FORMER PBA star Jimwell Torion is taking the first major step in his basketball comeback, not as a player but as a coach.
Once one of the most flashy and colorful players in the pro league, Torion currently works as personal basketball trainer to young kids, including the teenage son of his former teammate Kerby Raymundo, in what he hopes would open the door for a possible coaching gig.
“Yun ang ginagawa ko ngayon,” said the 5-foot-9 Torion, now 42, after a rare public appearance during Game Four of the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series between Alaska and Globalport. “Nagpapasalamat nga ako kay Kerby dahil sa akin niya pinagkatiwala 'yung pagtuturo sa anak niyang maglaro.
“Gusto nating magturo ng basketball sa mga bata kasi 'yun naman ang first love natin,” added the former Red Bull guard out of Salazar Colleges of Science and Institute of Technology in Cebu. “Kung mabigyan din ng pagkakataon na mag-coach bakit naman hindi."
Torion, the Argao, Cebu native, pointed to one young trainee who seemed to have a soft spot in his heart.
“Chua kasi ang apelyido niya,” he said, mentioning how he owes his basketball career to two gentlemen with the same surname – Red Bull team owner George Chua and the late team manager and board of governor Tony Chua.
A speedy and deadly player known for a devil-may-care attitude that earned him the moniker ‘Tora-Tora,’ Torion was among the original stalwarts — along with Raymundo, Lordy Tugade, Davonn Harp, Bernard Tanpua, and fellow Cebuano Junthy Valenzuela — Red Bull elevated to the pro ranks in 2000.
The veteran point guard’s eight-year PBA career was quite memorable for its blazing start and its flaming-out finish. Torion was instrumental in turning the Red Bull franchise into instant contenders, winning two titles in its first three years.
But it all spiraled downward for Torion in 2003, when he failed a random drug test and got suspended early in the year. Then came his infamous clothesline tackle on TNT counterpart Jimmy Alapag in November that booked him an eight-month suspension that was later reduced to four.
While Red Bull remained contenders after his return from rehab, Torion was never the same and his run-in with former coach Yeng Guiao, who sent him home in the middle of a game in 2006, signaled the start of the end of his stint with the franchise. Torion briefly played with Sta. Lucia, before ending his pro career with Air21 in 2007.
Torion would rather not talk about his controversial past, or rumors flying around about his present, focusing instead on the future, especially since he also acts as trainer to his son Jimwell, Jr.
At present, the young Torion, 13, is part of Perpetual Help’s high school Team B.
“Si coach Aric (del Rosario) ang kumuha sa kanya. Hindi pa namin alam kung anong mangyayari kasi nga nagpalit na ng coach yung Perpetual,” he said of his son, who he accompanied to watch the game of the Aces and Batang Pier, being an avid fan of GlobalPort star Terrence Romeo.
Asked about Valenzuela, his one-time backcourt tandem who also took a coaching career as former mentor of University of San Carlos, Torion said the two of them seldom see each other now.
“Bihira naman kasi ako umuwi sa Cebu ngayon, Tsaka malayo naman 'yung bayan nila sa amin,” he said of the native of Bogo, Cebu, with whom he won three titles at Red Bull.
After ending his long stint with Red Bull, Torion also had a brief stint with Sta. Lucia, before ending his pro career with Air21 in 2007. Torion averaged 7.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in his pro career.