RUSSEL Escoto is best known as one of Far Eastern University’s key players in the UAAP men’s basketball championship run last year. But did you know that the 6-foot-6 former Tamaraw also played volleyball in his younger days?
Escoto has long been fond of sports ever since he was a kid, but it was in volleyball where he first got the attention of coaches in his home province of Pampanga. The kid was so good that he was able to play competitive volleyball in the Central Luzon Region Athletic Association (CLRAA).
“Bata pa ako kahit ano naman naglalaro ako. Nag-babasketball na rin ako nun,” recalled Escoto, who played as a quicker. “Tapos nung Grade 6, may kumuha sa akin sa volleyball. Nagustuhan ko na rin.”
But volleyball soon had to take the back seat for Escoto, who, at 13, already stood well over six feet while studying at Angeles University Foundation. He soon caught the eye of Allan Trinidad, one of the coaches in the DELTA basketball program whose best-known ward, Calvin Abueva, is also a former volleyball player as well.
“Kinuha ako nila coach Allan para sa DELTA basketball. Nasa AUF ako tapos nakita nila ako na nagpapraktis kay coach (Eric) Gascon. Dun na nagsimula basketball career ko,” said Escoto.
Escoto went on to play for FEU in high school and college, where he was one of the vital cogs in the Tamaraws’ run to the championship in Season 78 of the UAAP in his final year with the school.
Yet even with his success in basketball, volleyball remains very much close to his heart. Recently, Escoto was among the basketball standouts who saw action in a charity volleyball match organized by Kiefer Ravena.
“Nung nakaraan kay Kiefer, naglaro ako volleyball. Nung high school din ako, bago mag-practice, minsan nakikilaro ako,” he added.
But Escoto isn't trading his thriving basketball career anytime soon for a fresh start in volleyball, especially since he's finally gaining recognition, including an invite to take part in Gilas Pilipinas practices with fellow cadets under head coach Tab Baldwin.
Escoto will also be gunning for his first-ever PBA D-League title as part of Phoenix Petroleum in the Aspirants Cup finals. He even finished with 12 points in the Accelerators’ 82-78 win over CafeFrance in Game One.
However, Escoto made it clear there's much work left if they intend to conquer CafeFrance, which won the Foundation Cup last year over a star-studded Hapee squad.
“Mahirap manalo sa kanila lalo na’t may import pa sila (Rodrigue Ebondo). Team talaga ‘yung CEU at puro beterano ‘yung mga players. Dapat magtulung-tulong kami,” said Escoto.