Posted Feb 16th 2014
Terrence Romeo: Staying True to His Words
By Paolo Mariano Posted Jul 5th 2013
On the game’s very first possession, Terrence Romeo, with his bright yellow socks, foam wrap-headband, and trademark spiky hair, drove to the lane. He passed the ball to Anthony Hargrove. It was stolen. A couple of possessions after, Romeo shot a three-pointer from the right wing. It didn’t hit the rim.
Barely three minutes into the game, he was taken out. He sat at the far end of the bench. Ninety-seven seconds later and with FEU down, 12-4 against Ateneo de Manila University, head coach Nash Racela signaled for his prized guard to return.
The simple gesture was like a jolt of lightning to Romeo. Like the most active kid in class being called for recitation. He excitedly jumped out of his seat and jogged to the official’s table.
The moment he held the ball anew, he penetrated and issued a drop pass to Gryann Mendoza, who was cutting on the baseline. He didn’t catch the ball. Maybe he didn’t expect the pass. Heck, maybe the entire Mall of Asia Arena didn’t. On their ensuing possession, Romeo once again dished to Mendoza on the right corner. He bricked the jumper.
The next time he got the ball, Romeo decided to take matters into his own hands. As if frustratingly telling himself: Fine, I’ll do it. He hoisted a three-pointer from the top of the key. Nothing but net.
Last season and the two before that, Romeo would’ve taken more shots in the game’s first few minutes. Well, why not? He’s a prolific scorer, who can puncture the hoop from almost any part of the 94’x50’ hardwood. But as he has promised this season, we’ll witness, in his own words, a new Terrence Romeo.
“Every game, I challenge myself to lead our team. I’m not just a scorer anymore. I’m more of a team player now,” said Romeo.
“At the start of the game, he was looking to pass, which means he’s willing to give up the ball. Pinuri niyo (media) kasi last time, pasa tuloy nang pasa (You praised him too much last time, now all he wants to do is pass),” said Racela in jest. “But that’s part of his maturity, knowing when to pass and when to score.”
Two games into Season 76, the Makati-born guard has kept his promise. He’s been doing a lot instead of just tallying points. He has led the Tamaraws to a 2-0 record with 22.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 7.5 APG, and 2.5 SPG. More importantly, he's been a steadying factor and a vocal leader.
“Laki ng pinagbago ng laro niya. Mas naiintindihan na kasi niya ‘yung basketball (His game has changed a lot. That’s because his basketball knowledge has improved),” said backcourt mate RR Garcia. “He knows he can’t do it by himself.”
With 12 seconds left in the third quarter, Romeo wanted to go for the last shot. Nash, however, motioned for him to give the ball to Mike Tolomia, who is also a terrific one-on-one player. Romeo obeyed and Tolomia sank a beautiful step-back three-pointer at the buzzer.
Romeo’s former coaches Glenn Capacio and Bert Flores would’ve liked him to take that shot. Why wouldn’t they? He’s FEU’s main man. But what Racela is trying to do is introduce a new dynamic to his game: from me-me-me to us-us-us.
“I always tell him that every game, the opposing team’s best defender will be on you, so you must learn to give it (the ball) up,” said Racela, who’s in his first year with the Tamaraws.
Romeo, who averaged 3.5 assists last year but also attempted 17.5 shots per outing, had no qualms about it.
“Lagi sakin sinasabi nila coach na mas madali umiskor kapag nakaka-score ang mga kasama ko (My coaches always tell me that it’ll be easier for me to score if my teammates are able to score),” said the Mythical Five member and former Rookie of the Year.
“Kapag sinasabihan siya, nakikinig naman siya. Nagtitiwala rin siya sa teammates niya (When you talk to him, he listens. He trusts his teammates as well),” said Garcia.
Romeo has shot poorly from the field this season though at 33.3%, including a woeful 3-of-16 from long range. Chucking eight threes per game doesn’t exactly fit in his mindset makeover, but old habits do die hard, especially when that habit is taking shots, because there’s nothing more tempting in basketball than trying to score.
“I do still get out of control. But that’s what I’m trying to change. I should always be in control,” admitted Romeo, who led the league in three-pointers made and attempted last season with 2.5 and 7.3 per game, respectively.
After scoring 12 points before the break, Romeo struggled mightily in the second half. He only scored three points—all coming from the stripe. He shot 0-of-9 from the field with versatile Ateneo rookie Chris Newsome putting the cuffs on him.
The Blue Eagles’ defense helped them force overtime at 66-all. But Romeo decided to mix the old and the new in the extra period. Despite his previous misses, he buried a three-pointer off a nifty crossover on Newsome. He also stole Nico Elorde’s pass, with Ateneo looking to tie the count at 75 with 20 seconds left. Finally, he made four clutch free throws in the dying moments to seal the win for FEU.
Compared, however, to their opening day win over University of the East, Romeo 2.0 wasn’t in full display against Ateneo. He shot 4-of-18 and only had three assists. He knew it. He felt it. But as they say, you gotta do what you gotta do.
“Iba ‘yung kanina eh, dikdikan ‘yung laro, kailangan ko umiskor (The game earlier was different, it was intense, I needed to score),” said Romeo, who still top-scored for FEU with 21 points.
But that’s exactly the difference between the old and the new Romeo. The old one will score if he wants to. The new one will score if he needs to. So far, it’s been the new one we’ve seen. But old or new, it shouldn’t really matter. Even if he eventually breaks his promise, his supporters won’t mind as long as the Tamaraws win.
“I always think that I’m playing for my family and for the FEU community. Ayoko sayangin ‘yung tiwala na binibigay nila sa akin (I don’t want to waste their faith in me),” said Romeo.