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LA Tenorio thankful for 2nd chance at playing PBA hoops after battle with colon cancer

After almost 10 months on the sidelines, the PBA's "Iron Man" is back. PBA Images
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--After sitting out for nearly 10 months, LA Tenorio returned to the PBA hardwood as a player on Sunday night when Ginebra took on Terrafirma at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig.

In what was his 745th career PBA game, his first since Feb. 19, Tenorio returned to his starting point guard role for the Gin Kings and eventually finished the game.

Although he had a quiet six points, one rebound, three assists, and one steal in his season debut, Tenorio remains grateful for the second chance he got at playing basketball following a battle against colon cancer that actually led him to wonder if he would still be able to play or probably call it a career at age 39.

"I'm just really happy, thankful, and grateful for this na nabigyan uli ako ng pagkakataon na makapaglaro. Sino ba ang makakaisip nito? Di ko rin naisip na makakalaro pa ako uli while doing all my treatments all throughout my journey," Tenorio said after the game that Ginebra won.

He added, "I'm grateful and thankful to God na binigyan Niya ako ng another opportunity na makapaglaro uli."

While the hype for the match had to compete with the glitz and glamor of the UAAP men's basketball finals Game 2 between La Salle and the University of the Philippines at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, the former Ateneo King Eagle's return was star-studded with Tenorio's family, celebrity friend Zanjoe Marudo, Ginebra legends Mark Caguioa and Sol Mercado, and former Ateneo teammates Paul Tan-Chi, Enrico Villanueva, and Wesley Gonzales in attendance.

During halftime, PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, Board of Governors vice chairman Bobby Rosales, and Ginebra governor Alfrancis Chua awarded the PBA Iron Man Award to Tenorio for playing 744 consecutive games since he turned pro in 2006.

The streak was snapped when he sat out the Gin Kings' March 1 game against the Meralco Bolts following the discovery of his colon cancer.

LA Tenorio quickly back into Ginebra's system

Tenorio then revealed that Ginebra already had a game plan rolling for him right in their very first play in his return match.

"Actually, the very first play talaga namin kanina, it was for me. Nagulat din ako na nag-start [ako]. Sayang, na-miss ko lang yung first shot," Tenorio added.

Coach Tim Cone, though, further bared that the plan was somehow set already as Tenorio has been practicing actively for quite some time now.

"We've actually had him back in practice for about a month," Cone said, although he added that they only gave Tenorio the green light for a PBA return after a doctor's clearance.

Tenorio would miss all his three shots in the first half, but in their first offensive in the second half, Tenorio received a kickout pass from Jamie Malonzo and swished in a wide-open right-wing three.

Tenorio made one more three to finish the game 2-for-2 from 22 feet out.

He then expressed hope that his playing return would inspire others who also suffered cancer-related setbacks to bounce back and make a grand comeback.

"It's really more than basketball already. It's not only inspiring a lot of aspiring basketball players. It's more sa mga taong nakaka-experience ng meron ako noong nagkaroon ako ng sakit. Hopefully, na-inspire ko sila na as long as we're always positive, grateful, and thankful araw-araw--syempre dasal lang--walang impossible sa dasal," Tenorio further said.

The Gin Kings will return to action on Saturday night when they take on fellow streaking squad Phoenix Fuel Masters at the FPJ Arena in San Jose, Batangas, which means the comeback tour of Tenorio, a native of Nasugbu, will continue with a game in his home province.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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