After three long years, Mark Dyke is finally making his comeback.
The 6-foot-3 forward helped steer the Archers to their fifth consecutive win in the 12th Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup presented by Chooks-to-Go on Friday. He put up 18 points and nine rebounds against the UE Red Warriors. The game was an encore performance following his 13-point output in another win against the EAC Generals.
For the rebuilding Green Archers who lost two of their stars and had a coaching change in the offseason, Dyke has been a revelation even though the UAAP is still months away. As early as now, it looks like he will be a vital piece for La Salle's quest to bring the title back to Taft.
"Coach (Louie Gonzalez) just gave me an opportunity. Even if I'm given a few minutes, I'm just gonna do my best," Dyke shared about his brilliant play.
But Dyke wasn't even supposed to be part of La Salle basketball anymore, let alone help them in their current Filoil campaign. A year ago, he already left the Green Archers in search for better pastures.
"I'm happy because I felt like I was never going to reach this situation again," Dyke humbly said. "High school is different from college; the transition is different."
And for Dyke, it was all about transition the past three years.
Back in 2015, Dyke was among the top high school players in the country. He was a beast in the painted area complete with an array of post moves and a knack for getting a ton of rebounds.
He was a vital cog in the championship hopes of the NU Bullpups before losing to the Mike Nieto-led Ateneo Blue Eaglets in Season 77. Despite falling short in his final year in the Juniors ranks, he was still regarded as one of the best players entering college.
After his stay with the Bullpups, he was initially supposed to go to NU. He enrolled and nearly suited up for the Bulldogs before ultimately deciding to join La Salle. His quick turnaround from NU to La Salle meant that he had to sit out his first year due to residency.
Dyke suited up a year later and was part of the Season 79 La Salle championship team under then head coach Aldin Ayo. However, he played sparingly that season. In the seven games he was on the floor, he only averaged 1.6 points - a far cry from his numbers of 13.4 points and 14.5 rebounds during his final year in high school. Granted that the Seniors competition is a total different level compared to the Juniors, Dyke served as La Salle's human victory cigar, only getting the chance to play when the win was already in the bag.
Before the start of Season 80, he left La Salle. In a post on his Twitter account, he said he was leaving to reach his full potential as an athlete. For the past three years, as his peers and contemporaries have made a name for themselves at the Seniors level, he suddenly became a fond memory of high school basketball.
"Actually, I lost my confidence," Dyke admitted.
Fortunately, there was still people who trusted him and believed he still has what it takes to compete.
"Now I get confidence from the coaches ever since they called me up and asked me to play for La Salle again," he recalled. "Any opportunity they gave me, I just take it. They just told me to do extra work so that I'll get my confidence back."
Dyke hesitated momentarily when he was invited back to La Salle. Questions of confidence and playing time mulled his decision but he also had to factor in external factors such as the departure of Ayo. A new coach would mean a new system and a new set of challenges. Eventually, he saw everything as a new chance.
"It was really my dream to play for La Salle," he explained. "I just took another opportunity to play again for La Salle."
After everything he's been through, it seems that Dyke's decision to return to his dream school is finally paying off.
More than the stats, playing time, his adjustment as an undersized big man in college, Dyke isn't trying to show anybody that he'll be the same player as he was. Instead, he wants to prove to himself that he's already grown as a player and as a man.
"My decision-making," the 20-year-old opened up on whether his recent performance is vindication of anything. "Because when I used to decide before, whatever I decide, I didn't think much of the consequences."
The UAAP is still months away, more than enough time for Dyke to continue to gain confidence.
It's been a long time since he played at a high level, but it seems that he is now ready to take his place in college basketball.