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.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Finding nirvana: Jared Dillinger tries out once more for the national team

This appears on

Finding nirvana: Jared Dillinger tries out once more for the national team
by rick olivares

Jared Dillinger was joking around with John Wilson at a pre-practice shoot-around. Wilson was in the midst of a three-point shooting competition with Gilas Pilipinas assistant coach Ryan Gregorio and the former Meralco head coach was “murdering” his Bolts swingman.

“Six in a row!” crowed Gregorio.

Wilson shook his head. “I’ll get him in the next round.”

Dillinger laughed. There was boyish glee in his eyes. An excitement that only a hoops junkie can exude. Perhaps next to celebrating a championship at center court, this is heaven. Especially for a basketball player in the midst of a comeback trail.

“I will never take any of this for granted,” said the lanky but spritely Meralco Bolts captain. “I thought I would never play basketball again.”

The man they affectionately call, “JD” thought back to April of 2013 when he suffered a career-threatening injury in a car accident. Dillinger fractured his pelvis and many were not optimistic about a comeback given all the contact and punishment a PBA player takes in a three-conference season grind. Furthermore, it was postulated, JD’s style of play, his slashing drives – ‘patay-kung-patay” pedal-to-the-metal game – might not be there if he does make a successful comeback.

“I had to lie on my hospital bed and watch everyone I loved in my life – my family, friends, my teammates on Talk ‘N Text and the national team – look at me with pity,” recalled JD. “Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the visits and the kind words. But I desperately wanted to show them that I wasn’t done. This is just a temporary setback.”

The injury also saw Dillinger unable to join the national team that placed second in the FIBA Asia Championships. “I was very happy for the team and the entire country. What an achievement!” glowed Dillinger. “I was proud of what they achieved. It was killing me though not to be able to contribute.”

JD was part of Gilas Pilipinas team that placed fourth in the fourth FIBA Asia Cup in Tokyo, Japan of 2012 and was a part of the national pool. Right before the nationals left for a pre-FIBA Asia tourney camp in Lithuania, JD figured in that car accident costing him a spot on Gilas Pilipinas.

By the time FIBA rolled into town, Dillinger was watching the team from the stands and at home.

Despite the odds, Dillinger did make a successful return in the semifinals of the Governors Cup at the tail end of the 2012-13 season. However, it wasn’t with Talk ‘N Text, his home for four years and two conferences after being drafted second overall in 2008 out of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It was with sister team and the underachieving Meralco Bolts.

“I was hurt by the trade at first,” revealed JD of the three-team trade that sent him first to Barako Bull then to the Bolts. “You know trades are a part of the business. You just don’t figure it will happen to you. When reality sets it, then you go, “Okay, now I have to show what I can do all over again. It was just a time for a lot of hurt both physically and emotionally.”

The Bolts were ousted in four games by eventual Governors’ Cup champion San Mig Coffee turning what was a triumph by returning to the pro-game to a somewhat bittersweet experience.

This past season, he was named as the captain ball for Meralco. While highly appreciative of the trust invested in him by Gregorio, Dillinger admitted it wasn’t easy. “You need a different mindset in being team captain. You have to think of how you deal with teammates, you approach practices and games, you have to think about what to say and what words to use. There’s a lot of responsibility. I had to consult (former teammate) Jimmy Alapag about this. Luckily, when I was with Talk ‘N Text, my former coach, Chot Reyes, always made it a point to get me to read books on leadership. That helped me adjust my way of thinking.”

In his first full year with the Bolts, JD averaged 10.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. The latter two were career bests. While his double digit scoring was only his third in six seasons. “Hopefully, I’ll be more consistent and improve on that while helping Meralco search for its first title next season,” offered Dillinger.

However, the next season is a few months away and Dillinger is back on the national pool and hoping to snag a spot on the team that will compete in the FIBA World Cup in Spain a few months away.

“The time away from the game, recovering, watching thing unfold from afar, and getting back in game shape taught me a lot. Let’s start with not taking things for granted. There’s being more patient and even working harder.”

“I really couldn’t do this without my family fully supportive of this move,” he added. “This is after all for our future.”

He then pointed to the name in front of his blue jersey that had “Pilipinas” neatly heat pressed in front. “Now it’s time to think about a whole lot of other people. Just being here (in the national pool of players) with all these guys… You can’t imagine what it means to me. Now hopefully, I can do something in making all our countrymen happy and proud.”

JD chugged some liquid from a Gatorade bottle, picked up his towel and ambled over to the other side of the court to participate in the warm-ups. He slapped hands and exchanged man hugs with Jay Washington and Ranidel De Ocampo.

Some things you can never take for granted.

No comments:

Post a Comment