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 x Got Skills Basketball Challenge.
“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.