May 16, 2020

PJ Simon looks back at PBA career despite retirement on hold

PETER June Simon's jersey retirement at Magnolia has been put on hold after the PBA season was postponed indefinitely following the breakout of the coronavirus pandemic.

But that didn't stop the veteran guard from looking back a little bit and reflecting on his entire 17-year career spent with the Purefoods franchise.

While identified with the Hotshots all along, Simon admitted being an Alaska fan growing up as a high school kid at Notre Dame of Makilala in Cotabato especially during the time the team was winning one championship after the other in the 90s.

"Alaska fan ako nung time na yun," he told PBA television play-by-play broadcasters Carlo Pamintuan and Magoo Marjon in their 20T podcast.

Simon mentioned former league MVP Johnny Abarrientos and now Alaska coach Jeffrey Cariaso as among his favorite Alaska players back then.

Sponsored content:
Incidentally, Simon played under Abarrientos and Cariaso as deputies of then Purefoods coach Tim Cone. Abarrientos remains with Magnolia though as one of head coach Chito Victolero's assistants.

The 39-year-old Simon said it was former Purefoods coach Ryan Gregorio who approached him and talked to him in playing for the team.

The 5-foot-11 alum of University of Mindanao was selected in the fifth round and 43rd overall by Sta. Lucia in the 2001 rookie draft, but was not signed to a contract by the Realtors.

Simon was coming off a scintillating stint in the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL) where he won a championship and an MVP award with Hapee Toothpaste when the call from Gregorio came.

"Na-discover ni coach RG na free agent ako. By that time na-draft na nila (Purefoods) sila James Yap and Paul Artadi, so naglalaro pa lang ako sa PBA nag-uusap na kami," he said.

Sponsored content:
Simon became an integral part of Purefoods' rotation by the time he came on board in 2004, be it as a sixth man player under Gregorio or as a starter during the time of coach Tim Cone.

He went on and win eight championships with the franchise including a grand slam in 2014.

In his entire PBA stint, Simon considered two players who made life miserable to him.

"Nung time ng grand slam, sobra akong nahirapan pag malaki sa akin (yung player), una kay Gabe Norwood and pangalawa, kay Ryan Reyes," he said.

Magnolia was supposed to have a jersey retirement for Simon last May 10 during the first 'Manila Classico' game of the season. Unfortunately, the current pandemic forced the league to shut down its operation indefinitely, putting on hold the scheduled tribute by the Hotshots to one of their most beloved players.

He signed a six-month contract with the Hotshots just for the retirement ceremony.

Now he has to wait anew for the league to resume before finally calling it a career.

"Handang-handa na ako, nag-set ako ng goal na maglalaro ako sa PBA until 40 ako," said Simon, who's turning 40 on June 1.

"Ito na talaga yung time," he added.(RG)