MANILA – Mark Nonoy and Deo Cuajao became the latest Growling Tigers who decided to depart from the University of Santo Tomas (UST).

In separate statements on Monday, both players said they arrived at their respective decisions to focus on their future.

"Napakabigat man para sa loob ko, kinakailangan ko ng katiyakan sa aking career para makapagfocus ulit sa basketball (Although it breaks my heart, I need assurance in my career so that I can focus again in basketball)," Nonoy said.

For his part, Cuajao said "[Sa career] ko binubuo ang pangarap ko para sa pamilya ko (It is in my career where I am building my hope for my family).”

The two players then thanked former UST coach Aldin Ayo, who according to Cuajao became his second father.

"Ilang araw na hindi ako makatulog kasi napamahal na ang team sa akin lalo na si Coach Aldin na nagbigay sa akin ng break at kumpyansa (I have been sleepless for days now because the team has already loved me especially Coach Aldin who gave me the break and confidence," Cuajao said.

"Habambuhay ko tatanawin ang utang na loob ko po sa kanya kasi kung hndi dahil sa kanya wala po ako sa kinatatayuan ko ngayon (I will forever look at my gratitude to him because if not for him, I will not be where I am now)," Nonoy also said.

Both Nonoy and Cuajao are reportedly contemplating pursuing their studies in La Salle.

"Akin po munang kokonsultahin ang aking pamilya para sa mga susunod na hakbang na aming gagawin (I will first consult my family for the next steps that I will do," Nonoy said.

While he did not confirm if he is indeed moving to the Green Archers, Cuajao simply said, "Handa na ako sa bagong hamon para sa career ko sa basketball (I am now ready for the next challenge in my basketball career)."

The departure of Nonoy and Cuajao came in the aftermath of a training bubble that Ayo allegedly put up in his hometown of Capuy, Sorsogon amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

At that time, practices among collegiate teams were not yet allowed. UST then launched a probe and eventually the University Athletic Association of the Philippines slapped Ayo with an indefinite ban from coaching any of the league's member teams.

CJ Cansino was the first to depart from the Growling Tigers' camp, claiming that he was removed from the squad during the alleged bubble.

Cansino eventually transferred to the University of the Philippines.

Rising star Jun Asuncion also left the Tigers and joined the Mapua Cardinals.

Brent Paraiso, Rhenz Abando, and Ira Bataller followed suit and left UST for Letran. (PNA)