JAY-AR Gaco took a big step closer to his dream to make it to the PBA after he was selected in the 10th round by AMA Education in the D-League draft on Tuesday.
If the surname sounds familiar, it is because, yes, he is the younger brother of Jerwin Gaco.
But unlike his brother who has spent the past nine seasons in the PBA before becoming a free agent in the offseason, Jay-Ar is taking a different and far difficult road to the pro ranks.
The 28-year-old Gaco was a former member of the Jose Rizal University squad, but he dropped out of the basketball scene after he was cut from the Heavy Bombers lineup back in 2011.
“Sa totoo lang po, love ko talaga maglaro ng basketball. Hindi lang talaga ako nabigyan ng chance na makapaglaro nung college days ko. Natanggal ako sa heam,” Gaco told SPIN.ph.
On the advice of his older brother, Gaco, the third among four sibilings (Jerwin being the oldest) decided to put his basketball dream in the backburner and focus on his studies.
“Wala na akong playing years noon kaya sabi ko tapusin ko na lang muna pag-aaral ko saka ako babalik sa paglalaro kung puwede pa,” said the 6-foot-4 Jay-Ar.
While studying, basketball remained close to Jay-Ar's heart as he was one of regular instructors of the annual Spalding Basketball Camp.
After Jay-Ar graduated last March with a degree in Marketing Management at Arellano University, Jay-Ar, his future more secure, decided to give basketball another shot.
He had his brother's support.
“Sabi niya lang sa akin, hindi pa huli ang lahat at baka sakaling marating ko rin ‘yung mga narating niya. Try ko lang, wala naman mawawala eh," Jay-Ar said.
"Kung hindi ako suwertehin sa basketball, at least graduate na ako, makakahanap ako ng magandang trabaho,” he added.
Jerwin's support is important for Jay-Ar, who said their eldest became the family's breadwinner when they were orphaned early.
For Jay-Ar, Jerwin is the best brother they could have.
“Sobrang bait niya po,” said Jay-Ar. “Suwerte namin kasi my kuya kami na ganun. Siya ‘yung tumayong magulang sa amin lahat. Hanggang ngayon tumutulong pa din siya sa amin. Halos lahat din po ng gamit ko, galing sa kanya.”
In true Gaco spirit, Jay-Ar vowed to give it all to make it to the AMA roster for the coming D-League Aspirants Cup conference.
To prepare for the PBA D-League, Jay-Ar went on a diet, whipped himself into shape by playing in bush leagues, and joined the practices of Wangs Basketball Club.
“Marami po ako sinalihang liga tapos nag-diet din po ako kasi medyo tumaba talaga ako. Sumasabay ako minsan sa ensayo ng Wangs. Basta ma-kundisyon lang, palagi po ako naglalaro,” said the power forward.
“Kung ano po ‘yung role na ibibigay sa akin ng coach, gagawin ko po ‘yung 101 percent ko para magawa ‘yun. Coachable naman po ako eh at matagal na din ako sa basketball kaya hindi na ako mahihirapan mag-adjust,” he added.