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, August 11, 2016

Bolts’ forward-center Bryan Faundo hopes he’s found a home

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Bolts’ forward-center Bryan Faundo hopes he’s found a home
by rick olivares

Home for Bryan Faundo is Pozorrubio, Pangasinan. It’s a quiet agricultural town in this northern Luzon province with Spanish colonial era origins. When Faundo gets the chance, he the roughly three hour and 30 minute drive back home where he can be himself.

Except he isn’t “himself”. Everyone back home knows him to be a local boy done good. He starred with Letran winning a NCAA title in 2005 and is now playing in the Philippine Basketball Association with the Meralco Bolts where he occasionally starts. In the last Commissioner’s Cup, he started 14 of 15 matches for the Bolts where he averaged a little over 14 minutes of playing time while chipping in 4.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. 

This season-ending Governors’ Cup, the six-foot-six Faundo has struggled. In the first four games - one of which he started — he didn’t score a single point and only hauled down one rebound in each outing.

The Bolts, needing a win after reeling from two consecutive losses, responded with a huge 109-102 victory over Commissioner’s Cup champions Rain or Shine last Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Faundo played over 23 minutes, his most this tournament, while scoring 12 points and hauling down three rebounds and dishing off two assists. He also blocked one shot. 

Post-match, Faundo received a lot of high fives and congratulatory remarks from teammates. “Masaya ako kasi naka-contribute ako sa laro,” softly said Faundo.

On the court, he would sometimes sport that fu-manchu type of beard and when you couple that with that fierce and scowling face of his, it is a wonder that he doesn’t perform a Haka before each game to complete that frightening appearance. 

Off the court, he’s just just a low-key and fun-loving guy.

During the 2009 PBA Draft, Faundo patiently waited for his name to be called. Fifty-four players applied for the draft yet only 20 names were called. Faundo wasn’t one of them.

“Sobrang na-down ako,” he recalled of that snub. “Ilang buwan din ako hindi naglaro ng basketball. Dream ng lahat ng basketbol player maglaro sa PBA. Inisip ko, ‘siguro naman meron din akong konting credentials’ lalo na nag-champion kami sa Letran. Pero hindi rin naman kami big school. So ang tingin ko sa sarili ko - hindi ako deserving sa PBA.”

While playing for Louie Alas’ Knights, Faundo cracked the NCAA’s Mythical Five and was named the league’s Most Improved Player in 2007 (Letran lost in the finals to San Beda that season). “Kaya masakit nung hindi ako na-draft kasi alam ko kaya ko,” he ruminated of his misfortune.

However, he wasn’t alone. All four Knights who applied for that draft - Dino Daa, Jonathan Pinera, Hafer Mondragon, and Andro Quinday - went undrafted. 

After feeling sorry for himself, Faundo, with the advice of many a friend and loved one, broke out of his self-pity and began to train again. He found himself trying out for other teams and was signed up by Barako Bull. Playing time and success were hard to come by. He tried his luck abroad playing for the Brunei Barracudas in the Asean Basketball League. He returned the PBA with the Meralco Bolts that was then under former head coach Ryan Gregorio. He didn’t last playing one one conference contracts. 

Bryan moved from one team to another becoming a journey man. In his first six years in the league, he played for six teams (excluding the Barracudas). 

“Humbling experience yung palipat-lipat at naghahabol ka ng kontrata,” Faundo says of his experiences. “Tanggal lahat ng yabang mo sa katawan. Mag-iiba ka bilang tao, ang tinging mo sa trabaho, at pakikitungo mo sa tao.”

Faundo returned to Meralco in 2015 under current head coach Norman Black. While he isn’t torching the statistical column, the big man has proven to be a valuable player on the Bolts’ roster from guarding the imports and doing all the dirty work.

“Masaya ako kasi nabigyan ako ng chance na pakita yung talent ko,” he said breaking out into a smile post-win over Rain or Shine. “Kung ano pagawa ni Coach Norman — the dirty work, rebounding, depensa sa import, defense, taga-tanggap ng charge ng kalaban. At pag-minsan minsan, tumitira sa labas. Masuwerte naka shoot tayo ngayon.”

True enough, if you are to look at most of Fraundo’s pictures in the PBA, it features him guarding the opposing center or import. “Trabaho lang,” he said of the task assigned to him. “At least meron tiwala sa akin ang coach."

The past five conferences with Meralco are the longest he has stayed in any one professional team. That fact isn’t lost on Bryan who works his butt off everyday. “Hindi naman pangmatagalan ang basketbol. Pero sa ngayon, gusto ko ipakita na kasama tayo rito."

Home? That’s Pozorrubio, Pangasinan.

But with the Bolts, Bryan Faundo hopes he has found his PBA home at last.

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