Arwind Santos will be hunting for the “last jewel” in his crown when the Pampanga Giant Lanterns collide with the Bacoor City Strikers in the Fifth Season Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League best-of-five finals series this Saturday at the Bren Z. Guiao Sports Complex in San Fernando City.
The 42-year-old Santos said the MPBL title is the only gem missing in his collection so he will definitely go all out to lead the Giant Lanterns to their first MPBL title.
Santos’ playing career has been studded with accolades since his college days at Far Eastern University.
In fact, he led the Tamaraws to three titles in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines in which he emerged as Season Most Valuable Player twice and Mythical First Team member thrice.
In the amateurs, he gave Viva Mineral Water a pair of Philippine Basketball League titles before being taken by Air21 with the second pick in the 2006 Philippine Basketball Association Annual Rookie Draft.
His star power shone even brighter in the PBA.
He won nine titles with San Miguel Beer and was crowned as MVP in 2013. He was also a 10-time Mythical First Team member, three-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time Finals MVP.
After 12 years with the Beermen, he was traded to NorthPort, where he entered the league’s 10,000-point club.
Now, he is back in his hometown in Pampanga to raise the only trophy missing from his collection and help his father figure, Pampanga Gov. Dennis Pineda, win his first MPBL title.
“This is the only title that I’ve been missing,” Santos told a packed venue during the MPBL National Finals press conference at a restaurant in Makati.
“I already won titles in the UAAP, the PBL, and the PBA so winning this MPBL title is really important. I want to win this and complete my collection before I end my professional career.”
Santos admitted that joining the Giant Lanterns in the crucial stretch of the conference wasn’t easy.
Pampanga, for one, is already very fluid with stars like Encho Serrano, JB Bahio, John Lloyd Clemente and Archie Concepcion leading the squad to the best record in the regular season with a 26-2 win-loss card.
“My role at Pampanga is like that of a sniper, a deadly weapon,” Santos said.
“They are already lethal as they already have a system. I was just added to serve as a deadly weapon and help them win their first (MPBL) title.”
Santos, however, has yet to commit if he will be back for another season just in case the Giant Lanterns win their first MPBL title.
“It depends on the decision of my ‘father,’ Gov. Pineda,” he said, referring to the man responsible for polishing him from a gangly teen at Lubao Elementary School into one of the country’s greatest players.
“We will discuss what will happen soon because I’m also working on other things on the side. All I can say is good luck and it all depends on God.”