It's been quite the roller-coaster ride for Javi Gomez de Liaño this month.
He threw his name into the hat of the 2022 PBA Draft. He played his last game in the Japan B.League and bid farewell to the Ibaraki Robots. He cheered on UP, where he had one year of eligibility remaining, as the Fighting Maroons ended a 36-year championship drought.
He got handpicked by coach Chot Reyes to be part of the new Gilas Pilipinas pool. He got drafted 8th overall by Barangay Ginebra, his childhood favorite. Then he got traded -- alongside second-year guard Brian Enriquez -- for draft classmate Jeremiah Gray and will now join Terrafirma Dyip, the league's longtime bottom-feeder.
All that, in a span of two weeks and change.
As always, though, the second of the GDL brothers is staying even-keeled. He knows what he needs to do. He knows what he wants to happen.
"To be honest, I'm shocked, but at the same time, I always try to look at things in a brighter way," he said a day after the deal between Ginebra and Terrafirma was done. "Iniisip ko na lang na I wanna help put Terrafirma on the map, help start a winning culture there. Based on what I've heard, coach [Johnedel] Cardel wanted me, so it's a good thing for me, being in a place where I'm wanted. I'm happy."
"No hard feelings. Thankful ako sa two days ko in Ginebra," Gomez de Liaño added, through chuckles, as some sort of farewell message to his dream team.
With the Dyip, GDL will be playing for a franchise that has just one playoff appearance to show in its eight years of existence. On the flipside, though, he will be getting more minutes than if he had stayed in still-stacked Ginebra.
And in terms of fit, his shooting, improving playmaking, and active defending all look good alongside the talents of cornerstones Juami Tiongson, Joshua Munzon, and Isaac Go. He's well-versed in turning a team around, as he was there at the start of UP's recent rise to legitimate contender in the UAAP.
"Yun nga talaga ang naiisip ko. I've been in this situation, starting with a losing team, and as a player, that's one of the best challenges: Changing the culture," he said. His rookie season with the Fighting Maroon ended with a 5-9 record. They got better and better; culminating with back-to-back semifinals appearances in his third and fourth years.
"With or without me, Ginebra will always be strong. ItongTerrafirma, nagche-change pa lang ng culture. I'm loyal to wherever I am. I wanna be with the Dyip for the rest of my career, if they'll have me."
Just as Terrafirma is out to prove it can compete -- and, for real, compete, at that -- the 6-foot-5 guard is out to prove the Dyip were right to acquire him. After all, he's known a thing or two about proving himself.
"I'm used to it already. I've been underrated my whole career. It's nothing new to me," Gomez de Liaño said. "This is just a bigger challenge. This time, I want to show Terrafirma they made the right trade. Nagpapasalamat ako sa kanilang they see something in me. Naniniwala ako sa kanilang they have big plans for me."
In UP, GDL had to prove worthy of being one of the school's first homegrown recruits in a long time. Later on, he had to prove that he wasn't a forward, but actually a big guard.
That transition led to a roster spot on Gilas, where he had to prove deserving of the callup and then playing time. With the international exposure, he found himself with a golden opportunity in Japan, and there, he had to prove Ibaraki made the right call in making him their Asian quota import.
The 23-year-old had a pretty solid stint with the Robots, and adding that to his pretty solid stints for UP and Gilas, he was a sure-fire first-rounder in the PBA rookie draft. Once there, though, he actually fell by a bit, going 8th overall when he was pegged somewhere between fifth and 7th (ESPN's mock draft had him going No. 7).
And yet, the short drop turned out to be cause for celebration, as he heard his name called by his dream team. Just two days later, however, he was given away by Ginebra. Dream over -- for his dream team, that is. The PBA dream? Still very much underway.
"First and foremost, I have to earn coach's trust and then help out however I can. Along with that, I have to enjoy where I'm at," he said.
Javi GDL just missed out on UP's historic championship. He then missed out on a great shot at a PBA title -- as Ginebra looks like it has the Governors' Cup on lock as long as Justin Brownlee suits up.
He's not missing out on yet another chance to prove himself, though -- that chip was always meant to be on his shoulder.