THE Filipinos’ passion for basketball is what attracted former Cal State San Bernardino stalwart Taylor Statham to try his luck in the country instead of pursuing a career in France and Chile.
“I had an offer, third division in France. But I am telling you, the culture (of basketball) here in the Philippine, I just can’t wait to get out here and play,” said the 6-foot-6 guard, whose mother Maria Bonanza hails from Iloilo.
“There’s so much support, so much love for basketball, and that’s where really I want to be a part of,” said the Fil-Am player, who will be represented locally by Nino Reyes, the same agent who handles the career of budding superstar Terrence Romeo.
Statham, whose playing highlights can be seen on Youtube, is set to join the PBA D-League draft set on November 12 in the hope of eventually making it to Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league.
As a Fil-foreign player, Statham needs to play one full season or two conferences in the D-League to be eligible for next year’s PBA draft, which is expected to attract marquee names such as Ateneo star Kiefer Ravena, former La Salle big man Arnold Van Opstal, and NBA prospect Bobby Ray Parks.
Asked if he expects fanfare once he gets to finally play in Manila, Statham only answered with a smile.
“Yeah, I am expecting a little (of fans’ attention), but I have to produce first,” he said.
“In college, I play 2, 3, 4 and sometimes even in the junior league, I play one. I am pretty versatile,” he said.
Having watched some of the PBA games on different video sharing sites, Statham admitted being excited about the prospect of showing his brand of play before Filipino fans.
“I just feel offensively, I can come off screens and knocked down shots. If I have a small player in front of me, I can post up,” he said.
Unlike most players who were raised abroad, Statham said he doesn’t mind the physicality of the games in the PBA.
“Honestly, a lot of people say a lot of negatives about it (physicality), but I enjoy it like I really embody that,” he said.
“Me, personally, I am a physical player. Ever since I was little, I grew up playing on the concrete, getting bullied by the older guys and I just grew up loving it. And honestly, a lot of people back down from physicality, but that’s what’s I am thought of,” he said.
Owing to his stint in the US NCAA division II, where he averaged 9.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in the 2014-2015 season, Statham bared getting offers to play in both Chile and France.
But it’s in his mother’s land where he chose to stay and play, believing he’s capable of playing alongside the likes of Ravena and Van Opstal on the same court.
“I think with my height and versatility, that’s very hard to find. All I can do is just keep praying and keep working hard, until I get here,” he said.
Other top amateur players expected to turn pro by 2016 are FEU stars Mac Belo, Russell Escoto and Cris Tolomia, UST’s Kevin Ferrer and Eduardo Daquioag, Ateneo gunner Von Pessumal, NU guard Joshua Alolino, and St. Benilde head turner Jonathan Grey.
View interview with Taylor Statham: