Tiu-rrific career

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We may have seen the last of Christopher John Alandy-Dy Tiu in a Rain or Shine jersey.

In what could have been the final game of his six-year Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) career with the Rain or Shine Elasto-Painters, the 33-year-old Tiu erupted for a career-high 30 points in beating the NLEX Road Warriors.

It was the third career-high scoring output of the 2018 Governors’ Cup — a fitting but ironic twist in case it was indeed Tiu’s last tour of duty as a pro.

Chris Tiu began his basketball rise when he was still in Xavier School, starring for the Golden Stallions’ teams in the Milo SBP and Passerelle tournaments.

Eventually, he made his way up the juniors’ squad that played in various Metro Manila leagues like the PAYA, PRADA, the MMBL and of course, the now defunct Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Association (MMTLBA), also fondly called the “UAAP of Chinese-Filipino Schools.”

Together with other Xavier standouts like Joseph Yeo, TY Tang, Leonard Lee and Sammy Young, Tiu led the Golden Stallions to an amazing three-peat in the MMTLBA and more titles across other tournaments as well.

They were called the best high school basketball team not competing in either the UAAP or NCAA.

It was a venerable golden generation for Xavier School and Tiu was at the forefront of it, not least because he was projected as the ideal student-athlete — someone who was able to garner high levels of academic success while also playing basketball at a similarly high level.

Yeo was the first one to graduate from that generation in 2001, choosing to join the De La Salle Green Archers. He would be followed to Taft a year after by Tang, while Tiu would finish his high school years in 2003 and then move on to the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

In Ateneo, Tiu’s star shone even brighter. With Tiu part of the team, the Blue Eagles went on to the UAAP Finals in 2003 (losing to FEU) and in 2006 (losing to UST). Because Tiu took a year off from the UAAP, he was still eligible to play in 2008 and that’s when he finally tasted UAAP bliss, helping the Blue Eagles to the first of what would be a historic 5-peat in men’s basketball.

After his collegiate basketball career ran its course, Tiu was tapped to play for the newly-formed Smart Gilas Pilipinas national team, although the flip side was Tiu had to forego his plans to get drafted in the PBA as early as 2008.

In all, Tiu spent five years with the national team, playing under famed Serbian tactician Rajko Toroman and with some of the best players from his generation like former high school and collegiate rival JVee Casio, former Ateneo teammate Japeth Aguilar, naturalized center Marcus Douthit and Filipino-American talents Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz.

That team garnered a lot of accolades, earning podium finishes in several international tournaments while also restoring the Philippine team’s status among Asia’s cage powers.

That first iteration of Smart Gilas laid the groundwork for succeeding Gilas squads that qualified in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, played in the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Tournament and placed second twice in the 2013 and 2015 editions of the FIBA Asia Cup.

Once Tiu reached the PBA, he became one of the faces of the Rain or Shine franchise. He was part of the 2013 PBA All-Rookie Team and also became the Three-Point Champion in the 2013 PBA All-Star Weekend. His lone PBA title was in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup, when the Elasto-Painters defeated Alaska in six games.

Chris Tiu had a stellar if an abbreviated PBA career (just six years!), but despite that his legacy and role in helping not just PBA basketball but more importantly, Philippine basketball’s move forward is secure.

If he chooses to hang up his jersey now, he would be doing so ahead of the curve, the game and with a Tiu-rrific trail of success.

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