YEARS ago, Leodaniel de Vera was a two-sport athlete in a Los Angeles high school with loads of potential who was lured away from his career path by having to work early in life.
Now he's back to doing what he likes best in his mother's homeland.
Born and raised in Los Angeles by a single Filipina mom from Pangasinan, the 6-foot-4 De Vera excelled at Granada Hills Charter High School. Shortly after winning a basketball MVP in his junior year, he shifted to volleyball where he helped his school win back-to-back championships.
An only child who has yet to meet his Spanish father, De Vera learned to be independent at an early age and became a working student at 17. He worked at a sports retail store in a mall where he was a salesman, cleaner, registrar and, in a year’s span, was promoted to assistant manager.
Juggling his responsibilities, however, soon took its toll on him, and the chance to earn more money forced him to drop out of school and give up playing sports altogether after only a semester in college.
He would hold four different jobs thereafter, working in a grocery store, a movie theater, a construction site, and dabbled in the network marketing business.
But just when he thought he would be stuck in a career away from basketball in the States, De Vera met San Sebastian coach Topex Robinson in April 2012 when the Stags went on a two-week US training camp.
It turned out Robinson knew one of De Vera’s coaches in LA.
De Vera eventually was given an opportunity to be part of the Stags. And after only a month, he was enrolled in a business management course at the Recto-based school.
“It was always a dream I had to play overseas, to play in college, but I was still young and ignorant,” De Vera shared to Spin.ph. “Finally I matured. I talked to my family a lot. They said if you want to do it, pursue it. ”
“It’s the direction I’ve been praying for,” added De Vera, who underwent residency at San Sebastian for a year before becoming eligible this season. “I guess a dream that He put me back in the same direction because after high school, I was put in the wrong direction.”
Now a rookie at 23, De Vera has found himself immediately thrust into a leadership role along with fellow outstanding freshman Jaymar 'CJ' Perez and veterans Jovit dela Cruz and Jon Rebollos in a team that has just lost three stars in Calvin Abueva, Ronald Pascual, and Ian Sangalang.
A long-range assassin who can play either forward spots, De Vera is now being counted upon to fill the gap left by the sharp-shooting Pascual.
“That’s big shoes to fill. I’m just going to do what I can as a role player to help this team get where we need to go,” said De Vera, who averaged 12.6 points - on a high 40-percent clip from beyond the arc - on top of 5.4 boards, 1.6 assists, and 1.6 steals in the last Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup.
“With my experience, I just want to have the leadership for my team.”
Only eligible to play for one season, De Vera is out to make the most of his NCAA stint that he hopes would be a springboard to bigger things in the future, possibly a stint in the PBA D-League and beyond.