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.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

RJ Deles at the crossroads of his basketball dream

RJ Deles at the crossroads of his basketball dream
by rick olivares photo by carl sta. ana

As some are preparing for the upcoming PBA Draft, some hopefuls – many actually -- are just trying to stay afloat. You know, find a job. Even a non-basketball one part-time. Corporate, even while they give their basketball dreams, one maybe two more shots before they hang it up and shift to phase two of their life’s goals.

RJ Deles hails from Orange County, California. The recession in the United States forced him to seek a basketball scholarship in the Philippines and to chase a baller’s dream.

Deles tried out for a lot of schools but it was former College of St. Benilde coach Richard Del Rosario who offered him a chance to play.

The transition was rough. His relatives did their best to help him transition from learning to be street smart to even riding jeeps, buses, and trains.

It was even harder that CSB was underachieving and has been for quite a while now. “We always had a good team but it was rare that we clicked right away,” reminisced Deles. “All the players Coach Richard recruited peeked on our third year of playing. We had Roberto Bartolo, Paolo Taha, Jonathan Grey, Mark Romero, and Luis Sinco. I even played decent minutes on that team.”

“Not winning so much was hard because I came from a high school in the States who were league champs for countless years.”

Deles wasn’t one of the team’s stars, yet like everyone else on the bench, he yearned to play and to see how he could help. “My first game in the NCAA was against LPU. The coach didn’t use me at all. During that whole game, I was thinking to myself on how that person wouldn’t score if I was there; how I would have played great defense. I wasn’t even thinking of scoring. It was a bit selfish to think on how ‘I’ can do those things but I was just eager to play. I was eager for a shot to prove that I was worth that slot.”

The Blazers never went anywhere. And all the losing sapped the eagerness out of the team, Deles included. “We had to re-start because there was a coaching change,” added RJ. Like his first game, his final one with the Blazers was also a losing one, this time to the Arellano University Chiefs.

Deles eventually graduated with a degree in Arts Management. However, like many ball players, he tried out for other semi-pro teams. He joined the Cagayan Rising Stars but was signed up as a practice player. When the Flying V Thunder were formed, with the bulk of the players coming from Ateneo and La Salle, Deles was taken in again as a practice player.

“I never got to play a single D-League game,” Deles clarified.

Suddenly in the midst of the last D-League Conference, Deles was given a chance to play for a club in Thailand (Dunkin Raptors).  “I was told I would be paid well for a month’s service,” said Deles. “I took the chance because it just wasn’t working out in Manila.”

Deles felt excitement. “Hopefully, this is the turning point,” he told me at that time right before he boarded his flight to Bangkok.

But the opportunity was rudely taken away from him. RJ was supposed to play right away but there was a delay. He waited for a few days for the next practice. He finally signed a contract and looked forward to suit up for the Raptors’ next match. True to his basketball luck, his contract was shockingly voided. The club never explained things. “I was just left up in the air,” he said of the sad affair.

After two wasted and disappointing weeks in Thailand, Deles flew back home where he rejoined the Thunder in its pursuit of a D-League title in its maiden conference. After 11 straight games, Flying V ran out of luck in the semis where they were scuttled by the CEU Scorpions.

And now between the next D-League conference and wherever the Flying V Thunder land, Deles is well… at a crossroads. He’s looking for part-time work before he makes another go at a basketball dream that has been elusive as his teams have been starved for wins and championships.

I’ve spoken and interviewed countless kids who have the same story. But even when the going gets tough and you want them to think of looking at an alternative career, who am I to tell them the dream is over? The important thing is to try until the well runs dry.

It has been tough but for RJ Deles, the dream is worth chasing. As he clings on to hope, all he wants is a chance.

No comments:

Post a Comment