CEBU CITY – Height is always might in basketball. But once in a rare while, someone special comes along to show what heart and determination can accomplish.
Such is the inspiring story of the University of Cebu’s court general Gelmart Umpad, who at 4-foot-10, stood head and shoulders above the rest in Game One of the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Magis Eagles finals for the Cesafi juniors championship on Tuesday.
Umpad, a recruit from the northern town of Medellin here in Cebu, scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. In another game early in the season, he flirted with a triple-double (12 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists) in a win over the University of San Carlos.
More than the numbers, it was his whirling dervish play that broke down the Magis Eagles’ formidable defense, leading to open looks that the Baby Webmasters were more than happy to convert in their surprising 73-63 Game One victory, a win that placed UC within a win from the high school crown.
For Umpad, the achievement is just the latest triumph in an inspiring journey from the quiet town of Medellin to the Big City where he had to prove doubters wrong each step of the way.
“Kahit nung bata pa ako, basketball talaga ang hilig ko,” said the shy 16-year old in his native tongue. “Nagtry-out lang talaga ako para mapasok sa team ng public school dun sa Medellin pero dinala ako ng coach ko dito sa UC at sa kabutihang palad, napasok ako sa Webmasters.”
In a tall man's game, Umpad said that he recognizes the disadvantage that he constantly finds himself in. Against the Magis Eagles, he was primarily defended by former Batang Gilas guard Jed Colonia, who stands more than a foot taller than him.
Umpad said he doesn’t mind. After all, he has hurdled obstacles higher and far more difficult than the ones that stand before him and the juniors title that he and the Baby Webmasters so covet.
“Hindi ko na talaga iniisip na kaya ko sila i-outjump kasi hindi talaga mangyayari 'yun. Ang nais ko lang is malusutan ko sila gamit yung bilis ko para ma-set up ko yung mga kakampi ko,” said the spunky guard.
With Game One in the bag, Umpad has far bigger goals in mind.
“Hindi kami dapat makuntento sa isang game lang. Hindi pa ito tapos,” Umpad vowed.