BASKETBALL players Calvin Abueva, Scottie Thompson, Troy Rosario and Russel Escoto have one thing in common: they all have impressive leaping ability.
It's because all of them started playing volleyball before switching to basketball.
The Phoenix star, a monster off both boards thanks to his amazing second, third and fourth jumps, shared why his first sport helped him improve as a basketball player.
As a young kid Calvin Abueva, his elementary teachers already saw a great potential to be an athlete. He was later invited to join the varsity team of Sta. Maria Elementary School in the Angeles City, seeing action in the Angeles City Amateur Athletic Association, an inter-school sports competition in Pampanga.
"Volleyball ang una kong nilaro, first love ko parang ganoon,” said Abueva.
"Noong elementary pa ako noon eh," he recalled. "Iba ibang school ang nakalaban namin."
During that time, his team only placed runner-up in the ACAAA 1999 and Abueva was no longer eligible to play the following season as he was already overaged.
After his short volleyball stint, Abueva switched to basketball.
"Syempre [nag papasalamat ako sa volleyball] kasi 'yung talon at saka 'yung timing natutuhan ko (sa volleyball)," he said. "Natutunan ko din ‘yun kaunting conditioning sa pagkuha ng bola."
Ever wondered why Ginebra star Scottie Thomson has impeccable timing for getting rebounds?
Well, volleyball has a lot to do with it.
“Doon [sa volleyball] ko rin nakuha ‘yung talon ko, so ang laking bagay ng talon ko [sa basketball],” he said. “Oo syempre [nakatulong ‘yung volleyball] kasi naging in shape ako, tapos ‘yung legs ko lumakas at ‘yung upper body at ‘yung timing.”
The pride of Digos, Davao del Sur played competitive volleyball when he was in his first and second year in high school at Cor Jesu College.
“Ang nagustuhan ko sa volleyball talagang ine-enhance ko ‘yung talon ko dati noong nagba-basketball ako,” he said.
“Kasi dati nakikita ko ‘yung training ng volleyball friends ko, mga varsity sa amin,” he added. “Sabi ko sa sarili ko na, ayos ‘to ah, puro talon ‘yung training nila. Doon ko nagustuhan kaya nag-varsity ako, sumabay ako sa kanila.”
Thompson was a varsity player for both volleyball and basketball during that time and was allowed to see action in both sports in provincial leagues and tournaments in the city.
The do-it-all basketball player recalled how strong his spikes were, being an open spiker back then.
When asked if who among the volleyball players resembles his play, he said it was F2 Logistics star and former La Salle standout Ara Galang.
“Naging spiker ako, mga Ara Galang [‘yung pareho ng laro ko],” he said.
The TNT KaTropa stalwart started playing volleyball when he was in high school at Abulug School of Fisheries in Cagayan. He was a varsity player his entire high school and he even competed in the Palarong Pambansa representing Region II.
The lanky athlete played different positions. He was often a quicker, sometimes an open spiker, and sometimes a middle blocker.
Hoping to give his family a better future, a young Rosario tried to use his athleticism as a way to get out of poverty. He recalled how he took a leap of faith and went to Manila when he was 15 to try out for an athletic scholarship.
Although his grades were impressive, Rosario chose the athletic scholarship since it offers free dorm, meals and monetary allowance.
“Una nag-try out ako sa FEU (Far Eastern University) volleyball, hindi ako nakuha,” he shared. “Tapos nakita ko may basketball tryout din sila, nakuha ako pero pinapabalik ako ng high school, second year, kasi 15 years old lang ako noon eh.”
“Sabi ko ayaw ko na [bumalik ng high school], magco-college na ako kasi nga ako ang bread winner ng family tapos syempre hindi naman buo ‘yung tuition [na walang babayaran] so hindi rin ako tinanggap sa FEU na college basketball,” he added.
Unable to get into the FEU program, he tried out in Technological Institute of the Philippines and there he started his journey as a basketball player.
“Napunta na ako sa basketball sa TIP na, wala akong kaalam-alam sa basketball,” he said.
“Pero kinuha ko na kasi kailangan ko lang ng scholarship. Kasi hindi naman kami ganoon kaluwag ang buhay sa probinsiya, nakikisaka lang kami, eh hindi ka naman pwedeng araw-araw magsaka,” he added.
Looking back, Rosario could only smile.
When asked if he can still play volleyball, he asked for a month training then he can show off his skills.
“Bigyan mo lang ako ng training, mga isang buwan, kasi iba na ang katawan ko pam-basketball na,” he said. “Kaya kong umibabaw sa net, kaya kong makita kung saan ko ibabagsak ‘yung bola.”
Columbian Dyip stalwart Russell Escoto's versatility in basketball can be traced to his training as a volleyball player.
The former FEU standout started out as a volleyball player back in his hometown in Angeles City, Pampanga. He even saw action in the Central Luzon Region Athletic Association (CLRAA) when he was in high school before he landed a spot in the FEU men's basketball team in college.
“Nags-tart ako [maglaro ng volleyball] noong Grade 6 then up to second year high school,” he said. “Siguro sa talon kasi malaking bagay ‘yun eh, na-improve ko ‘yung jumping ability ko.”
Escoto, who played the quicker position back then, already stood at little over six feet as a 13 year old.
While studying at Angeles University Foundation, he caught the attention of Allan Trinidad, one of the coaches of the DELTA basketball program under the auspices of Pampanga vice-governor Dennis Pineda.
Abueva was also a product of the program.
After years of being a basketball player, Escoto had the chance to play volleyball again when he was invited to participate in a charity game organized by Kiefer Ravena and Alyssa Valdez.
His brother, Richard, who also played for the FEU men’s basketball team, also started out as a volleyball player when he was in elementary.
“Si Richard, mga Grade 4 or Grade 5 nagva-volleyball siya,” he said.
NorthPort guard Jonathan Grey learned how to play basketball and volleyball almost at the same time. In fact when he was in high school at Collegio San Agustin in Laguna, he played volleyball during intramurals.
“Mahilig lang ako [mag-volleyball], madalas ako maglaro ng volleyball sa intrams kasi hindi mo pwedeng laruin ‘yung sport mo kapag intrams,” he said.
Grey said his volleyball skills made him a better basketball player.
“Siguro sa talon, kasi mataas ako tumalon ng konti, ‘yun siguro ang nakakatulong sa akin sa basketball,” he said.
Even though he has a hectic schedule, he finds time to watch women’s volleyball as a stress-reliever. He also loves to watch players he admires.
“Nanood ako ng women’s volleyball, may mga idol nga ako doon eh. Si Jia Morado idol ko ‘yun pati si Mika Reyes,” he said.
When asked if he can still play in a competitive volleyball match, he’s answer was quick.
“Syempre magagaling sila [volleyball players] pero kaya kong sumabay, pero sa mga babae. Ha! Ha! Ha! Hindi ko kaya sa lalake, malalakas sila eh, nakakatakot na ‘yun baka tamaan na ‘yung ulo ko,” he said.