Sunday, March 4, 2012


Filipino Americans infected by “Linsanity” – the stir created by New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin – say Filipinos are still a few years away from replicating the dramatic break-out of the first American NBA star of Taiwanese descent.

“The story of Jeremy Lin is an inspiration to everybody especially when you have the skills and the height to reach that level of play,” declared Ken Mendoza, president of the newly reconstituted Filipino American Basketball Association (FABA) in Metro DC. The group installed its new set of officers just last Feb. 17.

“There’s definitely added enthusiasm after “Linsanity”, chimed FABA board member Bo Asinero. Fellow board officer Dennis Tabligan predicted “it’s just a matter of time before one of our kids break ground too and it’s all because of him.”

“Now everybody looks at us where before they don’t pay attention because we’re Asians. Because of him we have a chance,” Tabligan added.

Jeremy Shu-How Lin broke out from obscurity after joining the reserves of the New York Knicks last December 27.

The former D-League player exploded with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in a 99-92 Knicks win over the New Jersey Nets, triggering a 7-game winning streak that rescued the franchise from imminent demise.

Anton Libot, an 18-year-old student at the Northern Virginia Community College, reckoned Filipinos have a “60 percent chance of playing in the NBA”.

“All we need is just some inspiration and a lot of practice, to be both good and smart,” he tells the Manila Mail. He said he’s been playing basketball “since birth”, joining school intramurals.

He immigrated here from Guagua, Pampanga 3 years ago but noticed how Filipinos seem to lose interest in playing basketball once they get here. “It’s all work. They dream of going to the US to work and their goal becomes helping their family in the Philippines,” Libot explained.

Not him, he quickly adds. He said he’ll continue playing basketball. “It’s something I just grew up with,” he averred.

John Paul Alacon, 24, works in the shipyards of Virginia Beach on weekdays so he can play basketball on weekends. “We’ve got a good chance if we just keep working hard. One of us is bound to make it to the NBA eventually,” he enthused.

“We’re already playing D-1 colleges. I feel we have a strong chance of making it to the NBA. But first we need to make it to the Olympics – show our talents to the world so everybody can see that Filipinos can play basketball,” Alacon stressed.

“There’re some tall Filipinos so hopefully one day there’s going to be one to get the chance to show what they can do,” he added. “We can play any position – we got some tall enough to play center – it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a big heart, you can play.”

The Filipinos’ talent for basketball is especially evident in age group competitions, Mendoza said.

“We got a lot of kids playing in high school teams, yung mga Filipino, they’re able to hang with them. But when they reach 17 or 18 years old, that’s when they grow in spurts. Napag-iiwanan na tayo. It’s hard to get a shot up kapag matatangkad ang kalaban unless you have exceptional speed,” he explained.

Giving Fil-Am children the chance to hone their skills was the key reason why over half of the officers and players of the Filipino Youth Basketball Association (FYBA) in Metro DC seceded to rejoin FABA, according to Asinero.

There are now 2 primary Fil-Am basketball associations in the Metro DC region. The dispute stemmed from a decision of the North American Basketball Association (NABA) to ban players who join “Team Philippines”, a road team composed mostly of recruits from Metro DC championship teams.

The FABA supports “Team Philippines”; the FYBA (which ironically, helped organize “Team Philippines”) does not, abiding with the NABA’s decision to ban its players.

The NABA ban prompted the FABA to pull out and join the rival Filipino Basketball Association of North America (FBANA). Both the NABA and FBANA hold huge inter-city tournaments, drawing hundreds of Fil-Ams from all over the US and Canada, during the Labor Day weekend.

Ironically, the NABA championship this year is hosted by Washington DC; the FBANA holds theirs in Toronto, Canada.

Meanwhile, “Team Philippines” has lined up participation in various age-group tournaments here and outside the US.

“Organizations help develop young players become the next Jeremy Lin and if you’re going to do what NABA is doing which is stopping the ability of kids to excel by experiencing international competition, we’re depriving these kids the experience to become the next Jeremy Lin,” argued Asinero.

“We don’t need politics. It has no place in our kids’ future and it’s stopping us from what we could be,” he stressed.

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