There he was, up front and center on the Araneta Center floor when Adamson University's UAAP Season 85 campaign came to a close November last year.
Jerom Lastimosa was the man of the moment, appreciated by fans and opponents alike, applauded by both teammates and coaches, beloved by all.
That was the story of the last two seasons for the Soaring Falcons, after all -- their 5-foot-10 primetime playmaker at the center of the universe, and everybody else just revolving around him.
It was a fitting end to a fantastic collegiate career. If it was the end.
But no, the story continues. Lastimosa is back for his fifth and final year for Adamson.
"I was already entertaining the idea (I had) coached Jerom in his last season nung Season 85. Kaya nung last game namin, during the hymn, linagay na namin siya sa harap," shared head coach Nash Racela. "But after that, there were discussions between him and school officials. In the end, I think, after consulting with his family and advisers as well, he came up with the decision to stay. I think, we can see the whole community appreciates that."
Despite being on the radar of international teams and being already ready for the pros, Lastimosa returns to San Marcelino's universe -- not only to shine even brighter, but also to give light to all around him.
Even better, he returns as a Southeast Asian Games gold medalist, as part of the Gilas Pilipinas "Redeem Team."
"For me, eto yung biggest achievement ko. First time ko mag-gold, kaya thankful ako na naging part ako ng Gilas family," he exclaimed. "It was an honor and sobrang saya kong nabigyan namin 'to sa bansa natin."
According to team insiders who requested anonymity to be able to speak freely, the 24-year-old guard was actually far from a no-brainer for Gilas, as the last spot in the backcourt went down to the wire between him and Meralco Bolts rising star Aaron Black.
"I really believed in his ability. I really believed he can contribute sa cause ng Gilas," recalled Racela. "Nakakatuwa lang na kung ano siya rito for Adamson, ginawa rin niya sa Gilas, of course, with the guidance of the professional coaches dun."
Indeed, in the end, Lastimosa got the nod, and proceeded to provide quality minutes whenever he was called on to spell lead guards Chris Ross and Chris Newsome.
Now, he brings back that valuable international experience -- and regional gold -- to Adamson, a school and a squad that only asks for a puncher's chance against the likes of traditional powerhouses Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University as well as modern-day titan the University of the Philippines.
And in Lastimosa, the Soaring Falcons have just that, as he remains to be the collegiate ranks' best point guard.
"He's a special talent. He's a special player," remarked Racela. "Nakakatawa nga kasi it wasn't me who recruited him for Adamson kasi sina [previous] coach Franz [Pumaren] pa yan. We also wanted him for FEU back then kasi nakita rin namin siya nung nasa Dumaguete pa siya, pero naunahanan kami. Now as his coach na talaga, I'm really blessed to be able to handle him."
The Negrense's impact for Adamson, however, goes way beyond the court.
As the latest example of how Racela and his program gets the best out of their players, Lastimosa is now a living, breathing advertisement -- to put it bluntly -- as to why young talents should join the Soaring Falcons. Or consider them at the very least.
"Who'd ever imagine somebody from Adamson made it to Gilas. Previously, you see guys from the bigger programs represent the country, but this time, there's Jerom Lastimosa from Adamson University," expressed Racela. "It says a lot, I guess, about the program na meron kami. We really look after the best ng mga bata namin."
"Hopefully, with this exposure of Jerom sa Gilas, somehow, may recall ulit ang mga tao about Adamson. Also consider us, especially yung players who want more opportunities. Dyan kami marami."
Without a doubt, Adamson has done so much for Jerom Lastimosa. At the same time, though, Lastimosa has done so much for Adamson.
And he'll continue to do so much, from his last season in blue-and-white onwards. At the very least, potential recruits are now thinking, "Hey, maybe I can follow in the footsteps of SEA Games gold medalist Jerom Lastimosa in Adamson."