Kobe Caluya says he can help rekindle interest in PBA: 'You haven't seen a player like me'
Kobe Caluya, 43, reduced into a spectator during the mini-tournament. Jerome Ascano

CHARLEY 'Kobe' Caluya said he still cherished the unique experience of applying for the PBA Draft and taking part in the Rookie Draft Combine despite being prohibited from participating in the mini tournament on Thursday.

After taking part in the skills tests on Wednesday, the oldest rookie hopeful at 43 was relegated to a spectator on Day Two as he witnessed his Team E teammates win the tournament after a 55-51 overtime win over Team C in the final game.

“Indescribable yung experience. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Caluya said. “Tapos nag-champion pa kami despite na hindi ako nakalaro. Pero kahit na ganun, nakita niyo naman full support ako (sa team ko). Ganun po ako, full support ako, talagang vocal leader ako kapag naglalaro ako sa amin.”

His team, led by MVP Jio Jalalon, was the only one among the eight squads without a sub after Caluya was disallowed to participate, yet they still proved good enough to take home the championship and the P50,000 prize.

Still, Caluya expressed some disappointment after he was deprived to showcase his wares.

“Siyempre, andudun (yung disappointment),” said Caluya, who arrived as early as 6:30 a.m. for Thursday's event. “Alam ko kayo, inaabangan niyo akong maglaro.”

[See PBA dream over before it could begin for 43-year old hopeful Kobe Caluya]

The PBA gave out conflicting signals on why Caluya was barred from taking part in the mini-tournament.

The league explained on Twitter that officials were concerned about Caluya’s “health and well-being for he grew pale and was exhausted after undergoing strength and agility tests” in Day One.

On the other hand, PBA deputy director for basketball operations Eric Castro, who supervised the Draft Combine, implied Caluya’s scores in the tests didn’t make the cut to be eligible to take part in the competition.

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 “He’s not fit to play based from the tests that were done yesterday by Focus Athletics,” Castro said. “Today, we wanted him to observe and watch the games for the meantime.”

A league official, meantime, told SPIN.ph the same thing.

Still, Caluya, who spoke more eloquently than some PBA coaches, underlined that the true capability of a player is measured on the court – and not by mere skills tests.

“Ang basketball naman kasi, ang galing ng isang manlalaro, makikita sa isang laro, sa game, hindi naman sa palakasan ng resistensya, agility, or pataasan ng talon,” Caluya said.

“What matters is sa gametime, how you execute the play saka kung pano ka mag-deliver, kung paano ka mag-game decide e. Yun yun e, sana yun yung mga factors na tinignan nila.”

Caluya, though, can still be part of draft on Sunday at Robinsons Place Manila - if he is not stricken off when the league screens the applicants. The final list is set to be released on Friday.

“As of now, he’s still a part of the list,” Castro said.

[See Oldest, shortest rookie hopeful shoots for the stars to chase PBA dream]

The 5-7 Caluya said he will attend the draft if he passes the screening, adding it is unfair to him to be stricken off the list.

“Kung nasa listahan ako, pupunta ako,” Caluya said. “Kung hindi, kung wala ako sa official list, eh sana matulungan ako ni sir Manny Pacquiao at ni sir Manny Pangilinan kasi yung mga batang umaasa sa akin saka yung tatay kong gusto kong paoperahan, baka sabihin nila, I let them down.”

“Kasi kumbaga ang nangyari, parang sa school, may exam, binagsak ka, hindi ka pa naman nagte-take,” he added.

Caluya ended the interview by making a final pitch to the scouts.

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“Nabasa ko po sa isang article na si (incoming PBA chairman Mikee) Romero na nag-aano siya ng ways para mas maraming manood sa PBA. Eh ngayon, eto, ino-offer ko na, makaka-attract ako ng more fans,” Caluya beamed.

“Kasi forty-three years old, maglalaro sa PBA, ‘di ba, siyempre magkakaroon kayo ng interes. Naghahanap ng market ang PBA, kaya kong ibigay yun, kaya kong magdala ng fans sa PBA. Energy, total entertainment, I can give.”

But it’s not only theatrics that he can offer. Caluya insisted he has some skills.

“I can play one and two positions. Modesty aside, sir, I can dribble-drive penetrate. Great passer ako, sir eh, pag open ako (o hindi), di ko pinupwersa. Defense. Tapos from a small size, may post moves ako. Parang Kobe (Bryant) nga, sir eh.

"Ginagaya ko yung moves ni Kobe. Ewan ko nga kung napanood niyo nga kahapon yung bank shots ko,” Caluya said as he referred to his own Youtube video of his highlights: 'Kobe Challenge Kobe Charles The 43-year-old Filipino Kobe.'

“You will never see a player like me. You haven't seen a player like me,” he concluded.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos