TWO promising ladies are among the 24 aspirants in the Nike Rise challenge.
But Rossini Briana Espinas and Kristine Cayabyab aren’t about to back down against their male counterparts in the reality documentary basketball program that will pick at least 12 finalists for a team that will see action on August 20 at the Mall of Asia Arena with LeBron James in attendance.
After emerging from their respective regional tryouts, Espinas and Cayabyab are out to prove that they belong.
Here are their stories.
Rossini Briana ‘Chini’ Espinas
Espinas made it to the final 24 after topping the Davao tryouts despite having to go up against the boys. Espinas, or ‘Chini’ to friends and teammates, said she was encouraged by his Manila-based teammates from Hype Streetball to join the Nike Rise tryouts.
“May grupo kasi kami sa Manila, sabi nila mag-tryout daw ako. Baka sakaling mapili,” recalled Espinas, 16.
The 5-foot-4 Espinas, who plays forward, said she has been playing the game since she was a kid, unfazed by the prospects of playing the sport predominantly dominated by men.
“Nung bata pa po ako, naglalaro po ako sa amin every fiesta, mga barangay league sumasali po ako kasama mga friends ko na mga babae rin po. Kalaban namin lalake,” she said.
A Grade 10 student of Holy Cross of Davao College, Espinas said she was never intimidated playing against boys, and never regrets getting into the sport.
“Iniisip ko na lang po, part ng game ‘yun,” said stressed.
“Hindi ako nagsisisi na naglalaro ako ng basketball. Maraming nagsasabi na, ‘Bakit ka nagbabasketball? Hindi ka bagay diyan.’ Pero sa puso ko po, dito po ako bagay,” said Espinas, a Chris Tiu and Michael Jordan fan.
Espinas said she has learned a lot from the training under former Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes.
“Madami po ako natututunan lalo na ‘yung footwork, shooting, at defense. Kung paano mag-kickout ng bola at mag-jump shot,” she said.
While being part of Nike Rise has been a great experience for her, Espinas said she still longs to win a major basketball championship this year when the tryouts conclude.
“Pinapangarap ko po mag-champion this year,” said Espinas.
Kristine ‘Tin’ Cayabyab
Standing 5-foot-7, Cayabyab, only 12 years of age, was picked in the Dagupan tryouts. The product of Judge Jose De Venecia Sr. Memorial National High School said she came from a basketball-loving family so it came natural for her to pick up the sport.
“Lagi po ‘yung papa at mga tito ko po, nakikita ko maglaro. Tinuruan po ako kung paano maglaro,” said Cayabyab, who learned the sport at age nine.
Like Espinas, Cayabyab said she doesn’t felt intimidated playing against boys.
“Mas nacha-challenge ko sarili ko dahil lalake po kalaban namin,” she said.
Cayabyab said she attended the tryouts just to have an opportunity to improve her game. “Para po ma-improve ko pa ‘yung skills ko,” she said.
Although practically new to the sport, Cayabyab has already been exposed to high-level competitions, having played for Region 1 in this year’s Palarong Pambansa in Davao Del Norte where her team finished sixth.
But it was during the Nike Rise tryouts that Cayabyab felt butterflies in her stomach.
“Mas matatanda, mas malalaki, at mas magagaling ‘yung nag-tryout. Kinabahan po ako,” said Cayabyab, a Grade 8 student who plays power forward.
Now that she made it to the final 24, Cayabyab said she is only out to try his best in her bid to make it to the last 12.
“Ibibigay ko lang po ang best ko,” said Cayabyab, who has RR Garcia, James Yap, Marc Pingris, and WNBA legend Tina Thompson as her favorite players.