Jr. NBA Philippines 2017 – A decade of putting dreams in motion

Anton Roxas

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Anton Roxas poses for a picture with some of the Jr. NBA PH 2017 participants

One of favorite places to go to in the Philippines is located on the second floor of Glorietta 3 in Makati City. To me, it’s basketball heaven. 

I’m talking about the NBA Store.

Every time I am in the area, I make sure to drop by. But last May 11, I had a more important reason to go back to the shop. I was tasked to host a fellowship activity of the Jr. NBA Philippines 2017, where this year’s batch of campers would meet rising NBA point guard, Elfrid Payton and WNBA legend Sue Wicks.

There were a total 72 young basketball talents from Manila, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Lucena in attendance, exactly half of which were girls. This was also the largest group of girls to have made it to the program since it was established in 2007. While waiting for Payton and Wicks to arrive, I noticed that one of the girls, Crizan Pangilinan was taking a ‘Facebook Live’ video. I quickly joined in and started dancing to the delight of the kids. It was fun meeting new friends.

It was also great meeting Payton and Wicks. The former was in the country for the very first time, while the latter returned after eight years. We also had a surprise guest that night – Enes Kanter of the Oklahoma City Thunder. One camper asked the 6’11” center what he did to grow so big and the Turkish player responded by saying “eat your vegetables and drink your milk.” He also revealed that one of his pre-game habits is eating popcorn. 

Aside from being able to interact with future basketball stars of the country, I also met some humble and passionate coaches like Dick Gawat from Makati, Draymond Borromeo from Meycauayan, and Jed Cabellon from Cebu; the latter was later on recognized as Jr. NBA Philippines 2017 Male Coach of the Year.

The following day, I was up early in the morning to reconvene with the same group at Don Bosco Technical Institute, Makati to kick off the Jr. NBA Philippines 2017 National Training Camp (NTC). It was the beginning of a three-day basketball camp administered by Coach Chris Sumner, Payton, Wicks, and various other coaches from Alaska including UAAP analyst Christian Luanzon. While watching the kids go through the drills, one thought popped up in my head.

“I hope that one day, a handful of these campers come up to me and say, ‘Kuya Anton, I was a part of the Jr. NBA Philippines 2017.’”

I’ve had the pleasure of covering the careers of various Jr. NBA Philippines Alumni. Kiefer Ravena and Aljon Mariano are a part of that list. 

During the final day of the NTC at the SM Mall of Asia, I saw some players from the program whose careers I am currently coveringL SJ Belangel of the Ateneo Blue Eaglets, former De La Salle-Zobel guard Marco Sario, Sam Abuhijleh of the San Beda Red Cubs and RK Ilagan of the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Golden Stags were all participating in the Jr. NBA Philippines Alumni exhibition game. 

After that, it was time for the current batch to strut their stuff on the court. Kenji Trey Duremdes and Joachim Eddie Laure stood out among the boys. Both are sons of former PBA players, Kenneth and Eddie. I’m look forward to seeing their game develop, as well as see them grow into fine young men. 

Basketball has always been a source of inspiration in our country. The Jr. NBA Philippines program has given life to the dreams of our youth across the archipelago. I’m glad to have met you all and I can’t wait for you to reintroduce yourself to the world in the near future. 

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports.

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