Javi on forefront of Dyip changing their narrative

Javi Gomez de Liaño. PBA IMAGES

Javi Gomez de Liaño wasn’t too keen on basking under the glory of his career-best scoring night against NLEX on Saturday. He knows all too well that such things are fleeting.

“I know it’s going to be up and down again,” he told the Inquirer, deadpan. “I just have to keep on working.”

Gomez de Liaño has gone from an integral cog among the Gilas Pilipinas cadets to a hardly used import in Japan. He was selected eighth overall in the 2021 Rookie Draft but was traded away just a couple of days later.

So a 31-point performance spiked with five boards, a pair of steals, and a block to help Terrafirma to its first winning streak in four conferences was not going to get the former UP standout all excited.

“I’ve had some dark days, especially last year. Having a very limited role made me question a bit where I am—like, ‘Am I far behind already’? It’s been up and down. I played well in Gilas with the cadets under coach Tab (Baldwin),” he recalled.

“I got a call from the B.League, but it was only towards the end when I was given an opportunity. In my PBA rookie year, I also didn’t know what was going to happen. I was drafted by Ginebra, and I was ready to establish myself there, but in a few days, I got traded. So it’s really been a roller coaster to me,” he went on.

The 25-year-old forward is simply keeping his nose on the grindstone, keeping himself detached from the extremes his emotions could take him. And it has been working thus far.

Big scoring jump

After averaging barely six points for the Dyip last year, Gomez de Liaño has emerged as a fitting back-up to cornerstone Juami Tiongson. He is now averaging 21.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals over the course of three games.

Much of the spike in his numbers, he said, was because of a productive off-season.

“I used the PBA on Tour as a stepping stone towards building my real game back. [I feel like] my rookie year was a disaster for me,” he said. “During the Tour, there were some players who were injured, so I just tried to use that as leverage for me to show the coaches that I can help lead the team.

“That’s basketball, that’s part of it all,” he said of the rough start to his young career. “You’ve got to also believe in yourself. You don’t need validation from others.”

Shortly after the Dyip’s 113-112 escape from the Road Warriors, Gomez de Liaño and his coach, Johnedel Cardel, talked about “changing the team’s narrative.”

And somehow, the versatile forward has become sort of the poster boy for the club’s rallying cry.

“Change gotta start with yourself, right?” he said, still deadpan. “We cannot just say we want to start winning or be better.”

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“We’ve gotta change ourselves, too, and choose to be better.” INQ

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