For one-and-done La Salle star, playing in the country ‘meant more to me’
Relaxed rules or not, Jamie Malonzo already had his sights on playing in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
“I think it was always just at the back of my head; I just always knew it was going to be fun being back home in the Philippines and eventually play, possibly, in the PBA,” he said in former league chief Noli Eala’s radio show Power and Play on Saturday.
“Coming out of college, I definitely was weighing my options, I could’ve [gone] a bit to Spain, a bit to Italy, Lithuania, but I figured it would’ve meant more to me if I just go back home and play in the Philippines, meet some of the family members I’ve never met before,” he went on.
“I think that just meant more to me. It’s something I wanted to do.”
Malonzo, 24, is one of the highly-touted prospects for the PBA Rookie Draft on March 14. He moved from playing for US National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I basketball at Portland State to backstopping La Salle in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, where he averaged close to a double-double in a one-and-done stint.
The 6-foot-6 leaper, who traces his roots to Batangas, is expected to give fellow Filipino-American Joshua Munzon a run for his money at being picked first overall in the draft.
But Malonzo will be at a disadvantage when it comes to exposure. Munzon played for several teams in the Asean Basketball League, before blossoming into a star in the 3×3 tournaments here and overseas.
Sure, Malonzo was able to play for the talent-rich Mighty Sports club that saw action in Dubai last year. But here at home, his only other tour of duty was with Marinerong Pilipino in the PBA D-League, where he played only one game.
The PBA’s developmental circuit was also shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Malonzo would have not been eligible for the upcoming draft had the PBA chosen not to relax its rules for the draft. The league late in December decided to strike off the number of D-League games played for applicants among its requirements.
Still, Malonzo insists that his time with the Green Archers—an elite program in the collegiate ranks—was enough for him, his spectators, and now, his evaluators from within the PBA.
“Just being with La Salle for that one year? I learned a lot, especially from guys like Andrei (Caracut), Aljun (Melecio), Justine (Baltazar)—those guys are all champions at one point. I was just soaking it all in,” he said.
“Having that one year under my belt, playing in the Philippines, is just the bit of the taste I needed for the pros.”