IT didn't seem too long ago when the likes of Kenneth Duremdes, Danny Ildefonso, Noli Locsin, Gerry Esplana and Marlou Aquino ruled the court - basketball heroes adored by fans, their feats celebrated in the sports pages.
Time sure flies so fast.
Now there's a new wave of players chasing their dreams - a unique group who as tots used to tag along their basketball star dads, much like Steph Curry to dad Dell and, most recently, Riley to Steph.
Only time will tell if these kids can live up to the names at the back of their uniforms, which, as second-generation players before him belatedly learned, can be both a blessing and a curse.
Some will succeed (read Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng), some will not (that's a longer list right there). But they all have one thing in common, a burning desire to 'Be like dad.'
But we have to agree that these players do have one thing going for them: They have good genes.
Meet five of them:
KENJI DUREMDES: Like father, like son?
DESPITE having the pedigree of a great basketball player, Kenji Duremdes is careful not to get too far ahead of himself in his budding cage career.
The 12-year-old son of former PBA MVP Kenneth Duremdes admitted there is pressure on him to live up to the name of his legendary father, more so now that he’s starting to make a name for himself playing for La Salle Greenhills.
“Meron pong konti kasi they expect big sa akin,” Kenji told Spin.ph.
But with the support and advice of his parents, Kenji is taking the pressure in stride.
“First of all, nagdadasal po ako tapos I practice hard. Sabi po nila (parents), ‘Wag isipin ‘yung ibang tao,” said Kenji.
There is, however, reason to take a good look at the 5-foot-6 youngster.
Allen Ricardo, tournament director of the Milcu Summer Showcase where Kenji played recently, said the younger Duremdes is already a cut above the rest in his age group.
“Siya ngayon ‘yung top player ng 12-years-old (age group) sa buong Metro Manila,” shared Ricardo.
The young Duremdes was actually named to the Mythical Five of the Under-12 division of the Milcu tournament, where he helped La Salle Greenhills capture the age-group crown.
Ricardo added Duremdes, at his age, can practically play all positions.
“At his age, may shooting sa labas, may dribbling. With regards sa physicality, magulang na rin ‘yung bata, although siyempre bata pa, hindi pa ganun kalakas. Pero agile at may footwork. Nakikitaan ko siya ng future,” Ricardo said.
Kenji, however, downplayed the rave reviews.
“Marunong lang po,” he said shyly.
Kenji said he isn’t thinking about becoming a PBA player someday, adding he only wants his game to get better while keeping his feet on the ground.
“Pangarap ko po maging magaling na hindi po nagmamayabang,” said Kenji.
BASTI LOCSIN: Baby Tank
BASTI Locsin was born toward the tailend of dad Noli's PBA career, but the 13-year-old is not oblivious to the success 'The Tank' had during his time.
Little wonder that his dream is to play for the one team where dad spent the best times of his career.
“Gusto ko sa Ginebra maglaro. Ako, dream ko talaga na sa Ginebra maglaro since nalaman ko na dad ko dun naglaro. Susundan ko (yapak) ni Papa,” said the young Locsin, an off-guard with the La Salle-Greenhills' team.
“Ginebra gusto ko. 'Dun siya pinakamatagal naglaro saka dun siya sumikat eh,” he told Spin.ph. "'Yun ang pangarap ko, masundan si Papa."
Basti has obviously brushed up on his PBA history, saying he believes his dad would not have become popular during his PBA days had he not played for Ginebra under charismatic playing coach Robert Jaworski.
The elder Locsin was the top overall pick in 1994 by Tondena 65 Rhum Masters (the old name of Ginebra) and won a championship (under the Gordon’s Gin Boars name) in the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup. He averaged 18.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists in his rookie season and spent five years with the Kings.
As for Basti's own basketball dream, La Salle Greenhills assistant coach Allen Ricardo hopes that the kid's lack of height would push the sweet-shooting guard to embrace a shift to the point guard spot.
“Yung height niya kasi hindi ganun sa father niya eh. He needs to play point. Yung speed niya kailangang i-improve niya pati mental toughness, physicality andun naman eh. May shooting siya,” said Ricardo, the tournament director of Milcu x Got Skills Showcase.
His dad agreed.
“Medyo alanganin ang height eh. Sana lumaki pa talaga. Off guard ang laro niya, alanganin sa posisyon eh. Matangkad kasi yung wife ko eh,” said Noli laughing while throwing a teasing glance at wife Maita.
“Sa point guard naman alanganin rin, medyo kailangan pa niya ng bilis,” he added.
Basti is the third child of Noli and Maita. The other kids are Alex, Gabe and Seth.
And what is his advice to his son?
“Sinasabi ko nga sa kanya, pag-igihan niya ang pag-eensayo. Ang daming nangangarap sa posisyon na 'yan (slot sa La Salle team), kaya kailangan ipakita niya na deserving siya sa posisyon na 'yan,” he said. - Snow Badua
JAI ESPLANA: Man among boys
GERRY Esplana is one of the best point guards of his time, a shifty and wily player with deceptive speed and a hundred moves in and around the paint.
“He is a very good point guard, he can score and a very good assist man and can rebound well for his height,” said veteran television commentator Andy Jao of the former PBA Rookie of the Year.
“Akala mo kasi mabagal siya, pero ginagamit niya lang laki ng katawan niya. It’s (Esplana on the floor) like having a second coach, dahil mataas ang basketball IQ at marunong dumiskarte,” added the longtime PBA analyst.
Esplana has long been retired but his basketball pedigree continues to live on, thanks to his 15-year-old son Jai who this early has been attracting attention from scouts of different schools with his athleticism and skills.
Spin.ph caught up with the Esplanas during the Milcu x Got Skills 3 on 3 Challenge at the Philadelphia High School in Quezon City, where the young Jai looked like a man among boys during the matches.
“Isa sa mga trinututukan naming dito sa tournament yang si Jai. Ang laki ng inimprove niya sa height at laro,” said Allen Ricardo, tournament director of Milcu.
“May shooting 'yung bata eh. Tapos big guard siya gaya ng tatay niya, hindi siya ganun ka-explosive at ganun kabilis pero very composed siya sa age niya. Malayo mararating ng bata saka nakikita ko coachable siya,” he added.
Jai, who at his age is already a couple of inches taller than his 5-10 dad, has become so good that he has joined University of Santo Tomas' junior squad this season.
"Malaking factor yan sa UST juniors," said Ricardo.
His dad was the least surprised by Jai's rise. The PBA great, afterall, made sure basketballs were nearby from the time his son was an infant, and watched over him the moment he showed interest in the sport.
“Kakapangak pa lang niyan, lagi ko nang binibigyan ng bola 'yan. Tapos nung nakita ko na may hilig, sinuportahan ko na,” said Esplana, who drives his son to every tournament he plays in.
“Malaking bagay rin na tine-train mo talaga ng focus ang anak mo. Tulad ko na ex-player, kung ako mismo magbabantay sa kanya, mas maganda development niya,” he added.
See Jai Esplana in action:
The former Emilio Aguinaldo College coach in the NCAA said he would sometimes scold his son if he begins to showboat during games trying to mimic NBA idols Deron Williams and Kyrie Irving.
“Pinapagalitan ko nga 'yan minsan pagka nagiging showboat, sinasabihan ko na, ‘Basic lang muna. Kasi yung mga ginagaya mong players, explosive na talaga mga yan.' Nakikinig naman,” he said of his son who also looks up to Jayson Castro and James Yap.
Jai said he is grateful to have a former PBA player as his dad.
“Malaking bagay (si Papa) kasi tinuturo niya mga mali ko. Tapos madalas kami mag one on one, halos araw-araw. Ang dami ko talaga natutunan,” said the younger Esplana.
“Happy nga ako kasi talagang tutok si Papa sa akin. Hindi niya ko pinapabayaan at hindi siya nagkukulang ng pagpapangaral sa akin,” he added.
Esplana is looking forward to Jai's stint with the UST Cubs, saying it's high time the teenager gets 'educated' in games against players older than him.
That, he said, is the next step in his development.
“Gusto ko nga na masanay agad siya kasama mga matatanda at malalaki sa kanya. Kasi yung mga kasing edad niya, minamama na lang niya," said the proud dad.
"Mainam kako sa mga may edad sa kanya, siya ang matututo. Hindi siya ang magpapatuto,” he added. - Snow Badua
MATTHEW AQUINO: Future uncertain
MATTHEW Aquino surprised a lot of people with a rousing debut for Adamson in the 2015 Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, scoring 20 points as the Falcons edged University of San Jose Recoletos, 62-59.
Aquino, an incoming sophomore son of PBA legend and former Adamson assistant coach Marlou Aquino, also collected 15 rebounds and five blocks for the Falcons, impressing coaches and fans alike.
Aquino, who is 6-7, is not as imposing as dad inside the paint, but he has developed a fine touch from the outside which Marlou never had in his career. Matthew went 5-of-8 shooting from three-point range against the Jaguars.
"If we can put the big man of the other team out and Matthew can consistently hit the triple, kahit papaano magiging maganda ang game plan namin," said Adamson coach Mike Fermin.
Dad also helps out, Fermin added.
"Before and after practice, meron siyang extra workout. Malaking factor din si coach Marlou not only sa kanya but sa other bigs din niya. Grabe ang patience niya,” said Fermin.
However, events that unfolded recently will have a big say on the youngster's development.
Adamson's decision to fire coach Kenneth Duremdes prompted Aquino's dad to resign. The younger Aquino is also leaving the school, with reports saying he will likely move to National University.
On how the transfer will pan out, or on how it will impact Matthew's career, remains to be seen.
DAVE ILDEFONSO: Son also rises
ANOTHER Ildefonso is set to play for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets.
Dave Ildefonso, 15, recently saw action for an Ateneo split squad in the Milcu Summer Showcase basketball tournament and now hopes to crack the Blue Eaglets lineup in the coming UAAP Season 78.
The 6-2 son of PBA star Danny Ildefonso hopes to follow his brother Shaun, who has seen action action not only for the Blue Eaglets but also for the Philippine team to the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Under-16 Championship.
Dave admitted there is pressure to live up to his family name. His celebrated father has won two PBA MVP awards and several championships with San Miguel in a career that is now winding down with Meralco.
“May pressure din pero ina-accept ko na as challenge kesa i-pull down ako nung pressure,” said the teenager, who has already been seen dunking and showing a nice touch from the outside during games.
Dave said dad continues to be an inspiration.
“Siyempre, lagi ko nakikita na nagdadasal siya lagi at nakikinig sa mga coaches,” said Dave.