Dylan Ababou Unplugged: On recovering from an injury-crippled PBA career, and becoming a Man of God

Ahead of his upcoming stint with Platinum Karaoke in the inaugural PBA 3×3 season, Dylan Ababou joins Dribble Media’s ZerJosh Serrano to look back at the ups and downs of his basketball career.

Dylan Ababou UST Ginebra PBA UAAP

UAAP Sixth Man of the Year.

UAAP Season MVP.

UAAP Champion.

RP Youth Under-18 Player.

Gilas 1.0 Player.

Dylan Ababou collected all these accolades even before he first stepped foot in the PBA.

He was a key member of the UST Growling Tigers team that defeated the JC Intal-led Ateneo Blue Eagles in 2006 to capture the UAAP Season 69 crown. He then concluded his collegiate career by bagging both the scoring crown and the MVP plum in 2009.

Right after his UAAP career, Dylan was called up for national duty to play for Gilas 1.0, the original Gilas program that consisted of the best amateur cagers that the country had to offer. It was a deviation from the usual inclusion of PBA players, primarily because the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) wanted to create a program where players can commit all of their time to the national team and buy into the system that new head coach Rajko Toroman had in place.

Talented as they were at that time, that Gilas 1.0 team was still inexperienced on the international stage. It was a proverbial “baptism of fire”, as to how Dylan recalls it.

“Una, mahirap kasi kakabuo lang namin (Gilas 1.0). Yung mga nakakalaban namin na international teams ay five to ten years na sila magkakasama. Add to that yung pressure na kailangan namin i-prove yung mga sarili namin. Hindi kasi galing sa PBA yung roster so kailangan namin patunayan na hindi nagkamali ng desisyon ang SBP.”

-Dylan

After two years with the Gilas 1.0 program, Dylan was selected 10th overall by Barako Bull Energy in the 2011 PBA Draft. With all the credentials that he accumulated at that point, there was no doubt that Dylan was poised for stardom in the pros. In his very first game in the PBA, his 20-point outing led Barako Bull to a double-digit win over Ginebra. Up against the most popular PBA team in his first game as a rookie, Dylan showed poise and talent, two assets of an up-and-coming star.  

But starting in his second year in the league, Dylan went through multiple major injuries that crippled his PBA career. Read down below as Dylan opens up about those injuries, along with other interesting topics such as playing for Coach Pido Jarencio, analyzing the current Gilas roster’s strengths, and taking his first steps towards a potential coaching career.

Dribble Media Exclusive

Question: Right after your RP Youth U-18 stint, it’s already a given that you were recruited by a number of collegiate teams both in the UAAP and the NCAA. How did you end up choosing UST as your school?

Dylan: “Actually, naisip ko na din na maglaro sa UP (University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons). Dapat sa UP ako pupunta kasi mag-tryout na ako doon. Pero yung mga kasama ko noon sa national team puro San Beda and UST boys kaya namili na lang ako dun sa dalawang schools. Sabi sa akin ni Daryl Bautista na sumama na ako sa kanila sa UST para magkakasama kami nila Jervy Cruz, Chester Taylor, Mark Canlas at Francis Allera. Sila yung mga nakasama ko din sa RP-Youth noon.”

Former UST head coach Pido Jarencio
Former UST head coach Pido Jarencio

At UST, you were under the tutelage of Coach Pido Jarencio, who local basketball fans know as a fiery and very loudspoken coach. Can you take us through how it feels to play for Coach Pido?

Dylan: “Matapang si Coach Pido. Mahirap siya magpa-practice at lagi nagmumura at sumisigaw. Pero hindi siya namemersonal. Pagdating sa court, gagawin niya lahat para tumibay at tumapang ka. Pero kapag pinapagalitan ka niya, alam mo na hindi personal. Mararamdaman mo yung pagmamahal niya kasi gusto niya lang na ma-achieve mo yung best version mo. Paglabas ng court, parang tatay na ulit siya. Kinakamusta niya yung pag-aaral namin at nililibre kami ng pagkain. Ramdam mo na tough love lang talaga. Kapag mismong sa laro na, grabe siya mag-motivate. Sobrang galing na motivator ni Coach Pido.”

In your illustrious UAAP career, who were the best players that you played against? Do you remember any heated moments between you and another opponent?

Dylan: “Unang-una, hanga ako sa teammates ko na sina Jervy (Cruz) and Jojo Duncil. Sobrang galing nila. Yung mga nakita ko naman na mahirap kalaban, una diyan si Joseph Yeo noong rookie year ko. Si Bonbon Custodio (UE Red Warriors) and JC Intal din kasama diyan. Si Jvee Casio simple lang maglaro pero he is one of the best scorers I’ve played with and against. Sa mga nakaaway ko, si Patrick Cabahug (Adamson) actually parang lahat ng players naka-away na niya sa court. Mind games din kasi siya. Aasarin ka niya para mawala ka sa laro mo. Yun ang way of attack niya. Susubukan niya kung manghihina ka sa mga sasabihin niya. Pero outside the court, okay naman kami.”

What was the most difficult aspect of your transition from UST to Gilas 1.0?

Dylan: “Sa UST, sanay ako na forward or center yung position ko. Tapos sa Gilas naging guard ako kasi hindi naman ako kalakihan kapag nasa international competition na. Sobrang hirap kasi kapag sa offense, dapat maliksi ako. Sa defense naman, kailangan mabantayan ko pati yung mga point guard ng kalaban. Hindi pa mabilis lateral movements ko noon kaya struggle talaga noong umpisa.”

Dylan posing for a picture with the rest of the Gilas 1.0 squad
Dylan posing for a picture with the rest of the Gilas 1.0 squad

As you know, SBP has now decided to form the national team around talented players who are yet to step foot in the professional ranks. How would you compare the current Gilas squad to the original Gilas 1.0 program?

Dylan: “Actually, parehas na parehas yung mga programa. Yung time namin, puro college players din kami na reinforced ng naturalized player. Nagsimula kami noon na naturalized player namin si CJ Giles, then napalitan siya ni Jamal Sampson. Eventually, si Marcus Douthit na yung nag-stay. Minsan reinforced din kami ng mga PBA players gaya ni kuya Asi Taulava, Dondon Hontiveros and Sol Mercado. Nakakatuwa kasi yung time na yun, natalo din namin ang South Korea. Ilang tournaments din na nakapag-champion tayo. Wala kami iba iniisip noon, national team duties lang talaga. Yung Gilas ngayon, maganda yung chemistry ng team. Kung may idadagdag na players, konti lang dapat at yung mga kailangan lang talaga. Alam ko na maganda ang magiging result ng ganyang programa.”

Who do you think is the best player in this current crop of Gilas standouts?

Dylan: “Si Dwight Ramos yung nangingibabaw sa kanila ngayon. Noon sa amin, si Marcio Lassiter. Si Dwight parang nakikita ko din tulad kay Marcio na malakas ang katawan, at maganda ang shooting at depensa.”

You were eventually drafted by Barako Bull Energy in 2011. Did you find it difficult to adjust to the style of play in the PBA?

Dylan: “Yung transition ko papunta sa PBA hindi na ganoon kahirap. Noong nasa Smart Gilas ako, guest team kami sa PBA so may idea na ako sa level of competition and physicality. Pagdating ko sa Barako, ginamit talaga ako ni Coach Junel Baculi. Sabay pa kami noon ni Allein Maliksi, na naging teammate ko din sa UST. Naging teammate ko pa sa Barako si Willie Miller, isa sa mga favorite players ko. Lagi ko pa siya roommate at lagi niya ako tinuturuan. Dream come true talaga.”

In 2012, you were traded to Ginebra in exchange for Ronald Tubid. How heavy was the pressure for you knowing that Tubid was a key player and a fan favorite for Ginebra back then?

Dylan: “Nagulat ako lalo na ang ka-trade ko si Ronald (Tubid). Sobrang pressure kasi dapat pagdating ko sa Ginebra, ako na yung magiging primary perimeter defender nila. Two-way player na dapat ako. Ang mindset ko ay kailangan maging sobrang aggressive ko. Pero masaya na napunta ako sa Ginebra kasi mababait yung mga teammates ko, lalo na sina Mark Caguioa, LA Tenorio, Kerby Raymundo at KG Canaleta. Masaya sobra ang samahan sa Ginebra.”

On November 2012, you suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in the first quarter of Ginebra’s match-up against San Mig Coffee. That ACL injury started a string of setbacks for you in terms of your health. Can you take us through a timeline of those consecutive major injuries that you had to go through?

Dylan: “Prior to my second year sa PBA, nagkaroon ako ng pulled hamstring injury. One month ako nag-recover. Then first game ko pagbalik, na-ACL injury naman ako. Eight months ako wala. Pagbalik ko sa practice, sumasakit ulit tuhod ko. Nirerehab ko naman pero sumasakit pa rin. Pina-check namin and pagdating ng MRI, nakita na injured yung same knee ko. Sa lateral meniscus naman. Pero nilaro ko pa rin. One year ko tiniis bago ko pina-operahan ulit. So dalawang operations na on that same knee. Pagbalik ko, napunit naman calf ko. Recover ako one month tapos pagbalik ko, napunit ko na naman yung same calf. Nabali din ilong ko dalawang beses. Na-injured din shoulder ko sa tune-up game. Puro ganoon lang nangyari, tuloy-tuloy lang yung mga injury.”

After your career in the PBA, you jumped into the now-growing 3×3 basketball scene. Did you also consider accepting contract offers from MPBL teams?

Dylan: “Sa MPBL, baka hindi rin. May mga teams and players na walang integrity. Naglalaro sila dahil nabayaran o para lang sa pera. Ang gusto ko yung para manalo lang, wala nang iba. Hindi yung may ibang agenda. May mga naririnig ako na ganyan kaya huwag na lang din. Ayoko na lang din masama sa mga ganung grupo.”

In your social media posts, we see that you’re always engaged in Bible studies, mostly with your fellow basketball players. When you were starting in your walk in faith, who were the PBA players who first encouraged you to participate in Bible studies?

Dylan: “Noong nasa Barako Bull pa ako, si Jayjay Helterbrand yung nag-invite sa akin sa Bible study. May biruan pa noon na yung mga umaattend ng Bible study napupunta sa Ginebra or San Miguel, which is nangyayari 99% of the time. Pagdating ko sa Ginebra, mas naging deep na yung faith ko. Hindi ko akalain na si Rudy Hatfield sobrang galing sa Bible. Nakakatuwa kasi parang pastor na din siya. Si kuya Kerby Raymundo isa rin sa mga nag-disciple sa akin. Yung mga ibang players na nakasama ko sa mga Bible studies ay sina Larry Fonacier, Doug Kramer, Ronald Tubid, Kelly Williams at Bong Galanza. Sa lahat ng teams na napuntahan ko, nakapag-plant naman tayo ng godly seeds. Praise God na madaming na-transform na mga buhay.”

As you focus on your upcoming stint in the PBA 3×3, do you also see yourself in the coaching field down the road?

Dylan: “Ngayon, naka-focus ako sa 3×3. Araw-araw pa rin ang workout and skills training. On the side, nag-aaral na din ako ng coaching. Parang sinasabi din kasi ni Lord na mag-coach ako. So ngayon, binibigyan ko ng personal training yung mga anak ng mga former teammates ko para at least natututukan din namin yung mga bata. Ang impression sa akin ni Lord is mag-coach ako and at the same time, mag-evangelize.”

Do you still see yourself making a comeback to the PBA at this point of your career?

Dylan: “Actually, sila na din yung nag-end ng career ko kasi wala na rin teams na nag-ooffer. Binigay ko naman yung best ko. Fulfilled na ako.”

DRIBBLE MEDIA EXCLUSIVE

Follow Dylan Ababou’s business ventures: Chocobambam Nourishment, Stingray Therapeutic Spray, and Choctato Chip.  

Chocobambam is an organic, all-natural, and detoxifying chocolate drink also used by PBA players and athletes to boost their immune systems. On the other hand, Stingray Therapeutic Spray is a powerful liniment that provides long-lasting rapid pain relief to cramps and sore muscles. Lastly, Choctato Chip is a handcrafted chocolate-covered potato chip that also comes in square sizes.

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