Abarrientos will also have the opportunity to demonstrate his talent and potential abroad.
RJ Abarrientos has already signed a two-year existing contract with Ulsan Hyundai Mobis of the Korean Basketball League.
And even his own uncle Johnny is purely and simply eternally thankful that Far Eastern University was indeed entirely supportive of RJ’s strong desire to go pro despite apparently only playing for the Tamaraws for one year.
“Blessing yun sa kanya,” [“that’s a blessing for him”] stated Johnny, who is also an assistant coach at both Ginebra and FEU. “Unang-una, I want to thank the FEU community because they are very supportive not just to me, but also kay RJ. Nakita nila yung opportunity at gusto nilang matulungan si RJ na i-grab yung opportunity. RJ decided na kunin na niya.” [“First and foremost, I’d like to thank the FEU community for their unwavering support of not just myself, but also RJ. They noticed an opportunity and want to assist RJ in taking advantage of it. RJ then decided to take it.”]
Johnny knows a thing or two about landing a contract to play overseas. It is, in fact, one of his worst regrets.
Johnny actually received the PBA’s Most Valuable Player award in 1996 after guiding Alaska to a truly rare Grand Slam.
It piqued the interest of an NBA scout specifically named Joe Bettancourt. Bettancourt was a proud member of the Charlotte Hornets.
“Yung Charlotte Hornets, they invited me to either join them for a three-month training camp or give me a 10-day contract,” Johnny, who was 27 years old at the time and still at the top of his abilities, recalled.
Despite having the support of Alaska’s whole management, the 5-foot-7 guard from Naga opted to pass up the opportunity.
“Gusto ko talaga, syempre NBA yun but nung time na yun, hindi ako maka-decide kung gusto ko ba talaga o hindi kasi ongoing yung PBA nun,” [“Of course, I want NBA, but I can’t determine if I want it or not because the PBA is in session at the time.”] he proceeded on.
RJ was presented with the same option more than 20 years later, deciding whether to stay with FEU or go pro in a different country.
“Every move and situation, sinasabi niya sa akin yun. Hindi puwedeng hindi kasi alam niyang kung sino ang unang magagalit sa kanya. Kung ano yung narating niya, nasa likod lang niya ako,” [“Every move and situation, he was telling me about it; it couldn’t be otherwise, since he knows who will be the first to be upset with him.”
“Whatever he receives, I’ll be right behind him.”] Johnny, who is 29 years older than RJ, said.
“Siyempre, not too serious nung una. Habang wala pa naman nun, hindi mo pa pwede i-count. Pero nung nandiyan na, reality na ito. So why not? Let’s go.” [“Of course, not serious at first, because you can’t count when it’s not there yet, but when it was there, it was reality, so why not? Let’s go.”]
One of Johnny’s life mantras has been “seize the moment.”
But, unlike him, RJ’s early career has been built on never turning down a challenge.
He got many offers from other institutions in 2019, but chose to continue at FEU despite having to sit out a whole year before joining the college levels.
Despite the fact that COVID-19 delayed his senior debut, Coach Tab Baldwin encouraged him to join Gilas for the Asia Cup Qualifiers and the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, which practically placed his name on the map.
Then, despite being only a rookie in UAAP Season 84, he assumed leadership of FEU.
Now, he and good friend SJ Belangel will go down in history as the first Southeast Asians to play in Korea’s top flight.
Whatever happened after that, Johnny told his nephew to live his life without regrets.
“Sobrang happy ako kasi kailan pa niya makukuha yun? Na-layoff siya ng two years. Good thing nakapag-Gilas siya, nagkaroon siya ng exposure, tumaas ang level ng basketball niya kay Coach Tab,” [“I’m overjoyed because when is he going to receive that? He was out of work for two years. Good thing he joined Gilas, he received exposure, and his basketball skills rose thanks to Coach Tab, “] expressed Johnny.
“Very grateful ang pamilya namin na in-add siya sa team at na-bless siya sa hard work na pinut-in niya.” [“Our family is very thankful that he was joined to the team, and he was blessed for all of his hard work.”]
Short bio of the legendary Johnny “Flying A” Abarrientos
Johnny Abarrientos (born July 17, 1970) is a former Philippine Basketball Association professional basketball player. He was also a member of the Philippine National Team for many years and won the PBA Most Valuable Player title in 1996, becoming the league’s shortest player to do so. When he first joined the Alaska Milkmen in 1993, he was known as The Flying A. He is now the head coach of the FEU Tamaraws and an assistant coach for the Magnolia Hotshots.
Retirement and coaching career of Johnny A
Following his promotion to assistant coach of the Barangay Ginebra Kings, Abarrientos was invited by Alaska management to the Alaska 25th Anniversary Reunion as a result of the team’s victory over the San Miguel Beermen in the 2010 PBA Fiesta Conference. Because of his significant contributions to the team, notably his 1996 Grand Slam victory and MVP award that same year, Alaska management opted to retire his #14 jersey.
The 1996 PBA MVP had spent the previous few years on Ginebra’s coaching staff. Abarrientos joins the B-Meg team as an assistant coach for the 37th season of the PBA, alongside former colleague Jeffrey Cariaso, to aid Coach Tim Cone in implementing his lauded triangle offense in the talented B-Meg squad.
Accomplishments in Johnny A’s career
• UAAP Champion
• 1996 PBA MVP
• 12-Time PBA Champion
• Three-Time Member of the RP National Team
• PBA All Time Leaders in Steals (1,302)