MOST fans have not seen or heard about him, but this draft hopeful has been an inspiration and an idol to some big names in the rookie pool.
His name? Darwin Cordero.
The 5-foot-10 journeyman may be a nobody to most fans, but he was idolized by fellow Zamboangueno RR Garcia and admired by batchmates like Mark Barroca.
“Idolo ko talaga si Darwin nung bata pa ako. College siya noon eh, high school ako. Pinapanood ko talaga mga laro niya noon,” said Garcia, the former UAAP MVP out of Far Eastern University.
“Dunker po yun, magaling mag dunk saka may perimeter (shooting),” added Garcia, who bared that he even used to mimic the moves of Cordero as he polished his own game.
The 26-year old spitifire used to be the star player of South City Colleges in Zamboanga, where he used to play with PBA guards Mark Barroca and Rudy Lingganay.
He was recruited by some UAAP and NCAA teams, but he never got the chance to show his wares in the Big City as he felt homesick in Manila and decided to stay put in Zamboanga.
“Kukunin na dapat yan ng UE Red Warriors noon eh. Kasabay nila Rudy, kaso nga bata pa talaga isip niya noon. Nainip. Hindi makalayo sa mga magulang,” said well-known Zamboanga events organizer Reynaldo Navarro.
Cordero admitted he couldn't bear to be away from his family during that time.
“Hindi ko po kasi talaga kayang malayo sa pamilya ko noon eh. Na-homesick po talaga ako,” said Cordero, who eventually found himself touring the country with different ballclubs.
“Naglaro po ako sa Team Pacquiao. Matagal rin po akong nawala sa Zamboanga, mga two years din po yun. Kaya nasanay na rin po ako. Tumatawag tawag na lang sa mga parents ko pagnami-miss sila,” said the bachelor.
Like Garcia, San Mig star guard Barroca feels Cordero can cut it in the pro ranks.
“Ayos 'yan, matalino ang laro niyan. Magaling 'yan. Magaling. Nung nakakalaro ko 'yan dati dos at tres laro niya. Pero magaling mag handle ng bola,” said Barroca.
“May shooting 'yan. Saka mataas tumalon. Exciting player yan, nagda-dunk,” Barroca added.
Garcia said he sees Cordero as a smaller version of Gary David.
“Parang maliit po na Gary David yan na may dunk. Dunker po yan. Tingin ko jackpot po team na makakakuha dyan,” said Garcia.
Even before the PBA rookie camp on Monday, Cordero has been invited for tryouts by the Globalport Batang Pier and the Alaska Aces, where he got good reviews from coaches.
“Alam mo nagulat ako dyan. Ang galing na bata,” said Alaska assistant coach Louie Alas. "Point guard yan. Pwedeng sleeper 'yan. Natitiyak ko na may potensyal.
"Mabigyan lang ng tamang break at disciplined basketball.”