He was named to the 2011-12 PBA All-Defensive team. In the Governors’ Cup finals, he is tasked to go head-to-head with B-MEG superstar guard James Yap. He remains the only holdover on Rain or Shine from the franchise’s PBA debut five years ago.
No one would have figured that in 2012, Jireh Ibañes would be the most successful University of the Philippines alumnus playing in the PBA.
After all, Ibañes wasn’t a star even back in college, and that was for a team that never made it to the UAAP final four. Even then, Ibañes was a role player, a defensive specialist who did the dirty job, stopping the opposing team’s best player and getting their goat.
Today, Ibañes continues to support the squad, and it pains him to see the team struggle.
“Hope that they realize also that whatever they’re doing is for UP — not for themselves or anything but for the whole UP community,” Ibañes said. “If they work hard, harder than anybody, it might amaze them how it will pay off.”
Like many other alumni, his experience at the state university prepared him for life.
“It taught me to work harder,” said Ibañes, a BA Art Studies graduate from UP Diliman.
As with many other members of the school’s basketball program, he has experienced heartbreak. In 2004, he was part of a Fighting Maroons team that lost six of its first seven games in the first round of the UAAP tournament.
But rather than just roll over and die, the squad kept true to the school nickname. UP went on a blistering second-round run, winning six of seven games, defeating powerhouse squads Ateneo and FEU.
The Fighting Maroons, however, fell one game short of ending their final four drought. Almost, but not quite.
Jireh Ibañes hates that feeling.
“That experience comes to my mind every now and then,” he said, “It makes me work so hard not to feel that ‘almost’ feeling.”
Today, Rain or Shine is one win away from its first title. They’re almost there. But ‘almost’ wouldn’t cut it for Ibañes.
“I’m excited and really happy for what we have achieved,” Ibañes said. “Hopefully we get this one. I hope.”
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