Last week, San Miguel Alab Pilipinas brought the 2018 ASEAN Basketball League Championship back home after defeating Thailand’s Mono Vampire, 102-92 at the Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex in Laguna. Throughout the hard-fought five-game series, the Filipinos were tested by their opponents’ on-court skills. However, through their endless grind, Alab Pilipinas saw themselves come out on top – securing their first title in five years.
On the Alab roster was Dondon “The Cebuano Hotshot” Hontiveros, a retired PBA veteran and beloved swingman who last played for the Alaska Aces. No stranger to representing the Philippines abroad with countless teams, the Cebuano Hotshot finally got his taste of international Gold with the young Alab squad.
WATCH: PlayPH’s grand tribute to Cebu through the eyes and words of Dondon Hontiveros on the eve of his final PBA game in his hometown.
Speaking with PlayPH, Hontiveros says his role on this Alab squad is a lot different now, describing himself more as a mentor to young, up and coming players. “My teammates are very talented. I think they can make it big. Ako, nandito lang ako to help them out on things they will encounter during games. Sa practice, ‘yung parang influence ko, ‘yung experience ko sa games and how to respond to certain situations.”
Although their season had a shaky start, Hontiveros kept his chin up and made sure his teammates followed his lead, “After losing the first few games, sabi ko talaga sa teammates ko na we’d make it to the finals. Everyone was committed sa roles nila. And after the challenges we’ve been through as a team, ‘yun ‘yung nag motivate sa amin to get the championship,” he recalls.
“Of course I can’t play 25 minutes anymore considering my age,” Hontiveros humbly shared. “But ‘yung pag-share lang ng knowledge, I feel like I am an extension of the coaching staff on the court.” It’s a huge setback considering the fact that Pinoy hoop fans have gotten used to the scene of Dondon scoring heaps each night. But according to him, it’s his willingness to win at all costs that overpowers his court action.
If you think about it – anytime your PBA star takes the backseat on purpose, it sets a humble, determined, and passionate demeanor across the entire team. At this point in his career, Hontiveros is more than happy to be on the hardwood floor, let alone representing the nation, “I’m happy na may tiwala sila sa akin and for giving me the opportunity to play in front of Filipinos around the world.”
Humbled by the metal around his neck, the Hontiveros says that every title he’s won in his career still sparks the same kind of joy, “…you can win anything. Sa college, from the professional ranks, or kahit ano mang liga ‘yan. ‘Yung pagod and hirap na dinadaanan mo, it’s very rewarding and humbling to win a championship. I feel grateful for them giving me the opportunity.”
Asked whether the Alab stint was his last dance, Hontiveros says it’s too early to tell. A decorated, colorful, and celebrated PBA career needed nothing else to prove. But his love for country and the game insists on lacing up.
He ended his interview by saying, “Gusto ko pa rin makatulong sa team in any way – sa coaching or as a player. Sa ngayon, hindi ko pa talaga masasabi. Ine-enjoy ko lang! I look forward to practice everyday dito sa Alab, hindi ko dina-drag ‘yung sarili ko. It’s the same joy, it’s the same excitement knowing na may maitutulong ka sa mga teammates mo.”