PAOLO Orbeta has joined the PBA rookie draft, seven years after he was arrested on a game-fixing charge while playing in the NCAA - a case the player said he eventually won in the court of law.
The 30-year-old former College of Saint Benilde point guard submitted his application to the PBA office on Thursday in a bid to revive a basketball career interrupted by the game-fixing nightmare.
“The reason magpapa-draft ako is siyempre because of my hunger for the game of basketball,” Orbeta said in an interview with Spin.ph. “Siyempre ‘yung passion, siyempre ‘yung love, kasama na rin.”
Orbeta said one of the compelling reasons he joined the draft is to seek closure for his basketball career.
“Gusto ko rin magkaroon ng closure sa basketball career ko,” said Orbeta. “Gusto kong i-try kung ano ‘yung na-miss ko doon sa time na nawala ako. Medyo matagal din tayo nawala.”
Orbeta was arrested in August 2007 in an entrapment operation on allegations of ‘game-fixing’ and ‘point shaving.’ Shortly after the arrest, Orbeta was suspended and later dropped by the Blazers.
Orbeta said he has been cleared of the charges, including extortion, by the courts. He was also cleared by CSB following a separate investigation and, by March 2008, graduated with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
“Hindi totoo ‘yun,” said Orbeta when asked by Spin.ph if the game-fixing accusations were true, insisting he was merely in the wrong company during college career.
“I was a kid at that time and then I had wrong friends, wrong group of friends, wrong situation. Nasa mali siguro ako na environment.
“After seven months, nagkaroon ng closure ‘yung case which is nanalo ako,” said Orbeta. “After that case, March of 2008 nakuha ko ‘yung college diploma ko. Naging okay lahat.”
As bad as the situation was, Orbeta said it was the best thing that happened to him.
“Buti na lang, ‘yung pangyayari sa akin ang naglagay sa akin sa tamang environment. ‘Yun ang pinakamagandang nangyari sa akin,” said Orbeta.
Years later, Orbeta said all he ever wants is to set an example to kids, especially his four-year-old son, and show that everybody deserves a second chance.
“Kung may mangyari sa inyo, you still have to believe na may second chance sa buhay. Gusto ko rin mag-set ng example na huwag bibitaw sa dreams mo. Kung may dreams kayo, ipaglaban niyo,” said Orbeta.
“Gusto ko rin maging example sa son ko na hindi ako nag-quit, hindi ako nag-give up,” he added.
Actually, Orbeta will not be going to the PBA draft unprepared. He has been playing in smaller leagues against former and even current college players, including the ongoing Danny Espiritu Cup where he plays for Gerry’s Grill.
“I decided to go back. Nag-start na ako mag-conditioning with Miki Likot. Two years na kaming nagwo-work out. Siya ang tumutulong sa akin sa strength, conditioning, sports science, and basketball skills,” said Orbeta.
Orbeta’s friend, Marc Camasura, is proud to see him back on his feet after what he had gone through in the past.
“After all the things that happened to him, the trials, an average person would have been broken,” Camasura said. “But not him. He knows that nobody is going to give him his dream, so he has done what he was needed to be done to have a chance to reach that dream. And this draft will be his vindication.”
After his aborted college career, Orbeta was able to land a job in a five-star hotel in Makati and got to work in the United States. But that itch to try to make it to the PBA just won’t go away.
“Dream ko talaga na magpa-draft sa PBA eh. Ayoko naman na when I’m in my 50s, I’m drinking my cup of coffee, may regrets, may what ifs, 'Bakit hindi ko ginawa, hindi ko sinubukan.' Gusto ko i-pursue ‘yung dream ko. Ako ‘yun eh, Paolo Orbeta playing in the PBA. Gusto ko siyang magawa,” Orbeta said.
Orbeta said he is not afraid to go undrafted. The point guard said he works as an international consultant for Shangrila and will simply go back to living his 'old life' if he fails to make it to the PBA.
“I will just go back to my old life,” said Orbeta when asked what he would do if he will not be drafted this year. “I have my family, my wife, my son, my real friends.”
“Ang Panginoon ang center natin sa buhay. ‘Yun naman ang importante. Wala kang dapat ikatakot kahit ano pa ‘yan,” said Orbeta.