He successfully transformed from being one of the team relievers into one of the team’s go-to guys. He skillfully mastered the art of clutch shooting, striking arrow spears into the hearts of the opposing teams. In his final UAAP season, he gave his all out performance to bring the crown back to De La Salle University. And when the final buzzer signalled the Green Archers’ victory, he broke down in tears. Then, he bid the Lasallian community goodbye…but not for long.
When the curtains rise for the opening of the UAAP Season 71, Pocholo “Cholo” Villanueva will once again be back on the DLSU bench. This time, he will no longer don his familiar No. 9 jersey, but will be clad in the usual green and/or white polo shirt and will be part of the talent-laden coaching staff of DLSU. Yes, he is now Coach Cholo and he will join the ranks of fellow former Green Archers, Tonichi Yturri, Tyrone Bautista, Joey Sta. Maria and Assistant Coach Jack Santiago.
Photo courtesy of absolutverde
“Ang task na binigay sa akin ni Coach Franz, ako nag-eexplain sa mga rookies how the system goes and explain to them the timing of the plays, and (I also do) scouting,” said Villanueva. With six rookies in the lineup, the task is not easy, but thankfully the neophytes are responding very well. “They are learning the system but they are very talented, very promising, lot of potential. Give them a year, (they will become) star players,” he added.
Having played the maximum years of eligibility, there is no doubt that Cholo Villanueva is possessed of valuable experience and knowledge about the system of Coach Franz Pumaren and the rigors and pressure involved in playing in the UAAP, and he is more than willing to share some pointers of his own to the new recruits.
“I share with them some things I know, things I learned from Coach Franz,” he disclosed. Villanueva also pointed out that while the DLSU rookies are all promising, it is crucial that the mental conditioning of the players is in top shape. “Halos kalahati ng team, new guys and haven’t experienced playing in the UAAP Senior Basketball. We really do not know how they will react.” This is where Villanueva’s presence in the coaching staff will be of great help.
However, the new road that last year’s Finals MVP has taken is not going to be a walk in the park.
“Of course, I’m still adjusting. It’s very different sa coaching (compared to playing). As a player kasi, you just think about your opponent. Pero in coaching, there are a lot of things going on. You’re supposed to know all positions, you’re supposed to know the tendencies of your opponents, everything. (But) having been a player and then a coach right away is an advantage, because you already know the system and you can empathize with the players,” Villanueva commented.
With only a few days to go before their first game and his debut as an assistant coach, Villanueva is excited and upbeat about his new role in the team and expressed optimism about the Green Archers and its chances for this season.
“Malaki ang chance natin. Kasi, we still have Rico, JV, Walsham and (the) other sophomores and juniors will step up. (This year’s team is) quicker (and) more athletic than last year,” he concluded.