A youthful experience to rememberBy Alexandra Jessica Esponga
It was October last year then when the Energen Team Pilipinas joined the Fédération Internationale de Basketball Under-16 tournament and stepped into the limelight.
They weren’t able to bring home the gold. But to this day, the team members feel it was a worthwhile experience to cherish.
The boys of coach Olsen Racela learned from the opportunity to represent the country. And it wasn’t all just about the game.
“At first, we treated each other as teammates then we became friends and best friends after that. Soon, we started caring for each other not just on the court,” said Fil-Am guard Nick Dalafu. “We just became brothers.”
Most of the members of the team came from different places and backgrounds. But no matter how unique each one was to his teammate, basketball turned them into a singular fighting unit.
“It was amazing to see all the guys have so little problems with each other but come from all different backgrounds,” said Jordan Heading. “We just all became really close.”
During the tournament, the boys weren’t allowed to do much stuff outside. So, they would just hang out in each others’ rooms, relax and play around.
“We didn’t want to get hurt doing something dumb or waste our energy during the most important tournament of our lives,” said Dalafu when he was asked why they rarely went out. But after the tournament, we went to the beach to go swimming. We also went to the market which was cool.”
They also had Bible studies regularly which were led most of the time by Nick and Jordan.
“We did a lot of Bible studies,” Heading said. “We were all aware that we’d be nothing and nowhere without God so we kept Him a big part of our lives.”
Team Pilipinas U-16′s debut game against Indonesia was a marvel that surprised many spectators. They undoubtedly started strong and finished stronger, ending the game with a 93-30 massacre.
And they continued to dominate each game, proving their hunger and gunning for the top spot. Until Korea ruined their winning streak.
“We didn’t execute well in offense and we kept on missing easy shots,” explained Nick. “The attack wasn’t just there.”
Dalafu revealed that everyone was emotional after the game. It wasn’t drama that they felt, it was something that just gave each of them a massive hole in their chest.
“The team learned how to humble down and give respect to everyone, especially our opponents. It just wasn’t our time, yet. We were just thankful that we’ve reached that far.”
Their second loss was as much painful as the first one but they chose to keep on moving forward, accept their defeat and humble down.
Most of the players of the Energen Team Pilipinas have their own careers and each one of them has high hopes on pursuing their dreams of becoming a professional basketball player.
They hope to use the tools they learned in the tournament to help in fulfilling that dream.
“The coaches put so much time and effort into teaching us different aspects of the game that we were lacking and strengthening our weaknesses,” Heading said. “Personally, my defense, athleticism and overall basketball IQ improved and so many other things on top of that.”
Those skills are just one of the few things the boys value. The established relationships they’ve made with coaches, managers, other players and fans are more priceless to them.
Indeed, being a part of the team made them better players with bigger hearts who know the responsibilities basketball demands.
“[Basketball] It gives us (youth) something to look forward to everyday,” Nick said. ” I could spend my time doing drugs but instead I am on the court working on my game everyday so I really don’t have time to do drugs or commit crimes.”
“It (Basketball) is beautiful. Everyone is united by it.”