There was an unmistakable electricity felt around the air of the Buddhacare Gym. It came from someone unexpected, as the UST Tiger Cubs faced the Ateneo Blue Eaglets in the PCABL tournament last year. It was easy to assume that the excitement came from Batang Gilas players, Kai Sotto or Forthsky Padrigao. But fact of the matter was, both players were on the bench during the first half of the game.
The buzz was coming from the UST side. It came from a player who had despite his small, 5’8” sized frame, had an engine meant for supercars.
While Sotto and Padrigao ultimately led Ateneo to a comeback win during the second half, it was Mark Nonoy who captured the hearts of the viewing public during the game. It was remarkable to watch someone that miniscule do so much on the court. What made things more appealing was how he literally burst out of nowhere.
There was zero hype surrounding Nonoy before this game. But as the tournament rolled on, he started to make himself more and more known around basketball circles.
Mark was a recruit out of Iloilo who made his way to the UST Tiger Cubs on a one and done deal. That’s a big reason why it felt like he came out of nowhere. He wasn’t recruited from another school in Manila only to transfer to UST afterwards. He came straight from the province, and only made the jump to Manila a year before college.
Normally, recruits like that have a tendency to struggle when they get to the Metro. The oft-mentioned reason is adjustment in their lifestyle and the higher level of the game. But something not discussed enough: hiyaan. Those from the provinces tend to limit themselves because they feel they aren’t worthy compared to their counterparts in Manila.
It’s a natural human reaction, one Mark could have succumbed to. That was for from the case. Right from the get-go, Mark took control of the UST Tiger Cubs. He filled in the big hole left by former Rising Star, CJ Cansino.
It started in preseason tournaments, and it spilled over to the UAAP season. Not once did he ever show fear or shy away from the bright lights. His penetrations were always done with zero hesitation. When he’d zoom to the rim, it was always with purpose and 100 percent confidence. Even as he rose to stardom, he still kept that same energy he’s had since his first game in Manila. Nonoy only knows one speed, pedal-to-the metal. Because of that, Mark ended his lone season in the UAAP Juniors with a Mythical Five award.
Now, he’s set to make the jump to the Seniors Division with Coach Aldin Ayo and the UST Growling Tigers. It’s a new challenge once more for the proud Ilonggo, as he jumpes onto a new level just one year after his last big jump. There’s no reason to fear though, Mark isn’t scared at all. He’ll barge into the UAAP Seniors Division with zero hesitation, with that same electricity and motor he’s always had. This time, it won’t come as a surprise to anyone.
The SLAM Rising Stars Classic will be held on March 31, 7PM to 9PM, at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong. The game will be aired on ABS-CBN Sports via livestream.