After hard-luck journey, Josh Cubillo hopes persistence pays off in PBA draft
Josh Cubillo's first day in the Philippines proved to be an ominous one as he saw Metro Manila and a big part of Luzon devastated by the fury of super-typhoon 'Ondoy' back in 2009. PBA Images/ Nuki Sabio

FOR Josh Cubillo, getting picked in the PBA Rookie Draft and eventually being signed by a team will make up for all the trouble he faced since he set foot on Philippine soil for the first time.

Cubillo, 27, is one of the 64 aspirants in Sunday's draft which he hopes would put a wonderful ending to what had so far been a trying basketball journey for the California-raised player in his parents' homeland.

He described his experience so far as a 'crazy one,' and it may be an understatement.

The 6-4 point guard's first day in the Philippines proved to be an ominous one as he saw Metro Manila and a big part of Luzon devastated by the fury of super-typhoon 'Ondoy' back in 2009.

“The first day, I was supposed to go to a practice but everything was under water,” Cubillo said, recalling the ordeal he had to go through in his grandmother’s house in Taguig City.

“It was kinda my first experience being here in the Philippines. Everything was under water. I had to swim to save my Lola’s stuff.”

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In 2009, Cubillo was recruited to play for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP after finishing high school at Mater Dei High School. But while he made a good impressions on then-Ateneo coach Norman Black, he eventually lost the last spot to a player who went on to have an impressive career in blue and white.

His name? Ryan Buenafe.

“They've already given that scholarship to him,” says Cubillo, referring to Buenafe. “At that time, I didn’t have money to pay for school so I returned to the States.”

After a stint at Cal State Fullerton, Cubillo once again gave a career in the Philippines a try and was drafted to suit up in the Philippine Basketball League (PBL) in 2011. Months later, the PBL folded up.

“That was a tough time,” Cubillo said. “I got drafted in the PBL and a couple of months after that, they disbanded. I waited out here for seven months and they disbanded so I had to go home (again).”

It's tough to understand why success has been elusive for Cubillo in the Philippines, considering he had a decent career in the US where he suited up for a Division I NCAA school.

Cubillo was once part of a Los Angeles traveling team called LA Showtime that played here every summer, joining now PBA pros Alex Cabagnot, Ryan Reyes, Joe DeVance, Cliff Hodge, Karl Dehesa, Jayare Buencuseso, and Alex Mallari.

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Cubillo has also played in the American Basketball Association, was once part of the Bakersfield Jam training camp and was also invited to participate in several NBA D-League training camps.

The highlight for Cubillo was when he was invited to the training camp of the Sacramento Kings last year.

His fortunes in the Philippines finally turned for the better when Cubillo was selected by Blackwater in the 2013 PBA D-League draft. He eventually played in the D-League for AMA University last season.

Now he hopes his luck holds as he tries to take the big step to the PBA.

“I know I have the experience to play at the highest level,” Cubillo said. “I just need the opportunity to be seen. I have been in the Philippines several times so I know what the lifestyle is like.”

“After all the things I’ve done in basketball, I know that basketball comes natural and easier than adjusting to the way of life here in the Philippines,” he added.

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There's also no doubt in his mind that he has what it takes to make it.

“The main thing I can bring is energy. I am a very versatile player who can play the one to four. I played four in the D-League and averaged 10 points. I am a natural point guard but I can shoot and attack the lane.

“I feel I am an asset because I am a bigger guard and pattern my game after Russell Westbrook.  I will do whatever it takes to win. I just want to come in and contribute to any team.

“I am looking forward to continuing to learn more and keep improving as a player because I know all the coaches in the PBA are very experienced and have great knowledge on what it takes to be great - and I want to be great.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports