A LOT of Negrense basketball players will forever be grateful to the Negros Basketball Association (NBA), a league spearheaded by the late Oscar ‘Dodong’ Bascon.
One of them is Boyet Fernandez, who before becoming a coach played for 12 seasons in the PBA, thanks to the breaks he got in the Bacolod-based league led by the region's biggest basketball backer.
“Siya ‘yung benefactor ng NBA. Kung wala ‘yung NBA Bacolod, hindi rin ako nakilala sa Manila,” Fernandez told SPIN.ph, referring to Bascon who died last week of cancer.
The native of Valladolid, Negros Occidental was part of an NBA selection formed by Bascon in the late 1980s that participated in a Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL)-sanctioned competition. The champion team in the competition got a chance to play in Manila in a regular PABL conference.
Fernandez’s squad won the championship against teams from several provinces, but the trip to Manila didn’t push through due to a coup attempt during that time.
“Naudlot ‘yung pagsali namin doon pero crucial sa akin ‘yung NBA Bacolod kasi dun nahasa ‘yung paglalaro ko sa basketball. Ang liga namin dun Nopsscea lang, inter-school, tapos NBA na. Dun ako nahasa,” said the San Beda head coach.
Even though he missed a chance to play in Manila early on, Fernandez’s talents didn’t go unnoticed as the Colegio de San Agustin-Bacolod product was recruited by Sta. Lucia during their PABL/PBL days thanks to his exposure in the NBA.
Fernandez said Bascon’s support went beyond the NBA.
“Supporter ko si Boss Dodong. Lahat ng kailangan ko nung nasa Manila ako, siya rin ang sumusuporta sa akin,” said Fernandez, who eventually got Bascon to be his godfather when he got married in 1996.
Drafted seventh in the 1993 PBA Rookie Draft by Swift, Fernandez returned to Sta. Lucia and then suited up for Alaska, Pop Cola, and Purefoods. He was even part of the pool for the 2002 Asian Games in Busan.
His PBA coaching career began with Sta. Lucia where he was the mentor of the Realtors in their last three years in the professional league.
Fernandez wasn’t the only player that benefited from Bascon’s NBA. A number of his contemporaries also got their break from the league – among them his contemporaries Donking Sasuman, Mike Mustre, Noli Locsin, and Django Rivera.
That is why he was deeply saddened that Fernandez was unable to go home to Negros in order to pay his last respects to Bascon.
“Masama loob ko kasi hindi ako makauwi dahil nasa quarantine tayo, hindi tayo makauwi agad agad. Nung nalaman ko na pumanaw na si Sir Dodong, nalungkot ako. Nagsindi na lang ako ng kandila dahil sa kanila,” said Fernandez.
Fernandez, however, said Bascon will be forever remembered, especially by those whose lives he changed, for the better.
“NBA is really crucial to Bacolod especially the players in Bacolod kasi ‘yun talaga ang stepping stone ng ibang players. Ang kalaban namin dun mga beterano. Close talaga sa amin ang NBA sa amin dahil dun kami nahasa,” said Fernandez.