Memories of seminary days continues to draw Aldin Ayo to UST
MANILA, Philippines—Aldin Ayo is undoubtedly one of the best coaches of his generation having won titles in both the NCAA and the UAAP.
Despite his success, Ayo still longed for a memory of his youth and that desire is what pushed him to become one of the most publicized coaching changes in the UAAP in the past years.
Ayo had led Letran and De La Salle to championships in 2015 and 2016 so his transfer to University of Santo Tomas in 2018 became instant talk among basketball circles.
Why would a coach handling one of the most prestigious collegiate programs in the country in La Salle, go to UST, which at that time was in rebuilding phase after the 1-13 disaster Boy Sablan left in Season 80?
The answer, for Ayo, was about going back to his seminary roots.
“When I was in the seminary I was really scared of going out of my comfort zone but then I went out first going to San Beda then playing in Letran for four years,” said Ayo.
“Even after those playing years when I worked for Letran then La Salle, you’re still longing for that feeling of being inside the seminary,” added Ayo in Filipino.
With his success as a coach, Ayo could’ve chosen any school to go into or even make a jump into the professional ranks but the charismatic mentor decided to give back to the order that made him who he is.
Call it fate or mere happenstance but Ayo heard news that the same priests who helped him in college were in UST and he immediately decided that he would go back to his Dominican influence. Letran and UST are sister schools under the Dominican order.
In his two years with UST, Ayo turned the Growling Tigers around in a massive 180-degree swerve.
From the bottom of the standings in Season 80, Ayo led the Growling Tigers to the Final Four in Season 81 a 5-9 record with a team that was largely left to him by Sablan.
Come Season 82, though, Ayo was in full control of the team and he led the Growling Tigers to an 8-6 record and their first finals appearance since 2015.
UST’s fairy tale run, however, came to a close after Ateneo completed its three-peat with a two-game sweep of the Growling Tigers.
Nevertheless, Ayo said that returning to UST and leading the team toimmediate success is his way of giving back to the community and to the Dominicans who turned the kid from Sorsogon into a man of basketball genius.
“UST gave me a big opportunity so this is a huge responsibility for me,” said Ayo. “I have to repay UST for what it gave me so right now we’re doing our best to accomplish our objective.”
Ayo said that what drew him close to UST was how the Dominican priests ran the sporting programs of the school resembling it to the structured system he had during his days in the seminary.
The similarities also created a bond between Ayo and Rev. Fr. Jannel Abogado OP, the director and regent of the Institute of Physical Education and Athletics.
Abogado would frequent Ayo and the Growling Tigresses’ practices at the basketball court Quadricentennial Pavilion, which is just several steps away from the regent’s office next door.
“When I got to UST and I saw the way Fr. Janel and the priests guided the athletes I saw that it’s like a seminary wherein there was a structure and I’m someone who’s used to that kind of atmosphere,” said Ayo. “The priests are the ones who guide us and form us so that kind of guidance is a big thing for me.”
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