The Long Road Back for Ken Bono

Lost in a whirlwind conference for Meralco has been the amazing comeback of Ken Bono. Several years removed from competitive basketball, the big man has featured in all of the Meralco Bolts’ games in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup so far.

The former Adamson Falcon admitted it has been a long and challenging road from being relegated to a perennial practice player, making his second chance that much sweeter.

“Sobrang saya kasi, iba yung feeling na nasa lineup ka kumpara sa practice player ka na nandoon ka lang sa practice at nanonood sa game,” he said.

(“I’m really happy because, the feeling is completely different when you’re in the lineup as compared to when you’re just a practice player, and you’re only watching the games.”)

It was almost three years since Bono last logged a minute in a PBA game, not to mention the five-year wait to score a field goal dating back to his days with the now defunct Air21. His journey to regain his place in the country’s highest level of competitive basketball has been an incredible example of the fruits of hard work and dedication.

Listed in the active roster to start the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, he needed only three outings before he got nine points against the vaunted duo of Beau Belga and JR Quinahan in the Bolts’ 98-95 win over Rain or Shine, a conference-best for the big man.

Bono revealed how watching his teammates suffer from losses urged him to get back in the type of shape that would allow him to make a contribution.

“Noong practice player ako, pag natatalo sila, nasasaktan ka rin kasi gusto mo makatulong sa team. Kaya pinag-igihan ko ng mabuti yung practice at nagpa-kundisyon talaga ako,” he said. “Awa ng Diyos, binigyan ako ng opportunity nila coach na ma-lineup and dapat suklian ko na lang.”

(“When I was a practice player, when they lost, I felt the pain too because I wanted to help. So I made sure to persevere and get conditioned. With the grace of God, coach gave the chance to be in the lineup, and now I just need to repay him.”)

After treading his wares as a practice player for San Miguel, San Mig Coffee, and later, Meralco, the 31-year-old has played all eight games for the Bolts this conference, even starting for two. He has averaged 2.9 points and 1.3 rebounds in 7.8 minutes.

Bono’s return to the lineup has coincided with a thrilling Commissioner’s Cup for the Bolts, as the team has raced to the top of the standings with a 6-2 record — a huge turnaround from the previous conference’s 1-10 run. The big man expressed his satisfaction in seeing all the hard work the team devotes in practice pay off in such a big way.

“Maganda yung samahan namin,” he said. “Ang nagdala sa amin yung chemistry namin and magaling ang import (Arinze Onuaku) namin. Sobrang laki ng tinutulong niya sa team.”

(“Our bond is strong. What carries us is our chemistry and the fact that our import (Arinze Onuaku) is good. He’s been such a big help for us.”

Back in the front court mix alongside Reynel Hugnatan, Bryan Faundo, Kelly Nabong, John Ferriols, and Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Bono insists the Meralco Bolts will return after the Holy Week break determined to keep the formula that has kept the team at the top of the standings.

“Ituloy-tuloy lang namin, one game at a time. Kailangan lang gawin namin ng maayos yung pinapagawa ni coach Norman (Black),” said Bono. “Magtutulung-tulungan naman kami lahat. Gagawin namin yung best namin para mabigyan ng karangalan yung Meralco.”

(“We will just keep going, one game at a time. We just need to continue doing well what coach Norman (Black) asks of us. Everybody will pitch in. We will do our best in order to give honor to Meralco.”)

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