Monday, February 29, 2016

Hoop hottie

Always Be My Maybe star Gerald Anderson loves basketball so much that he never misses an opportunity to play. He usually suits up for the Star Magic Games every year. This photo was taken during the opening of last year's sportsfest.
It’s no surprise that Gerald Anderson knows his way around the basketball court. His performance during the charity game Fastbreak, held last January 6, 2011 at the San Juan Gym for the benefit of Sendong victims, was a clear indication. Despite arriving with the game already underway, he still managed to rack up 11 points before halftime. Unfortunately, his team lost, but that didn’t detract from Gerald’s stellar performance.

But what not many people know is that it took Gerald a while—and a lot of determination and hard work—before he became the basketball star that he is today.

One of the people who helped Gerald on his journey was his high school basketball coach Pol Torrijos. Coach Pol first saw Gerald’s potential when he saw the latter play for the Notre Dame of Dadiangas University team when he was still in high school. “Fundamentally sound siya pagdating sa basketball. Ibig sabihin, basic talaga yung mga alam niya sa basketball noon,” Coach Pol says of Gerald’s skill level at the time. “Halimbawa, yung shooting, basics ng shooting at yung formula. Sa dribbling, basics ng dribbling. Sa pagkakaalam ko, nag-basketball clinic na siya sa States. So tingin ko, konti na lang ito, konti na lang ang ituturo, pwede na.”

The idea of helping Gerald become a force to be reckoned with on the hardcourt appealed to Coach Pol, so he invited the boy to join the high school varsity basketball team of the Holy Trinity College of General Santos. Gerald accepted Coach Pol’s invitation, but despite whatever potential he may have had, he didn’t exactly make waves in his first year suiting up for Holy, as locals fondly call the school. “In his first year sa school namin, bench warmer lang siya,” Coach Pol says.

Gerald may not have been able to contribute much from the floor in his rookie year, but he was an asset to the team nonetheless, thanks to his striking good looks. Many people flocked to the team’s games and even their practices just to get a glimpse of Gerald in his jersey. “Guwapo siya kaya marami na rin ang nakakapansin sa kanya noon. Actually, isa yun sa mga factors kung bakit ko siya kinuha. Gusto ko kasi may dating yung team namin. Totoo yun. Hindi niya lang alam yun,” Coach Pol laughs. “Pero aside from that, magaling na rin naman siyang maglaro. Nung una, yun lang role niya. Dahil sa kanya, maraming manonood sa amin, maraming supporters, sikat kami sa school. Napapasigaw ang mga babae at mga bakla dahil sa kanya. Bale pag nag-pa-practice kami, puno na lagi yung court namin doon. Na-achieve naman yung gusto kong mangyari.”

But good looks can only take you so far in life, and eventually Coach Pol realized he should teach his newest recruit that important lesson. One day, he sat Gerald down and advised him to stop depending solely on his good looks if he really wanted to make something of himself. Despite the language barrier—“Ang problema lang sa kanya before, pag nag-uusap kami, Bisaya. Hindi pa siya marunong mag-Tagalog nung araw. Kaya sa basketball practices namin, ang instructions ko dapat English. Sa States kasi siya natuto maglaro, kaya dapat English para madali niyang maintindihan”—Coach Pol got his point across, and thankfully Gerald took his mentor’s words to heart.

Gerald entered his sophomore year determined to push himself in the classroom as well as the basketball court. He put more effort into his studies and got good grades. Meanwhile, Coach Pol made adjustments to the team to hasten Gerald’s development as a player. “Nilagay ko rin siya sa tamang position. Dahil matangkad siya”—Gerald stands 5’10”—“pwede siyang maging center pero nilagay ko siya sa key position. Off guard at point guard siya.” Those adjustments and Gerald’s hard work paid off when he was crowned MVP of their league. “Practically every day nag-pa-practice siya, at team player siya kaya madali siyang nag-improve,” Coach Pol says.

Another reason for Gerald’s success is that basketball was more than an extracurricular activity to him. His love affair with the sport began when he was just eight years old and living in Springfield, Missouri where he picked up a basketball for the first time. But that’s not to say he didn’t try other sports growing up. When he was 12, he joined a youth soccer team and played in a tournament in Springfield, but he eventually found his way back to basketball. It was that sport that helped him fit in and make friends when he moved to GenSan at 14.

Recalls Sonny “Butz” Biboso, one of the first friends Gerald made in the Philippines, “Sa tapat ng bahay nila, may half-court pa diyan dati. Nag-ba-basketball kami ng pinsan ko. Siya nakaupo lang, nakayuko sa semento. Niyaya ko siyang sumali sa amin. Eh tatlo lang kami. Hindi ka naman pwede maglaro ng tatlo. So meron siyang tinuro na laro sa amin ng pinsan ko. Ang pangalan ng laro na yun ay ‘bucket.’ Parang wala siyang violations o traveling. Basta nakaka-score ka through follow-up. Kailangan pagka-score mo, follow-up agad ang bola. Bantayan kayo. Yun, nakapaglaro kami. Simula noon, yun na.”

Jalal Laidan, another old friend of Gerald’s, offers more proof of his passion for the sport. “Adik talaga sa basketball yan. Mula umaga hanggang gabi, basketball lang siya, walang kain. Hindi siya umuuwi ng bahay, puro basketball palagi. Lagi nga kaming pinapagalitan ng nanay niya.” All the recreational basketball Gerald played before his time at Holy is probably what made him, as Coach Pol put it, fundamentally sound and set him on the path towards becoming the MVP he was always meant to be.

According to Coach Pol, after Gerald was crowned the MVP of an interschool league in which all the public and private high schools in the SocSarGen area took part, he became something of a local celebrity. It can be said that that prepared him for life as a matinee idol. In fact, Coach Pol believes Gerald would have gone on to become famous for his basketball skills had Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition and the chance to join showbiz not come calling. “Pag nag-seryoso siya, sa tingin ko kayang-kaya,” he says of Gerald’s chances at making it in the big leagues. “Kung hindi lang nag-artista yan, doon siya sisikat. Doon ang direksyon naming dalawa.”

There was a time when Gerald was rumored to be considering a stint on the varsity team of a leading university in Quezon City. If things had gone according to plan, he would have enrolled in that university to finish college and play basketball. Unfortunately, that plan fell through because he couldn’t fit practices and games into his schedule. His dream of playing in the PBA Developmental League fell victim to the same reason. But Coach Pol still believes in him. “Tingin ko lang ho, kung makakaya niya yung schedule, at saka yung aral. Kasi sa Manila, kailangan pumasa ka bago ka makalaro. Ganun sa UAAP or NCAA. Pero kung based sa skill lang, walang duda, pwede siya,” he says proudly. “Maraming magugulat na si Gerald Anderson, UAAP material talaga.”

For now, Gerald is content to focus on his showbiz career while playing basketball whenever he can. But who knows what the future will bring? Maybe someday Gerald will find the perfect opportunity to make his hoop dreams come true at last.

Reprinted from Jules Explains it All on Wordpress, January 23, 2012 at 2:21 PM.

Photo by Allan Sancon for Jules Explains it All.

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