Solid in exhibition series, forgotten Joseph Eriobu again knocking on PBA door
Joseph Eriobu, a name that may sound unfamiliar to the casual fan, is not taking for granted the chance of turning his dream of returning to the PBA into a reality.
“I’m just enjoying the moment,” Eriobu, who is part of Magnolia’s roster for the PBA On Tour, said in Filipino. “Being here in the PBA On Tour is already an achievement for me, because once you’re no longer in the league, it’s very difficult to get back.”
After making himself into one of the top players in the PBA 3×3 and representing Gilas Pilipinas in a pair of halfcourt tournaments on the international stage, Eriobu was put in a position to make one final step towards a return to the big league by being listed by the Hotshots to play in the exhibition series.
Through two games in the On Tour, the southpaw from Las Pinas City produced nine points and two rebounds in an average of 13 minutes against Blackwater and Converge.
He has already experienced how it is to be playing under the bright lights of the PBA, first with Mahindra (now-Terrafirma) as a rookie coming out of Mapua in 2016 before playing for Phoenix and Blackwater.
But Eriobu has been out of the league since 2019, playing for Hong Kong Eastern in the Asean Basketball League before becoming a forgotten figure when the pandemic halted most sporting events outside of the PBA.
It wasn’t until 2021 when Eriobu sort of returned to the PBA when he was signed by Magnolia for the 3×3 tourney.
Eager to use it as a stepping stone, Eriobu blossomed for Purefoods during the first two seasons of the PBA’s halfcourt version and it eventually led to him getting a call to represent the flag and country in the 2022 Fiba (International Basketball Federation) 3×3 Asia Cup and the recent Cambodia Southeast Asian Games.
His 3×3 exploits led to where Eriobu is right now, a shot at achieving his ultimate goal.
“I’m so thankful that my extra work and sacrifices are bearing fruit,” he said. “I set a goal for myself to use my 3×3 stint to possibly returning to playing 5-on-5. I really wanted to make it happen.”
Playing in the On Tour is already an advantage for Eriobu, but he knows that there’s more work left to be done moving forward as the chance of getting a spot in the PBA’s 48th season will rest on how he can take advantage of the opportunity.
“I was once told that I should adapt as [quickly] as I could and not the other way around,” said Eriobu. “But through the grace of God, I was able to adjust and I was able to at least make a solid contribution whenever they call my name.”