Photo Curated by Courtside Philippines

THE YOUNG80 

Nowhere to go but UP: Jun Manzo's inevitable rise to prominence

by Reynald Magallon, September 13, 2019 4:33pm

With all attention focused on the Paras, Rivero, Akhuetie and De Liano brothers, there's one player, who is up for a great year. After showing what he's made of, drilling big shots, issuing game-winning assists, in just his first year in the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP), this spitfire guard is ready to take on the challenge of taking on a much bigger role this season.

From celebrating UP's first win to end a 27-game drought to the legendary 'Atin to' moment from Paul Desiderio and even up to the Maroons' return trip to the Finals last season, this young cager is out to continue the narrative, hoping to finally end a 33-year search of the elusive championship.

He is Jun Manzo - a young, intelligent and fearless playmaker, who is looking to step out of the wide shadows of his more prominent teammates and embrace the leadership role. All of it, in hopes, to finally lead his Fighting Maroons to the promised land.

Taking his wares to UP in 2016 after a stellar performance with the University of Visayas, Manzo immediately made an impact for the Maroons. With the departure of their emotional leader Desiderio and the addition of prolific players in Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero, Manzo willingly takes on the leadership role for his team.

"As a veteran sa team kailangan lang talaga mag usap-usap sa court, kailangan iisa lang ang mindset. Kailangan magkaisa kaming lahat kasi mahirap kung iisa lang magsasalita. Dapat tulong tulong kaming lahat," Manzo said in an interview with Courtside Philippines.

At a young age, Manzo already displayed love for the sport. He was influenced by his father and started playing at the age of five, dribbling and shooting the ball in a court just behind their home in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte.

"Nag start ako nag basketball five or six years old ako nun, yung basketball court kasi likod lang ng house namin so every time pag uwi ko galing school basketball agad and si papa din kasi basketball player sa lugar namin," recalled Manzo.

That's where his journey and his continuous rise to the top began. He played for CARAGA Region during his high school days before he was recruited to the University of Visayas in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (CESAFI). He made head turns in the local hoop scene in Visayas and eventually drawing attention from Manila-based schools.

In 2016, Manzo's transfer to UP came into fruition, paving the way to his rise to prominence to mainstream hoops fans. He proved to be one of the missing pieces for UP, finally solving a decade-long puzzle as they made their return to the Finals - a return trip that even made special by the loudest cheers from the sea of Maroons who trooped to the venue.

This time, Manzo and the Fighting Maroons are hoping for a repeat, hoping to finally get over the hump.

"Unang una makuha namin yung championship this season yun naman talaga yung goal bawat team sa uaap ang nagka iba lang siguro samin mas gutom kaming makuha yung championship ngayon taon," Manzo said.

Manzo feels  that this year, they finally have the tools to put themselves in the rich history books of UP.

"Malaking tulong talaga na dumating si kobe and ricci sa team pero kailangan namin pagtulungan lahat para makuha namin yung goal kasi di madali makuha yun," he said.

"Kailangan lang namin mag usap talaga, sabi nga ni coach bo samin unahin namin yung team bago mga sarili namin," he added.

Certainly, Manzo knows what it takes to be on top of the collegiate pyramid. He's a winner, a leader, and a real fighting Maroon. And with the opportunities for him and his team, are right in front of them, their path to greatness is open and it's for them to grab. If they do, Manzo and UP's continuous rise will be inevitable.

Indeed, there's nowhere to go but up.

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