [now] have a bunch of young and hungry players na gustong i-prove ang sarili nila kasi lahat kami nagtutulungan. Gina-guide ko sila and nakikita ko na maganda ang tinatakbo ng team,” he says confidently.
While he admits that losing their key players this year may dampen their spirits, the Tigers’ wingman believes that they will become the force to be reckoned with at the court and clinching their first win will prove that the perennial underdogs will rise to the ranks.
Looking back, Vigil never knew that opportunity would present itself during the toughest times of his collegiate basketball career.
Due to the decline of his academic performance, he was not allowed to play in the courts of UAAP for a year. But for Vigil, this setback served as a wake-up call for him to realize that he must first be a student before he is an athlete.
“Nagising ako na kahit sino ka, kahit player ka, kailangan mag-seryoso sa pag-aaral,” he says.
Last June, his last shot at redemption almost slipped away when the UAAP board decided to lower the age limit of players from 25 to 24. But luckily enough, the ball did not go out of his bounds.
On his last year.
With the stakes higher than ever this season, Vigil hopes he will make a great exit and bring the crown back to España.
“It’s my last chance to redeem myself. It’s my last chance to try to get the championship. I need to prove that I am a good basketball player.” F B.A.E. LABAD