Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ryan Reyes on family and hoops

This appears on the PBA's official website.

Ryan Reyes on family and hoops
by rick olivares

If you talk to Ryan Reyes at great length there are two words or two things that he will oft mention that though different in nature are at once the same and intertwined – family and basketball.

To know Reyes’ story is to know a story of hardship, sacrifice, and responsibility.

As a youngster, he had a child with his then girlfriend (now wife) at a young age. That radically altered his life. As a youngster, he had game and that merited attention from Ivy League schools like Colgate, Brown, and Stanford.

Only he chose to stay close to his young family in Los Angeles and go to Cal-State Fullerton. When he wasn’t paying ball, he was working in his father’s company. Filing reports and “doing stuff” as he says.

“I thought that my basketball career was over,” he recalls. “I needed to earn money to be able to buy milk and diapers and things that any young family needs. I could have gone off to those Ivy League schools, but I felt I had a responsibility.”

There are days when Reyes wonders what his career would have been like had he gone on to those schools. As a youngster, he played with Jason Kapono on his Artesia High School squad. He was also good enough to be with Baron Davis on a local team. He balled against Josh Childress and Tyson Chandler. When the offers to play in the Ivy League came, he felt that there might be a chance of living out his NBA dream.

But the reality of choices can be jarring. And telling. “Family comes first,” he tersely says.

Eventually, he was invited to try out for some local PABL teams but Reyes felt that he’d earn more in the United States so he went back.

“I was young and still immature then,” he recalls. “It’s not the PBA but I was thinking I’d earn pretty good. When I sit back and look at it now, I was didn’t know the ropes. Like I said, I was young and immature.”

When he went back, he thought for a second time that his basketball career was over. He played in the Fil-Am summer leagues in Los Angeles. That was his release.

That is until another invite came to try out in the Philippines. This time it worked out.

There isn’t a day that goes by when Ryan doesn’t talk to his wife and kids. While technology has certainly made it easier to keep in touch, the distance between the Reyes family has not gotten any easier.

It would be easier for his family to relocate but his two children are doing so well in school and playing terrific basketball (they are on a team that is sponsored by Baron Davis). “I’d be selfish and want them to be here. But we have to think about our future. So we all make sacrifices for what is best for us. What is important is we find ways to communicate regularly. That helps us cope.”

More so now that he isn’t even 100% back from that crippling knee injury that has kept him away from his local family – the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters. Although he made his debut with Sta. Lucia, Reyes’ home is with TNT. “It sure helps when you have other Fil-Ams in the team because they know what it’s all about. The sacrifice and the commitments you have to keep. But more than them, everyone has been an inspiration. No one takes the night off. We play hard all the time. When you see others doing that how can you not reciprocate?”

The result is a dominant run where the Tropang Texters have become the class of the league after winning a string of titles. Reyes has also received a number of awards along the way making his PBA career rewarding in more ways than one. “The sacrifices and determination have all worked out. Now I can provide for my family. So every time I go out there, I put on my work boots. I earn my keep. So does everyone on this team. I want to set an example for my kids too. And I owe it to everyone to stay healthy.”

Hence in the weeks prior to his recent comeback, “It was killing me not to be able to help,” he admits. With the team going for a defense of its All-Filipino title for a third straight time while going for a four-peat, the team needs all hands on deck. It’s a different team no doubt. The mainstays are still there – Jimmy Alapag, Ranidel De Ocampo, Jason Castro, Larry Fonacier, Aaron Aban, Ali Peek and Harvey Carey, and himself --- as it has been for several years now. That core has been together for over four years now. No other team nucleus in the league has been together for as long.

There are the newcomers like Eliud Poligrates, Nonoy Baclao, Sean Anthony, and Danny Seigle. Williams is back after a brief retirement. Health has been the team’s biggest concern.

But they are a family. “I wish I was on the court with my brothers,” Reyes says aloud. “I want to help out.”

Last January 4, Reyes finally got to play as he helped TNT to a 121-117 win over Alaska. He scored 17 points in his return immediately underscoring his importance to the team.

“Ryan,” points out Alapag, the team captain, “is a plus for us as he plays both ends of the court. His intensity is contagious. You know what you’re getting from him every single day and that’s hard work.”

In the next match, a shocking 102-100 loss to Air21, Reyes scored 11 points while dishing off three assists. Unfortunately, for TNT, that loss triggered a three-game slide with the Texters losing last Friday night to a resurgent San Mig Coffee team, 100-87. In that latest game, Reyes didn’t suit up along with Williams and Baclao.

Health is paramount to the team that has given so much to the national cause (the Gilas program in the past three years). At age 30, Reyes knows he has been beset with injuries over the past several years much owing to the pedal-to-the-metal game that he brandishes on the court. Some have cautioned him on perhaps, changing his intense style. “Will I change my style of play?” he asks. “Not really. It is the only way I know how to play. I think when I no longer play that way then it’s time to hang it up because I am not giving it my all.”

“But I owe it to my two families to get healthy.”

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