TWO years ago, Blackwater Elite star JP Erram suffered another an ACL injury after a hard fall in the second quarter of their 2016 PBA Governors Cup game against TNT KaTropa — the team that selected him 15th overall in the 2013 draft.
The knee injury derailed Erram’s blooming PBA career and what could have been his first appearance for the men’s national basketball team in the FIBA Asia Challenge Cup in Tehran, Iran that September.
Fast forward to present day, Erram feels better than ever as his PBA career is in a resurgence as he will finally represent the Philippines for the first time in the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia that opens next week.
“Masaya, sobrang motivated ako kasi first time masyadong naka-focus lang ako, ine-enjoy ko lang ‘yung moment and looking forward ako sa mga challenges na meron,” the 6-foot-8 center said.
“Kinakabahan din kasi first time tsaka 'di ba first time, ang dami pang nagmemessage sakin congrats ganyan ganyan. Sobrang natutuwa ako kasi ang daming concerned, ang dami palang may gustong makasama ako sa final cut ng team,” he added.
Despite sustaining his second ACL injury in his pro-career — the first incident was in UAAP, the former Ateneo de Manila big man shared that his dream to play for the country never stopped.
It made him more inspired in playing well for Blackwater.
“Hindi ko naman masyadong iniisip na parang every day, every conference maglalaro ako (sa national team,” he said. “For me, kasi kung ano lang ‘yung ginagawa ko sa team yun lang, nakafocus lang ako sa team. Kapag may call-up masaya ako siyempre kasi for the country ‘yun isang malaking karangalan na marepresent ko yung country.”
Erram, who averaged 10.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game in the recently concluded Commissioner’s Cup, said that he already overcame the ghosts of his horrific ACL injury since he returned to the PBA last year in the Governors Cup.
He is ready to make the most of his second chance.
“Nalagpasan ko na hindi ko na siya iniisip sobrang focused lang ako. Alam ko namang ginagawa ko ‘yung role ko sa katawan ko, ginagawan ko ng paraan para maging healthy ako,” the 29-year-old cager said.
Now that he is set to don the national colors for the first time, Erram is honored to play under national team head coach Yeng Guiao and his big man rivals-turned-teammates Christian Standhardinger, Raymond Almazan, Beau Belga, and the rest of the squad.
“Isang magandang opportunity para sa career ko and then, sobrang nakakaoverwhelm kasi ‘yun nga, coach Yeng,” said the lone Blackwater representative in the roster. “‘Yung mga guys na nakakalaban ko, nakakasama ko sila ngayon, nakikita ko kung ano ugali nila and by that ‘yung chemistry namin, as days go on papunta sa laro, gumaganda.”
“‘Di naman ako nahihirapan kasi sila mismo ‘yung nagaapproach sa akin, sila mismo naggaguide sakin kasi bago lang talaga ako dito parang sa kanila, sila ‘yung parang older brothers ko na naggaguide sakin pagdating sa mga plays, pagdating sa kung saan ako pepwesto, mga ganyan,” he added.
Erram, a darkhorse contender for the Best Player of the Conference race last Philippine Cup who averaged 14.2 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in the all-Filipino conference, promises to bring his vast improvement from the pro ranks to the Asiad.
“Kung ano ‘yung pinapakita ko sa PBA, ‘yun din ‘yung makikita niya wala akong ibang gagawing extra or whatever,” he said. “Kung ano ‘yung gusto ipagawa sakin ni coach at ng mga teammates ko ‘yun lang gagawin ko. Nothing special kung ano makakatulong sa team.”