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The anatomy of a champion’s heart

Tuesday, 5 March 2013 3 Comments

UAAP Season 75 Finals Game 2: Ateneo Blue Eagles vs. UST Growling Tigers, Oct. 11What does it take to be a champion? What does it take to touch greatness? Heck, what does it take to simply be good at something?

There might be a categorical response to that somewhere. But for Jeric Teng, the new team captain of the UST Growling Tigers, there is no formula; save for his love and dedication to the game.

As Jeric is about to exhaust the last playing year of his collegiate career, he reflects on how time flew by. “Parang kailan lang. Mabilis lang kasi tuloy tuloy, ‘di mo napapansin,” he shares.

It is not surprising, therefore, that this early he is already working to make the necessary adjustments to improve his game come next season. “I’m working on my dribbling skills dahil ‘yun ‘yung kulang ko.”

The Tigers, he believes, already have the experience yet still need mental toughness. This is where Jeric comes in.

“I have more responsibilities to lead the team. As early as now, kailangan mapa-realize ko na sa kanila ‘yung goal namin sa UAAP,” he explains of his new role as team captain. “Sinasabi ko sa kanila we have a chance pero still, ngayon, we’re back to zero.”

But more than words, it will be his actions that will do the talking. “I’ll try to be a good role model sa kanila. I’ll try to work hard every practice para ma-inspire sila to do the same.”

An inspiration he will surely be should he succeed with the next bullet point in his game plan to greatness.

“I want to be a point guard.”

Jeric reveals his desire to move out of his comfort zone in order to open up more opportunities for him—a quality that escapes many.

“If swe-swertehin ako mag PBA, my height is for shooting guard (or) point guard lang eh. So siguro it’s best for me if I can practice being a point guard.”

He adds that it will definitely be a challenge since his natural position is a shooting guard. “Medyo mahirap siyang transition pero nag-usap na kami ng coach. We’ll see what happens kung sometimes gagawin akong point guard or not.”

Nothing comes easy

To accomplish his plans, Jeric must take in everything he can learn. In which department his brother Jeron, of the De La Salle Green Archers, is of much help offering constructive competition.

“We just help each other,” he shares of their on-going sibling rivalry. “We are motivated from each other na umakyat pa ‘yung game namin dahil syempre ayaw namin matalo sa isa’t isa.”

Nothing came easy for Jeric though despite his impressive basketball genes. He was once as lanky as Kevin Ferrer about a month prior to joining the Growling Tigers. “Before ako mag-practice sa UST, nag-stop muna ako mag-basketball for a month. Ginawa ko lang kumain.”

Since then, there’s been no shortage of trials and failures for the swift shooter. In the recent UAAP season, Jeric was plagued with injuries that included a minor MCL tear.

“When you practice every day, nakakalimutan mo na ‘yung nangyari before,” he remarks on the process by which he deals with his fears of getting injured again. But he acknowledges that it is all part of the system. “Normal lang naman ‘yung mga injuries.”

The mark of a true champion, however, is how he overcomes adversity and never stops kicking until he has his head above water.

“There’s nothing that can make you feel good,” he says of how he copes during tough losses, especially that UAAP Finals loss to Ateneo. “Pupunta ako kaagad ng gym. I’ll put (in) more shots. Hangga’t di pa ako nakakalaro ng maganda, syempre down (ako), (pero) mag pa-practice pa ako nang mag pa-practice.”

For such a tough defeat in the UAAP though, Jeric rose from the ashes emphatically when he bagged the MVP and Mythical Five awards in the PCCL tourney, after beating Ateneo in the finals.

Head in the clouds, feet on the ground

Despite being the PCCL MVP, the 2009 UAAP Rookie of the Year, and UST’s star player, Jeric would still be the first to tell you that he is not that talented. “Marami pang mga talented players dyan,” he says.

Jeric considers other better players as his motivation to constantly improve. And for the upcoming season, Jeric intends to hold nothing back. “I’m looking forward to improve my game this season talaga. Dapat lahat na. Wala na ako itatago eh. And ito na ‘yung pinakamalaking chance ko para umakyat dun sa PBA.”

I ask him about his plans should basketball not work out for him. Though I quickly add that I doubt it, he was even quicker to say that nothing is certain.

“We can’t say that eh. Kasi players talaga kailangan hard work,” he says. “You have a lot of competition, injuries (pa) and stuff.” The graduating marketing major says his contingency plan is to go the business route. “Kaya I take my studies seriously.”

When most people would cover up their flaws, Jeric acknowledges his shortcomings and puts his focus on instilling change in himself. “’Yung consistency sa work ethics ko. Minsan kasi I tend to slack off,” he admits.

“I have to continuously work hard and be confident lagi. Kasi minsan, when I have a bad game or what, nada-down ako eh. Kailangan matanggal ko na ‘yun dahil 5th year ko na rin. I have to be positive lagi.”

Nobody would perceive Jeric as a slacker with everything he has accomplished so far. For his last year though, Jeric hopes to leave behind a legacy by bringing a UAAP title back to Espanya.

“Championship. Yun lang,” he answers bluntly when I ask about his goal for this year. “I don’t care about individual awards. Gusto ko lang lahat kami umangat, even the coaches. ‘Di lang ako, ‘di lang isa sa amin. Lahat kami umangat.”

Now that he has had ample time to rest, after opting out of the recently concluded conference of the D-League to nurse his injuries, Jeric is fully well and ready to take on an entire year of basketball. He starts it off by helping Informatics in their bid for a title in the upcoming D-League conference.

If anything, Jeric actually started his year with ABS-CBN’s Princess and I Royal Championship, where he, his brother and fellow UAAP athletes played with the show’s cast.

He chuckles at an embarrassing moment, “Noong nag-practice kami a week before ng game namin, tinanong ko si Daniel (Padilla). Sabi ko, kailan ba magsa-start ‘yung Princess and I? Eh patapos na pala.”

Apart from basketball, this year is all about movies for Jeric as well. He has a long list of must-watch blockbuster films. “Marami, like Iron Man. I think there’s Fast and the Furious also.”

Admittedly a frustrated singer, with evidence from a recent TV guesting, Jeric says he would rather learn every language than to play every instrument. “Mas magagamit ko in life ‘yun in communicating with other people. Pag pumunta ako abroad, at least I can talk to them (in) their language.”

As he sat on the gym’s floor across from me, I asked him all the possible, even generic, questions about his game. He was kind enough to share his thoughts and elaborate those that I didn’t quite understand.

But the moment I told him “I got everything I need”, I realized I didn’t just get material for this article; I actually got to peer into his mind and heart. And what I saw was that he was more than a student-athlete. His passion is one of a kind. His drive to go places and be great is inspiring. And his incredible hold on himself as a person is staggering.

That’s probably what sets him apart. That’s probably the key equation, the proverbial secret formula to being great.

Jeric Teng’s heart could resemble that of a champion.

While nobody can really say where he might go, one thing is already certain: Jeric, and his huge heart, will be remembered.

By Jane Bracher

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