To prepare himself on his way to games, Terrence Romeo has a ritual: he cranks up the volume on his car radio to listen to love songs.
It’s a bit of an odd choice for a fiery player like Romeo, considering how love songs tend to make you all mushy. But this pregame senti trip probably serves as the calm before the storm, the opening act to the thunderous rock concert that Romeo holds every time he steps on the court.
When Romeo plays, he’s a rock star and everything is just loud and frantic—the screaming fans, the booing hecklers, the collective panic of opposing coaches trying to stop him, the ball ricocheting like a bullet between his legs.
This is what you’d expect from a talented scorer like Romeo in his first pro years fronting GlobalPort. He performed like a one-man band (no offense to Stanley Pringle), sporting whatever funky hairstyle he thought was cool that week.
Yet despite his efforts, year after year, Romeo always ended up wading into the Boracay shores of defeat. He hasn’t even come close to getting his feet wet in the finals.
Now he has a solid chance of playing for the title with TNT KaTropa, a team brimming with talent, a team that always seem to be on track to win a trophy. In their season opener against GlobalPort, the journey to the championship began.
TNT dominated Romeo’s former team using a balanced attack that saw seven players, including Romeo, score in double figures. The winning performance was far from being the one-man show that Romeo had been accustomed to.
Romeo, a three-time PBA scoring champion, scored only 11 points in his first game as he huffed and puffed and tucked loose hair behind his ear. He was obviously still shaking off the rust from missing about three months of court action. Yet TNT managed to hang 128 points on GlobalPort. They hit 15 3s, none of which came from Romeo. They won by 14 points.
“Sobrang saya ko,” Romeo said after the game, as if thorns that grew in his heart had been removed. “Kakaiba ‘yung atmosphere dito sa bago kong team. Tuwang tuwa ako at part na ko ng TNT dahil lahat nagtutulungan, lahat nag-susuportahan sa isa’t isa.”
With a team that has Jayson Castro, Roger Pogoy, Jericho Cruz, Troy Rosario, and import Jeremy Tyler, the pressure is now off of Romeo to singlehandedly carry the scoring load. But that’s not to say that he won’t be scoring, or at least try to score every chance he gets, because that’s what he does. Romeo will always have his rock star moments.
The first sighting couldn’t have come sooner, barely two minutes into his first game as a KaTropa. The ball touched Romeo’s hands at the left side of the court; it would never touch anybody else’s. Romeo used a weak screen from Tyler to get to the right side of the court, where his ex-coach and ex-teammates had a closer view of his taped-up Kyries. Romeo already knew his crossover was lethal, but he didn’t strike immediately. Romeo delayed the pain like a medical assistant who flicks the barrel of a syringe before injecting. After taking his time with a five-dribble combo, Romeo sprung to his right for a piercing, side-step jumper. As the ball sunk to the bottom of the net, Romeo’s former coach, Pido Jarencio, could only fix the collar of his shirt and cross his arms in disgust. Jarencio had seen that move many times before, only this time he felt what opposing coaches used to feel. And this was only the intro.
Another head-banging moment came towards the end of the game when Romeo clamored for the spotlight, in true rock star fashion. Posturing at the top of the key, he waved off his teammates for a clear out and they all…stopped. It was just Romeo, the ball, and the basket. Even his defender was reduced to a moving prop. He grooved to about three crossovers before climaxing to a step-back jumper.
Highlights aside, Romeo mostly struggled with his shot throughout the game, and, still, it was fine. TNT wasn’t going to ride or die with him. They have other weapons that work within the Nash Racela system, and add to that Romeo’s hunger to win, this equation makes TNT a championship-level team this Commissioner’s Cup.
Getting over the pain of losing can make a person both hungry and ready, and Romeo had his fair share of painful playoff exits in GlobalPort and heartbreaking losses as a member of the national team. Maybe those pregame love songs were part of his healing process? Who knows.
What’s clear is that by joining TNT, Romeo is now in a position to prove in the PBA what we all saw in the global stage: he, too, is championship-ready. There is more to him than flashy moves, just put him in the right system with the correct mentor. And please, for the culture, for the love of the game, just let him have his isos, his 2-minute guitar solos.
TNT will always be a composed team. They will be the soothing rhythm to Romeo’s hard-hitting riffs. By the time the smoke clears, we might be all humming along to a new tune: TNT KaTropa and Terrence Romeo, PBA champions. Sounds about right.
Photos from PBA.PH