EVEN if he is miles away from the national youth squad, Cebu-based Arnie Padilla makes sure he is attuned to what his teammates and his coaches are doing in practices in Manila.
That is why Padilla doesn’t see any problem with him being in Cebu while his teammates undergo practices in the Big City as the Philippine team prepares for the Fiba Under-17 World Championship in Dubai this August.
“Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday sila nag-papratice. Ang importante naman po is communication,” said Padilla.
Padilla is the only province-based cager in the Philippine youth team that finished second in the Fiba-Asia Under-16 Championship last year. He is also a second-generation basketball player being the son of Onie Padilla, a former PBA, PBL, and MBA big man.
A star for the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Magis Eagles in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi), Padilla is already one of the top high school players in the land, as proven by his place in the national youth team.
Now, 16-year-old looks forward to facing the best in the world as the Philippines compete in the Fiba tournament in Dubai, where the Philippines is bracketed with powerhouse United States as well as Greece and Angola.
“Masaya tapos challenging kasi minsan lang ang world (championships) tapos makakalaban pa namin ‘yung mga future NBA stars,” said the 6-foot-2 forward in an interview with Spin.ph while he was Manila with his Magis Eagles that competed in the Seaoil-NBTC National Finals.
Just like other father-and-son basketball players, Arnie said his dad Onie had a major influence in his basketball career even though his father - who had stints with Hapee in the PBL, San Miguel in the PBA, and Pangasinan Presidents in the MBA - was already based in the United States while he was growing up.
“Ako lang po ang natuto mag-basketball kasi pumunta siya sa States para mag-trabaho. Nag-start lang ako sa pag-eensayo,” said Padilla, whose father now works as a caregiver in the United States.
Despite being away from the national team most of the time during the preparation for last year's Fiba-Asia tournament, Padilla recalled that he didn’t have any problem with the team.
“Minahal po ako ng team. In-accept nila ako,” said Padilla.
Padilla remembers vividly the journey to the second-place finish in the Fiba-Asia tournament where they lost to China.
“Unexpected ‘yun talaga kasi ang plan is one game at a time pero umabot kami sa finals,” Padilla said.
After he graduates from Sacred Heart, Padilla said he will fly to Manila to finally be able to join the U17 squad in training even as he admitted that a few Manila-based colleges have already sent feelers on their interest to have him in their teams.
When asked whether he has plans to move to Manila and if he has already committed to a college team, Padilla said “May balak po. Pero wala pa po (commitment).”
His focus right now is the world championships, Padilla said.
“Lalaban din kami. Puso papakita namin katulad nung ginawa namin sa Fiba-Asia,” said Padilla.