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Nonoy, Cuajao speak out on Sorsogon bubble, say they were free to leave

Mark Nonoy, the Season 82 Rookie of the Year, and Deo Cuajao have disputed some of the statements made by CJ Cansino regarding the reported Sorsogon bubble. KC Cruz

Former University of Santo Tomas guards Mark Nonoy and Deo Cuajao bared new information that may run counter to what ex-teammate CJ Cansino said about the controversial bubble the Growling Tigers set up in Bicol.

In a joint guesting on former PBA commissioner Noli Eala's Power & Play radio show Saturday, the new De La Salle recruits spoke in detail about the training camp held inside ex-head coach Aldin Ayo's compound in Sorsogon.

Nonoy and Cuajao said they and other players based from their own provinces turned up on July 29, about a month after their teammates from Manila arrived in the Bicol camp that was planned as far back as March.

"Yung option sana sa UST kaso bawal pa kasi sa Manila, ECQ pa," said Cuajao, who is from Davao. "Mahirap 'yung process kapag nasa probinsya po kasi maraming kailangan asikasuhin."

Inside the bubble, which had a weight room and a court, Nonoy said the team still followed team protocols. No scrimmages were held, and players trained separately in batches and utilized different facilities.

"Hinihiwalay pa 'yung training noong dumating kami kasi naka-quarantine pa kami. Morning kami, mga 5 a.m kami nagt-training, tapos 'yung nauna doon, nagt-training sila bandang 8 kapag tapos na kami," the Negros Occidental-based guard said. "Kumbaga, hindi kami sabay-sabay sa court talaga. Ino-observe rin namin 'yung protocols ng IATF, wala naman kaming nilabag doon siguro."

"Walang scrimmage. Anim kami noong quarantine kami doon tapos sila, hinihiwalay din 'yung ibang batch. 'Yung iba nasa gym tapos 'yung iba, nasa court," he added.

"Kumpleto doon," said Cuajao. "May court siya, may weights room tapos may kwarto kami. Sa isang kwarto, tig-tatlo."

Per IATF protocols, non-professional teams are still not allowed to engage in training activities.

Three players shared a room and everyone was taken care of, said Cuajao, though he did say that complaints only came from the Manila players and that his batch had no idea what happened before they arrived.

"Sa amin po, 'yung probinsya [na players], wala naman po kaming reklamo. Kasi 'yung mga nauna, sa kanilang grupo 'yung may nag-reklamo. Hindi namin alam kung ano nangyari nung una kasi late po kami dumating," he said.

Nonoy and Cuajao also refuted Cansino's statements about the bubble and said that anybody was able to leave and come back inside the bubble at any time.

"Siguro 'yung isang rason na gusto na umuwi nina CJ kasi na-homesick sila kasi first time rin nila ata naghiwalay sa family nila tapos taga-Maynila sila, hindi sila ganoon kasanay mahiwalay. Wala namang sinabi si coach na kapag umuwi ka, wala ka na sa team. Sabi niya pwede naman umuwi tapos the next month, kung balak naming bumalik pwede naman kaming bumalik doon ulit," Nonoy said.

"Hindi naman po [napilitan] kasi meron namang choice. Sabi ni coach para sa amin din naman 'yun, 'yung practice. Malaking tulong sa amin. Kung gusto mo umuwi, pwede ka naman umuwi," added Cuajao.

Cansino had claimed that he was taken off the team after speaking out about wanting to leave the bubble.

Nonoy and Cuajao were the most recent Growling Tigers to leave the university after Cansino (University of the Philippines), Rhenz Abando, Ira Bataller and Brent Paraiso (Letran), as well as Jun Concepcion (Mapua) had already left.

Both guards, who admitted they also received offers to transfer to Adamson and San Beda, reiterated how they waited for the UAAP to decide on Ayo's fate before making a last-minute decision to transfer to the Green Archers.

"Bago kami mag-decision, marami ring proseso. Nag-antay din kami ng ilang months kung anong mangyayari sa team," said Nonoy. "Tapos lumabas 'yung ban ni coach Aldin. Saka na kami nag-desisyon. Hindi namin alam talaga, kapag hindi kami lilipat baka hindi kami makapasok sa one-year residency kais mags-start na 'yung school year eh. Last minute lang talaga kami, inaalam namin 'yung mangyayari sa team kasi loyal talaga kami kay coach Aldin."

Said Cuajao: "Sobrang hirap po kasi ayaw talaga namin umalis eh. Wala kaming ibang iniisip, nakalaan na 'yung future namin sa UST kasi may four years pa kami para maglaro. Sobrang hirap, pero kailangan na kasi magdesisyon kasi nauubusan na kami ng oras."

Nonoy and Cuajao also rebuffed claims that they left UST because due to money.

"Wala 'yan," said Nonoy. "Ganoon talaga syempre iisipin nila kasi La Salle eh, syempre mayaman 'yung La Salle. Iisipin nila na dahil sa pera, pinalit namin 'yung loyalty namin, 'yung pagkatao namin. Hindi 'yun.

"Gusto lang talaga namin maglaro lang talaga. Kahit nga allowances lang at dorm, OK na kami kasi sanay naman kami sa probinsya na kung ano lang binibigay sa amin, 'yun lang naman tapos hindi naman kami humihingi ng ganoon kalaki na pera."

"Kung pera-pera lang po, dapat sana hindi na namin hinintay 'yung last minute. Dapat 'yung pagsabi pa lang na dapat wala nang maayos 'yung UST, dapat umalis na kami, hindi na namin hinintay 'yung decision nina coach," added Cuajao.