Family comes first as former PBA player Gerard Francisco starts from scratch in Singapore
Former UST standout Gerard Francisco keeps in touch with the game by playing in pick-up matches and in leagues organized for Filipino migrants in Singapore. Reuben Terrado

IT takes courage to give up a career and start from scratch in middle age, especially if you have to pack your bags and move out of your comfort zone.

It was no different for former PBA player Gerard Francisco. But the tough decision to move to a foreign land and re-establish roots became quite easy for the 38-year-old for one simple reason: family.

The former University of Santo Tomas standout has been living in Singapore since December as he joined his family which has relocated to the Lion City four years ago.

Since the move, Francisco's been busy exploring some coaching opportunities as part of a company that conducts basketball clinics for local kids 11 years of age and younger.

But that also means leaving behind a long, stellar career in basketball that started with the UST Cubs and took him all the way to the PBA - a journey adorned by a number of championships with the Tigers and a Finals MVP award during Sta. Lucia's run to a first-ever PBA championship in 2001.

His vast knowledge of the game has proved useful after his seven-year PBA career ended in 2006 as he became an assistant coach - and later assistant team manager - at Coca Cola, a member of the Letran coaching staff in the NCAA, and an assistant for the Racal Motors/Caida Tile franchise in the PBA D-League and PCBL. He was also among the candidates to replace Pido Jarencio when the former Growling Tigers coach left in 2014.

For Francisco, pursuing a coaching career meant resisting the urge to join wife Krista and his young son in Singapore.

“Two years ago, kinukuha na ako nila [family ko] after nung Powerade, pero nag-Letran muna ako tapos D-League and PCBL under coach Caloy Garcia,” said Francisco.

He finally took the leap on December 21, a day after Caida Tiles lost the PCB Founders' Cup title to Jumbo Plastic Linoleum via sweep of the best-of-three finals in Malolos City. 

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“Gusto ko na magkakasama kami ng family ko,” Francisco said. “[Kaya] back to zero muna tayo.”

“After nung finals, Sunday ‘yun, kinabukasan, umalis na ako. Kung nag-Game Three, wala na ako sa game,” Francisco recalled, showing where his priorities really lie.

The good thing is, Francisco has stayed in touch with the game even in a foreign land. He coaches young kids and still gets to play games with fellow Pinoys during his free time in leagues organized for Filipino migrants.

“Okay naman kasi kung ano ‘yung ginagawa ko sa Manila, ginagawa ko rin dito. Medyo challenging lang kasi siyempre mga bata. Pero naglalaro din ako sa mga Pro-Am para pagpawisan,” said Francisco.

Even though he now mostly plays against players who have never set foot in the PBA, Francisco said he enjoys the company and is surprised by the quality of competition from kababayans.

“Dito kasi, nakakatuwa kasi halos lahat ng Pinoy dito, kahit hindi naglaro ng pro, competitive sila. Natutuwa sila na china-challenge din kami,” said Francisco. 

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