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Pinoy hoops rising in Australia

As the Philippines continue to soar in the FIBA world ranking as a hoops nation, Filipinos all over the globe also start their own ascend towards making a mark in the sport wherever they are. Such is the case for Filipinos from the land Down Under as basketball still runs through their veins even when living in a country where Australian Rules Football is king.

In last month’s 2018 SM-NBTC National Finals held in the Mall of Asia Arena, a team of Fil-Australians called AusPinoy had a respectable showing against the best local high school squads here. Brought here by the Homegrown Basketball Australia organization, AusPinoy is one of three overseas team that participated in the tourney. The two other teams were USA and Canada. This is the second straight year that the Aussies joined the NBTC tournament. AusPinoy entered the Sweet 16 round via an 86-79 victory over NBTC Division 2 champion Assumption Montessori School of Cagayan de Oro. But in the quarterfinal, they met current Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) juniors titlist Ateneo de Manila University, which is bannered by 7’1” phenom Kai Sotto. The Aussies gave the Blue Eaglets a good fight but succumbed to the latter’s size and experience later in the game to bow out of contention, 55-74. Despite the loss however, the Pinoy-Aussies gained the respect of the appreciative NBTC crowd after a remarkable showing in the tournament even with a very young crew. Some of its members were being recruited by top collegiate programs in the country, like sharpshooter Cooper McLaughlin, who’s reportedly joining his elder brother at Ateneo, and Danielle Mallari who’s rumored to be headed for Far Eastern University. The AusPinoy team is headed by managers Cromwell Alvarez and Karlo Basa, and coached by Roger Mantua and Rey Reculya.

Like most overseas Pinoys, Filipino residents in Sydney started forming weekly basketball pick-up games in their local areas, where everybody is welcome to join. The regular Saturday morning club grew in numbers until it was time to formalize the small hoops community. “In 2017, after a bad showing at our first NBTC appearance, we decided to make changes. We created a basketball pathway program – identify the best talent in New South Wales (NSW) and train them for 30 weeks. We had 48 kids joining the training and development program, which consisted of strength and conditioning workouts along with basketball tournaments specifically for their age range to help their development. In 2018, the program is expanding to three locations in Sydney – Mt Druitt, Marrickville and Camden – and also to Canberra and Melbourne. The plan is to eventually move to all states in Australia and be a nationally recognized program. Our aim is to have all age groups (u12s, u14s, u16s, u18 and Opens) to be involved in the events and tournaments to ensure that the sport in the Australian Filipino community keeps growing. Homegrown Basketball in 2018-19 will be focusing more on the pathway to colleges in the Philippines. We intend to focus more in tournaments around Australia to identify talent that we can bring to Philippines,” said Alvarez, one of the key figures in the formation of Homegrown Basketball Australia. NSW is a state in the east coast of Australia that borders Queensland and includes state capital Sydney, the most populous city in this country. Sydney is home to hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, many of who are residents of Blacktown, the largest suburb in NSW.

There have been quite a number of Australian-bred Pinoys that already made a mark in basketball here. Mick Pennisi played many years in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Former San Beda Red Lions and now current PBA pros Anthony and David Semerad were raised in Australia. And so was former Ateneo Blue Eagle Zion Laterre. 15-year old Ethan Kirkness, a 6’11” Batang Gilas prospect is from the Gold Coast in Australia. He was supposed to suit up for the National University Bullpups high school varsity this year but decided to finish his studies in Australia.

With the Homegrown Basketball Australia’s efforts, we can expect to see more Australian-bred Pinoys here in the years to come.

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