At age 15, Nambatac left CDO to pursue hoops dream in Manila

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jun 11, 2015 06:25 PM
At age 15, Nambatac left CDO to pursue hoops dream in Manila
YOU SHOULD KNOW REY NAMBATAC. Former NCAA Juniors MVP Rey Nambatac has now supplanted Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal as the centerpiece of Letran's return to contention.

Watching his smooth offensive game, it is easy to forget that Colegio de San Juan de Letran’s Rey Nambatac is far from a product of Manila’s refined brand of basketball.

Now the main protagonist in the Knights’ quest for a return to prominence, Nambatac was once just a hopeful from Cagayan de Oro who ventured to Manila without any assurance of a scholarship. “’Di ako ni-recruit. May kaibigan lang yung papa ko na dating Letranista tapos ni-recommend ako,” he shared with ABS-CBN Sports.

Then only 15-years-young, Nambatac left his home to try his luck in Intramuros all by his lonesome. “Ako lang mag-isa kasi ‘di naman maka-afford ng ticket na pati yung parents ko. Sabi ko noon, buwis-buhay na ‘to kasi nandito na naman ako,” he recollected.

Even though his eventual school promised nothing back then because he was a walk-in, Nambatac persevered through doubts and fears all for the dream that his basketball talent will lead to a scholarship. “Every practice, nagpapakita ako kasi kung ‘di ako makuha, wala, ‘di rin naman ako mapapag-aral ng parents ko rito,” he said.

From a small apartment in Mandaluyong, the CDO native shared that he commuted by jeep to Intramuros every day. “Tinandaan ko talaga kung anong nakalagay sa jeep. That time, takot na takot din ako kasi ‘di ko naman alam kung pano yung mga tao sa Maynila,” he said.

When he arrived in Manila, all Nambatac had in his pocket was PhP 2, 000 which only lasted for one month. In need of more money, he emotionally recalled what his father told him then, “Nung wala na, humingi na ako. Sabi ng daddy ko, ‘Wait ka lang, maghahanap-buhay lang ako para maipadala ko sayo ng hapon bago magsara ang LBC.’”

Driven by a desire for a brighter future and a want to make his parents proud, Nambatac finally got a break when Letran formally took him under its Juniors program. “Pinagsikapan ko hanggang nabigay na rin ang scholarship, dormitory, pati allowance. Ang laking ginhawa lang talaga nun,” he said.

From then on, it was less about financial worries and more about improving inside the court as he said, “Pagpasok ko sa Team A, saktong paalis na sina Oda Tampus at Glenn Khobuntin. Nung naglalaro na talaga ako, dun na ako nabigyan ng kumpyansa.”

Nambatac took full advantage of the opportunity he earned and won the NCAA Juniors MVP before becoming a well-regarded recruit entering college. Although admittedly getting enticed by offers from the University of the Philippines and Far Eastern University, he said that staying in Intramuros was always his first choice.

Napamahal na rin kasi ako rito. ‘Di na rin kelangan mag-adjust. Ang inisip ko, yung kaibigang malapit na sakin at tinutulungan ako, baka ‘di ko mahanap sa ibang team,” Nambatac said.

Even after experiencing life outside the Final Four for the first time in his big league career, the Letran still firmly believed staying was the right choice. “Masayang-masaya ako ngayon kasi nung time na pumasok ako sa Seniors, iniisip ko na one day, ako na rin magdadala ng team. Ngayon, medyo nararamdaman ko na yun,” he said.

No longer a 15-year-old hoping turn his hoops dream into reality, Nambatac is raring to take on even greater challenges in his third year in the collegiate ranks. After everything the kid has gone through, it wouldn’t be wrong to place all bets on him to be able to match the achievements of the Letran great whose number he now wears.


Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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