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Seoul SK's Juan Gomez De Liaño wins in homecoming

Juan Gomez De Liaño got to spend Christmas, albeit a day late, in the Philippines after all. Dennis Acosta
By Ivan Saldajeno

PASIG--It was a short yet memorable homecoming for Juan Gomez De Liaño.

The former University of the Philippines star was named to the Seoul SK active roster that traveled to the PhilSports Arena here to take on Meralco in their EASL post-Christmas game on Wednesday night.

That meant Gomez De Liaño got to play at home again for the first time since last year's PBA D-League season when he played for Marinerong Pilipino.

"It's a great feeling honestly. It's been a while since I played in front of my family and friends, and I'm just really glad to be back and have a taste of home. I'm really grateful for this opportunity and chance to play in front of my home fans," he said after the game.

The Gomez De Liaño Family, some of his fellow former Fighting Maroons including UAAP Season 85 MVP Malick Diouf, and some of his longtime fans were present to see him in action for the Knights.

They got their wishes granted when Juan Gomez De Liaño was inserted into the game with 4:25 left in the second quarter.

He had some instant impact when he made a three-pointer and dished an assist to Jameel Warney that helped Seoul SK build a 45-33 lead against Meralco at halftime.

"It's been that love. They showed their support. They came out to support my team and I, and I'm just truly thankful for that," Gomez De Liaño added.

He could have played some more for the Knights, but with the Bolts mounting a comeback in the second half, head coach Chun Hee-Chul opted to rely more on his trusted veterans to eventually preserve the 81-80 win.

Kim Sun-Hyung stepped up defensively in the end when he stole the ball off Chris Banchero's pass to Prince Ibeh, denying Meralco a chance to complete the rally from 15 points down.

"I asked the players to focus more on the inside passes. I guess that kind of worked well in the situation out there," Chun said in Korean.

Short Christmas return for Juan Gomez De Liaño

Gomez De Liaño's stay in the country was virtually just for the Meralco-Seoul SK game.

Both he and Chun bared that the Knights only flew in right after their Christmas Day KBL win against their cross-town rivals, the Thunders, and they were scheduled to fly back home later Wednesday to prepare for their Saturday game against Rhenz Abando's Anyang Red Boosters.

That meant Gomez De Liaño, who had to spend Christmas 2021 in Tokyo due to his B.League Division 2 stint with Earth Friends Tokyo Z and Christmas 2022 in Vilnius after he joined Lithuanian Basketball League's BC Wolves, only had the entire Tuesday and Wednesday morning to get reacquainted with his family and Filipino friends.

"This is actually my third Christmas away from home, but I'm glad we're able to play a game here. It's kind of tough. You know, those kinds of times you want to be with your family, but I have a great team, coaches, my teammates, the management, and staff. We treat each other like a family, so I really can't complain about it," he further said.

"It's good to be back only for a day. Even for a day, I kind of had a taste of home."

Even if they had to fly back to South Korea immediately after their game against Meralco, Chun is glad that Seoul SK, currently second in the KBL standings, has a chance to finish 2023 on a strong note ahead of their finals rematch at Anyang, which has been struggling suddenly.

"The one thing that really counts is winning," Chun said.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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