LEVI Hernandez is convinced seeing action in upstart leagues is a good route to the PBA.
While a good number of aspiring pros are using the PBA Developmental League as springboard, Hernandez believes players can also rise through other tournaments.
Hernandez has been out of the PBA D-League for quite some time but he doesn’t see playing in the Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League (PCBL) and the Filsports Basketball Association (FBA) as a disadvantage. Instead, the former Arellano guard sees playing for one team in Foton as an edge to become a better player.
“Gustong-gusto ko dito kasi magagawa ko ‘yung gusto kong gawin para mag-mature ‘yung laro ko at para matutunan ko kung paano mag-handle sa team,” said Hernandez, adding that Foton coach Budds Reyes has been a big help in his development not only as player but also as a leader.
“’Yun ‘yung sinasabi sa akin ni coach na kailangan mong maging leader, tulungan mo sila kasi nakakausap mo ‘yung mga teammates mo.”
Hernandez said he is grateful to Foton for giving him the big opportunity to showcase his skills.
“Focus muna ako dito sa kanila para makuha ko ‘yung pangarap ko. Ayaw nila akong bitawan … Malaki ‘yung tiwala nila sa akin. Kung wala ‘yung Foton, di ako magiging ganito. Dito ako nagkapangalan at binigyan nila ako ng chance. Gusto rin nila ako umangat,” said Hernandez.
Reyes said the current PCBL Chairman’s Cup is a great opportunity for Hernandez as well as the entire Foton team to prove themselves with the PBA draft months away, especially with the entry to the league of blue-chip amateur players led by Kiefer Ravena.
“Palaban na ‘tong liga na ‘to. Sabi ko kay Levi, sila Kiefer scored 16 points sa first game nila, ikaw 30 ang average mo. Excited siya na-expose this conference,” said Reyes.
Foton plays in both the PCBL and FBA and the 6-foot-1 Hernandez, who is from Pampanga, was named MVP last year in the FBA second conference after leading Foton to the title.
Foton teammate Mikee Reyes is pleased to see Hernandez blossom into a good scorer.
“The first thing that hit me when I played with him was, ‘Bakit hindi lumabas ‘yung ganitong Levi Hernandez nung college?’ and, ‘Bakit hindi siya sumikat nung college?’ Because Levi, by far, flat out, is the best scorer that I’ve ever played with,” said Reyes, who played for University of the Philippines in the UAAP.
Reyes said Hernandez has even been hailed one time by FBA commissioner Vince Hizon as the next Gary David with his scoring prowess.
“Vince Hizon speaks highly of him. He is the next Gary David pa nga daw. ‘Yun ang sinasabi niya,” Reyes insisted.
“Levi scores in his sleep. Paggising pa lang, nakaka-10 points na ata siya. The way he plays, matapang si Levi. Maraming nakakaaway ‘yan kasi palaban. The way he plays, mukha sa mukha, titirahan ka talaga niyan,” said Reyes.
Reyes admitted he himself has become a better player with Hernandez around, as he is able to log more assists.
“I told him, ‘Your way to the PBA is to become an elite scorer and defender.’ Umakyat ang assists ko because of him kaya nagulat talaga ako sa laro niya. He is the best finisher in anything na hindi natin nakita nung college,” he said.
Despite the positive reviews, Hernandez is still determined to work on his game further as he eyes to become a better defensive player.
“Kailangan ko rin iimprove ‘yung decision-making ko. Minsan nawawala ako sa focus, natataranta ako kaya lagi ako sinasabihan ni coach na relax lang. Kailangan ko rin ‘yung depensa kasi pagdating sa PBA, kailangan maganda depensa mo,” said Hernandez.