THERE are plenty of small players who have proven that height is not always might in the NBA.
One of them is Avery Johnson, who carved out a successful 16-year career in the world’s biggest basketball stage highlighted by an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs.
And if the 5-foot-11 point guard can do it, so can height-challenged Filipinos.
“It’s not just about how tall you are. It’s about the heart,” said Johnson, who was in town along with Portland Trailblazers stars Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez this week for a series of training camps and charity work.
“It’s about what you can’t see: hard work, and having that mental and physical toughness.”
Johnson went undrafted in the 1988 NBA draft, but went on to average 8.4 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.7 rebounds in his playing career. The highlight came in 1999 when he hit the game-winning shot in the Spurs' championship-clinching Game Five victory over the New York Knicks.
“A lot of Filipino kids, they’re my size. And I told them, if I can do it, they can do it,” Johnson said. “It may or may not be the NBA, but they can really maximize themselves as basketball players.
“But they have to put in the heart and hard work.”
After catching a glimpse of the local basketball scene, Johnson said he believes Pinoys are making steps in the right direction.
“The kids are very passionate and the skill level is getting better and better because they want it and they really want to work at it. They love it,” he said. “We’re just here to help them increase their skill level so that they can be much more effective basketball players.”
The court general has since become a coach and within two years won the NBA Coach of the Year plum in 2006 when he steered the Dallas Mavericks to the Finals.
The 49-year-old Johnson, who now works as a TV analyst after handling the Brooklyn Nets for over two years, imparted some trade secrets to local coaches during the Chalk Talk portion of the Gatorade Training Center on Thursday.