JUST looking at his resume, Dalph Panopio could be easily thought of as this flashy 6-foot-1 teenage guard who honed his basketball skills in Italy – one who could easily stand out in this crowd of Pinoy teenagers.
But the paper doesn’t paint the full picture, and seeing the 18-year-old playmaker in the flesh tells you otherwise: that he’s as Filipino as they come.
Not one to hide his kengkoy side and horse around with his new teammates, Panopio fits right at home as if he has played with his new Batang Gilas teammates for years now.
And he wouldn’t shy away conversing in the vernacular, too, with his Batangueño father and Oriental Mindoro-born mother raising him to speak in Filipino in their Rome household.
“Pwede naman pong Italyano, pero Tagalog na lang,” he chuckled when asked in what language he wanted the interview to be conducted.
Unsurprisingly, his upbringing played a big part on his decision to try his luck with the Philippines rather than to represent Italy in international competitions.
“Tinanong din ako ng Italy kung gusto ko maglaro doon. Pero sa akin, yung choice ko, nauuna lagi yung Gilas. Hindi ko ineexpect na kukunin ako ng Italy, pero talagang mas gusto ko ang Gilas kasi Pilipino ako eh. Doon lang ako lumaki, pero Pilipino ang dugo ko,” he said.
He might’ve grown up in Rome and even developed his game with Stellazzurra Basketball Academy since he was 13, but Panopio idolized the likes of Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, and Terrence Romeo, molding his game to his Gilas idols whom he wants to emulate and follow their footsteps.
That first step starts now as he will be a part of the national youth team competing in the 2018 Fiba Under-18 Asian Championship in Nonthaburi, Thailand from August 5 to 11, with four tickets to next year’s Fiba Under-19 World Championship.
“Medyo excited na po ako kasi di ko kilala yung mga makakalaban namin doon. Alam ko naman pong walang pressure kasi malakas ang team namin. Nagpa-practice kami ng mabuti kaya tingin ko, kayang kaya namin yun,” he said.
The Philippines is slotted in Group B, where it will face China, Lebanon, and United Arab Emirates in the group stages.
Though the buildup for Batang Gilas has been short, Panopio is happy to see the team slowly building up its chemistry, with his fellow guards like Gerry Abadiano picking up his nuances from his time in Rome.
“Winelcome nila ako agad dito. Mabait sila lahat at sa practice, naging friends na kami lahat. Madali lang para sa akin na maging ka-close silang lahat,” he said. “Sa practice naman, parang nakukuha din nila yung nilalaro ko sa Italy.”
And that’s exactly the goal Panopio wants to bring: to marry the hard-knocks style of Philippine basketball to the sleek game he had in Italy.
“Gusto ko rin na ma-improve ang laro ng team ng Pilipinas, para maiba din ang laro namin. Gusto kong maipagsama yung bilis at technique at dito sa mga practice namin, maganda ang nangyayari kasi natutulungan nila ako, natutulungan ko din sila. Gumagaling kaming lahat at sana, mag-improve kami.”