THERE’S indeed life after the PBA, but basketball truly never stops.
Just look at Rogemar 'Ogie' Menor, a former San Beda standout and journeyman pro who has finally found a home, unexpectedly that is, as a middle school coach in the US.
After bouncing around the PBA, playing for six franchises, the last with Blackwater last year, the six-year veteran moved to Clearwater, Florida to be with his family and initially worked as a personal trainer.
“College pa lang ako, I was planning to come here already, pero yun nga, nabigyan ako ng chance to play in the PBA kaya naglaro muna ako,” the former San Beda star recounted in an online chat with SPIN.ph. “Nung nagkaroon ako ng chance pumunta dito, pumunta ako para masubukan ko buhay dito. Okay naman dito, nag-eenjoy naman.”
“Syempre, hindi mo maikumpara ang Pilipinas dito. Mas masaya kasi ang buhay sa Pilipinas,” he was quick to add. “Pero iniisip ko kasi yung future; hindi naman tayo lagi nasa PBA. Ang paglalaro ng basketball, matatapos at matatapos din yan kahit ano sabihin mo.”
Menor had thought of returning to the Philippines after getting his green card last January when Florida Attack, a basketball organization, offered him a job to coach its eighth-grade travel team, a selection of some of the best eighth-grade players in the Tampa Bay Area.
“Sabi ko try ko i-coach at yun, naging successful naman yung team namin,” said the 29-year-old, who was convinced he has found his new calling after steering his team to championships in all four AAU (American Athletic Union) and USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) tournaments that it participated in this year.
For Menor, the sixth overall pick in the 2009 PBA Rookie Draft, he’s blessed to still be around the sport, even if he’s not the one playing.
“Dito, parang Pilipinas rin yung buhay ko – basketball din,” beamed the Isabela native, who was known as an enforcer and for his eccentric looks, having sported a “butiki” or lizard hairstyle once in his stint with the Elite. “Mahal lang siguro ako ng basketball, andyan siya palagi kahit papaano. Dun tayo nakikilala ng ibang tao kahit andito sa US.”
Still, Menor has kept the door open for a return to the PBA.
“Pinag-iisipan ko pa, kasi minsan, sumasagi pa din sa isip ko na kaya ko pa maglaro,” the 6-foot-2 cager said. “Continuous naman training ko dito at naglalaro ako sa mga Pro-Am.”
Menor keeps in shape by playing in the Filipino Basketball Association, an inter-state Pinoy league that holds different age-group tourneys featuring several former PBA players like Rudy Hatfield, John Arigo, and Ronnie Bughao.
Menor is also scheduled to play in an All-Asian tournament in Las Vegas on November 5 and 6, an invitational tourney that stakes generous prize money.
Apart from his competitive fire, the desire to earn extra money is also Menor’s reason for still playing.
“Kayang kitain yung kinikita ko (dito) gaya ng kinikita ko sa PBA, pero dapat pagtrabahuhan mo. Yun ang buhay dito sa America,” admitted Menor, who has a part-time job as a bartender at Belleair Country Club in Florida, working in the afternoon shift.
“Ngayon kasi, limited yung time ko kaya sapat lang,” he added. “Oras kasi ang pinag-uusapan dito sa America. Walang impossible dito basta masipag ka lang.”
That’s why in a tournament in Maryland scheduled on September 3 to 4 where his team has no entry in the open division, the class where he can only play, Menor settled for a refereeing gig.
“Sayang din 'yung kita,” Menor said. “Dalawang araw yun na maraming laro.”
“Kailangan mo lang ma-manage yung oras mo dito,” he added. Oras talaga ang labanan dito.”
Time will also tell if he can make it back to the PBA. But one thing’s for sure: basketball will never stop for Menor.