One year ago, I sat down with my good friend and colleague from the National Basketball Training Center and Metro Manila Basketball League, Ato Badolato to talk NCAA and San Beda hoops. The celebrated batch of Andrei Caracut, Chami Diputado, Norrish Decapia and others had graduated. The Red Cubs' Team B was moving up. Coach Ato told me that one player who was not going to be included in SBC's Juniors Squad was point guard Evan Nelle.
As I am the media officer of the MMBL and NBTC, I got to see the other squads of many high school powers. I watched Nelle and thought that he was raw, gangly, sometimes lacked direction but he had talent. Badolato told me that Evan's mother interceded that he be given a chance and the venerable coach (who is an institution himself) along with Red Cubs coach JB Sison relented.
I pulled Evan aside and spoke with him. I gave him pointers (that I won't share here but I can share with you if you ask me about it) about his game and what should be his perspective about the game. He nodded. Well, who was I, right? But I constantly reinforced it.
A few weeks ago during the tryouts for the 2016 SM-NBTC All-Star Game, Nelle was listed as among the aspirants. As I left the San Beda Gym in Mendiola, Evan saw me and alighted from his car and came over. He thanked me for all the words of wisdom, ideas, and suggestions I gave him because it helped him become a better player.
You can't believe how happy I was that not only was a he part of a championship team but he had become an integral part of that team. And now he was going to be in the All-Star Game. We spoke again during the press con at the MOA Arena giving him more advice (I figure on a higher level now that he had hurdled one rung from the ladder of success). And two nights ago, I picked him out to guest on The Score on ABS-CBN. You can say it was rather prophetic because one night later, he was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2016 SM-NBTC All-Star Game.
After SBC defeated Ateneo de Cebu to book their finals berth against NU, JB Sison said that for his Red Cubs to have a chance of winning, they cannot rely on Sam Abuhijleh and Evan all the time. Imagine hearing that! A year ago, they didn't even want to consider him. And now, he's such a vital piece to their puzzle.
When he saw me collected the stats to hand out to media (I was once more on media officer duties), he went up to me and thanked me for the belief in him and the constant help I was giving.
I was, am, so proud of him. Imagine that! From someone who did not make the team to a champion and an All-Star and now a Most Valuable Player. Am so happy for this kid.
In case you want to know, Evan isn't the only athlete I help out in terms of building confidence and getting them through situations. There are others from different schools. If I can help them then seeing them successful makes me happy. That's just what it is.