THERE was nothing special when former NBA star and coach Byron Scott got to personally meet 6-foot-9 Filipino-Australian Ethan Kirkness here in the country during the recent Christmas holidays.
That was until the 55-year-old, one-time NBA Coach of the Year was told by Kirkness he’s only 14 years old.
“I said my age and he’s just like,” Kirkness related to SPIN.ph as he tried to imitate how Scott looked with eyes wide and mouth agape. “And he said that’s pretty cool for my age.”
Meeting Scott, who won three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers during the ‘Showtime’ era, were among the many things the young cager experienced as he spent six weeks in the land of his mother to train, develop skills, and basically, learn the way the game is played here.
Kirkness is being groomed to suit up for the Philippine Youth team in this year’s edition of the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba). So far, he enjoyed the long stay here despite the temptation of having to indulge in eating and merrymaking due to the long holiday celebration.
But as his father Michael Kirkness said, ‘it’s not a holiday. It’s working. Working and training.”
Along the way, Kirkness got to watch a couple of games in the PBA Philippine Cup, including the Christmas Day doubleheader featuring Barangay Ginebra and Star at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
He describes plays in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league as ‘pretty good and pretty intense.’
And among the local pros, the Fil-Aussie singled out youngsters Mac Belo of Blackwater and Terrence Romeo of Globalport as those who left an imprint on him.
He’s especially awed with Romeo, who Kirkness described has really ‘good ball handling and body control.’ Unfortunately, the former top gunner from Far Eastern University didn’t had his A-game on the night the Batang Gilas prospect was at courtside to watch him together with his father and youth team manager Andrew Teh.
“It was not his best game, but it doesn’t mean he’s a bad player. I really think he’s a good player,” said Kirkness. “I guess he wasn’t just feeling it tonight. We all have bad games.”
It was during that same playing day when Kirkness met Scott, who dropped by with his Filipina partner upon the invitation of Meralco deputy coach Luigi Trillo.
The two would later crossed paths anew on Christmas Day.
“He’s really cool,” he said of the 6-foot-3 guard. “He’s been around the greats like Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Kareem, but still he’s very down to earth.
“We shook hands, took pictures, but he wasn’t around for long,” said Kirkness of the brief meeting.
The Kirknesses will be staying in the country for another two weeks for more training before flying back to Australia on January 21.