Mark Nonoy, Deo Cuajao 'wanted to stay with UST'

Even after some of their former teammates jumped ship ahead of them, Mark Nonoy and Deo Cuajao said they held out on making a similar decision for as long as possible out of sheer loyalty to former head coach Aldin Ayo and the UST Growling Tigers.

In Tuesday's episode of the 2OT podcast, the newly-recruited De La Salle guards said they wanted to wait and see whether Ayo and the school would be sanctioned for any violations committed in the training "bubble" the coach mounted in Sorsogon.

"Hindi namin naisip ['yung pag-transfer agad], inaalam talaga namin kung ano mangyayari kay coach at sa UST kasi wala pa nangyari. Hindi namin alam kung maba-ban si coach or kung ano mangyayari sa school. Nagbigay kami ng oras para hintayin kung ano mangyayari kay coach," said Nonoy.

"Sa amin naman gusto naman namin mag-stay sa UST," he added. "Loyal kami sa UST pero hindi namin alam kung anong kalalabasan ng mangyayari sa UST at ng sa coaches po. Last minute na kami nag-decision kasi inaalam namin kung ano talaga mangyayari sa team namin.

Nonoy and Cuajao made their transfer to the Green Archers official on Monday, nearly a week after the UAAP indefinitely banned Ayo from league-sanctioned events and activities.

The two were just the latest players to exit UST after CJ Cansino (University of the Philippines), Rhenz Abando, Ira Bataller and Brent Paraiso (Letran), as well as Jun Concepcion (Mapua) left for greener pastures earlier.

Though Ayo on Friday declared his intention to appeal the suspension, Nonoy said the future in UST was just too uncertain for them to risk having the window for enrollment and transferring close on them elsewhere.

"Hindi pa rin namin alam ngayon kung ano mangyayari sa team kaya siguro it's time na maglipat na kami. Hinahabol din namin 'yung enrollment namin para makapasok kami sa one-year residency," said Nonoy.

"Hindi na namin kaya maghintay kasi hindi namin alam mangyayari sa UST eh," Cuajao explained.

The decision to leave UST was nothing but easy, Cuajao and Nonoy said, especially since they entered the "bubble" and the offseason with an eye to the future.

"'Di namin inexpect na ganito mangyayari sa'min. Sobrang sakit na ganoon lang, nawala lahat ng pinaghirapan namin tapos hiwa-hiwalay kami ngayon," Cuajao said.

"Masakit din sa'min na naghiwa-hiwalay," said Nonoy. "Pero 'yung gusto lang po namin ay mag-compete... Alam namin 'yung mga kulang namin last season, 'Yun lang sana 'yung goal namin, 'yung mabuo 'yung team namin as early as now."

It was also a little tougher on Nonoy, who leaned on Ayo for guidance as the coach brought him from the province to Manila to further his career goals.

"Nung umakyat ako sa college, iba 'yung trust na binigay niya sa'kin, 'yung kumpiyansa sa loob at ng labas ng court. Ginuide niya ko sa maayos na habits. Kaya nadala ko noong Season 82. Siguro nakuha ko rin 'yung gusto niyang makuha para sa akin," Nonoy shared,

However, the two are eager to start a new future and pursue bigger goals in the UAAP under coach Derrick Pumaren in La Salle.

"Ito kasi 'yung chance ko na maabot 'yung pangarap ko na maging champion sa UAAP. Pinili ko 'yung La Salle kasi matutulungan ko sila, matutulungan ako nila, at isa lang 'yung goal namin: makuha 'yung championship," Nonoy said.

Both guards will have to serve one year of residency before being able to wear the green and white in Season 84,

Nonoy, hailed as last season's Rookie of the Year, is expected to form a lethal combination alongside former San Beda Red Lion Evan Nelle.

"I can accept the challenge," he said about teaming up with Nelle in the backcourt. "Normal lang naman sa tao 'yan, 'yung challenges. Sa amin OK lang, panindigan namin. Gawin lang namin 'yung best namin. Sana matulungan namin 'yung isa't isa tsaka 'yung team."

On the other hand, Cuajao is excited about the prospect of stepping into a bigger role, especially under coach Pumaren's vaunted defense.

"Excited ako sa panibagong sistema ni coach Derrick kasi alam ko diinan yan sa kanya, depensa talaga. Kung anong meron sa amin sa UST, di na kami kailangan magadjust talaga kasi ganoon sa UST, depensa muna dapat bago opensa," added Cuajao.

With a more stable future ahead of them, Nonoy and Cuajao are understandably optimistic.

"Kahit anong mangyari, ibibigay ko po ang lahat kasi napakalaking opportunity nito sa amin. Ibibigay namin lahat. Doblehin at triplehin namin, kung ano binigay namin sa UST bibigay namin sa La Salle," said Cuajao.

"Kung ano ginawa ko sa Season 82, hihigitan ko pa sa Season 84," Nonoy said.