(photo courtesy of Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas)
ALCANTARA, CEBU — Ping Exciminiano experienced his first career championship after leading KCS Computer Specialist-Mandaue to the top of the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup-Visayas Leg, Sunday evening at the Civic Center here.
But it would not have been made possible without his PBA team TNT.
After Rain or Shine pulled out their contract with the 6-foot defensive specialist early last year, he trained with TNT assistant coach Josh Reyes late last year along with the likes of Gryann Mendoza, Valandre Chauca, and Chris Javier. The fruit of his labor ended up being a one-year deal with the Tropang Giga.
But TNT knew that the two-time PBA All-Defensive team member needed to get games in his belt as a ruptured Achilles is one of the toughest injuries to recover from for an athlete.
That is why TNT loaned the 31-year-old combo guard to KCS-Mandaue, a team being handled by Josh’s uncle Mike Reyes.
“Sobrang blessed ako after all ng mga nangyari sa akin. Na-Achilles injury ako at nag-work hard ako para makabalik,” he said.
“Thank God na kinuha ako ni Coach Mike at pinapunta ako dito ni Coach Josh at ng TNT. Nagpapasalamat ako sa opportunity na ito at naka-champion pa first time sa career ko.”
Exciminiano though was not one-hundred percent when he entered the Alcantara bubble last month as he was nursing a hamstring injury.
Still, Coach Mike let his ward recover.
“Yung patience at tiwala ni Coach Mike sa akin, hindi nawawala yun. Nung nagka-hamstring injury ako, talagang ang concern niya sa akin nandun,” said Exciminiano, who only averaged 5.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 12 minutes of game time during the elims and the semis.
“Kailangan daw healthy ako ng second round. Pinagpahinga pa nga ako ni Coach Mike nung second round.”
In the Finals, Exciminiano literally pushed himself to the limit.
Up against a powerhouse team in MJAS Zenith-Talisay for three straight days, Exciminiano did it all. He scored, rebounded, made plays, and guarded all of the Aquastars big guns — including Paulo Hubalde, Darrell Menina, Egie Boy Mojica, and, even, Patrick Cabahug.
“Ever since sa career ko, ang paniniwala ko lang is hard work lang talaga. Kahit san yung bola, hahabulin ko — yan yung trabaho ko e. Yan yung ginawa ko dito,” he said.
In the winner-take-all Game Three, Exciminiano ended up with 15 points, five rebounds, and three steals while helping hold the trio of Hubalde, Menina, and Mojica down to just a combined 7-of-15 shooting clip. Moreover, Hubalde, the league’s top guard, was forced to commit five turnovers.
“Ubusan lang siguro. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, pagod ako pero pagod din sila. Matira na lang matibay,” Exciminiano shared regarding his mindset in the finale.
Exciminiano’s efforts led to KCS-Mandaue ruling the Visayas leg with an 89-75 Game Three win.
Now, Exciminiano does not know where he will be playing next as the Grand Finals of the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup will happen in August while the PBA is looking at a June 15 start for its season.
Just like what he did a couple of months ago, Exciminiano is leaving his fate to the Reyes’s.