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Walk-on Maguliano saves Sison's season for surprise POW plum

Believe it or not, this former Palarong Pambansa player was a virtual unknown, until last Friday. Rick Johnsen Dela Cruz/Dugout Philippines
By Kevin Estrada

MANILA -- For EAC head coach Ariel Sison, Friday was his last chance of saving his career in the Generals' bench.

And when pushed to the brink, he dug deep into the depths of their camp and found a diamond in the rough in John Paul Maguliano, who broke through with his best game of his young career to give them their first win of the season.

After warming his seat in the entire game in last Tuesday's loss to San Beda, the walk-on freshman who transferred from Adamson fired a double-double on Friday to stun San Sebastian en route to his Chooks-to-Go/NCAA Press Corps Player of the Week citation, in which he beat a seasoned quartet of NCAA stars including the league's reigning MVP.

“Kelangan namin din manalo, kasi goal namin makapasok sa Final Four, the Isabela native said after their upset against a legitimate Final Four contender in which they had to play five more minutes to get the win at last after five tries.

However, his journey to college basketball was not as rosy as all think, as he wandered aimlessly in San Marcelino for three years, and even failed to make the cut in his lone tryout there.

But when he saw his former Palarong Pambansa teammate LJ Gonzales, now an incoming FEU freshman after wreaking havoc for the Baby Tams, he straightened his priorities right away and packed his bags to UN Avenue, where the Sison opened him with open arms.

“Nawawalan na ako ng pag-asa kasi mag-third year na po ako sa Adamson nun, nagkakabagsak pa ako. Parang wala ng patutunguhan,” said the marketing junior. “Sabi ko, mag-tryout ako sa EAC. Pag pinalad, mag-focus na ako dito.”

The overtime win not just put a smile into the former professor's face, but also it secured his tenure for the season, just as when he mulled to quit coaching and go back teaching information technology.

“Benching him in our last game, he delivered today (Friday). Good for the team na hindi lang kami nagrerely sa first group,” Sison said about his breakthrough player, just as when EAC needed more than just reliable contributions from Hamadou Laminou and Jerome Garcia.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada