Kirk wants to play here for as Long as he canBy Celest R. Flores
MANILA, Philippines—Kirk Long is nothing but thankful for the chance to do something he loves in the place he calls home.
Long, who was a cornerstone in Ateneo’s four-title run in the UAAP, is making the most out of the decision by commissioner Chito Salud to allow him to suit up in the PBA D-League, a farm league for the pros that is reserved for those eligible to play in the PBA.
It was a victory of sorts for Long, who still won’t be allowed to be entered the PBA rookie draft. His basketball career was virtually over the moment he burned up his playing years with the Blue Eagles. Now, he can continue to toil in local hardcourts.
“It feels great [to be here]. I love sports, I love basketball and I love playing in the Philippines,” said Long, after the NLEX Road Warriors’ opening day victory over Big Chill last week.“
“I love athletics and just to have the opportunity, to play I couldn’t be more thankful to the PBA for giving me a chance,” Long added.
But Long’s impact in the league was palpable even before tip off with the surplus of blondes and kids, filling up almost a quarter San Juan Juan Arena’s Gallery on a Tuesday afternoon.
“That’s Barangay Long right there. We have some visitors from Singapore and a lot of them are from our community in Antipolo,” said Long. “They have been watching our games for five years and now they’re going to be big supporters of NLEX.”
Long’s impact on the defending champion Road Warriors was almost immediate too.
And a long bomb from the six-foot-one guard, his first basket of the game, gave NLEX’s its first lead of the game with 5:42 left in the fourth quarter, helping his squad stave off an upset early in the tournament.
“That was his welcome shot,” said head coach Boyet Fernandez.
Easing in to the new system, after playing five years under multi-titled coach Norman Black, wasn’t a walk in the park but it was easier with familiar faces playing along side him.
“To play with my teammate Emman Monfort again and to join a championship team like NLEX. It’s great. I’m a competitor,” Long told INQUIRER.net.
Leaving the Philippines, Long’s home for the last two decades, though, never crossed his mind if even his career here was never given another chance.
“This is home. All my family is here. Even when basketball finishes, I’ll still be here,” added Long.
Long, who graduated with an Education degree in Ateneo, would like to extend his relationship in basketball here by teaching or coaching basketball in the future.
But for now, ”I just want keep playing basketball and staying in that realm of this relationship as long as I can.”