CALVIN Oftana is one of Philippine basketball’s fastest-rising stars.
But his passion for hoops hardly grew as quick as how fleet-footed he was as a kid.
Calvin Oftana profile
Recounting his early days as an athlete during his SPIN Zoom In appearance on Friday, the 26-year-old NLEX rising star revealed his original sport was track and field in Grade 6. Playing for Bonbonon Elementary School in his native Siaton town, Negros Oriental, Oftana even won a 100-meter dash in a district meet.
Realizing his student’s potential, Oftana’s teacher told him to try out for the basketball team, which he eventually became part of and represented in a provincial meet.
That, however, wasn’t enough to sustain his hoop dreams right away as he lost interest for a few years.
“I never dreamed, wala sa plano ko mapunta sa PBA, mapunta ng Maynila,” insisted the Danao, Cebu-born player, who grew up in Siaton.
But that was before his friends convinced him to return to the hoops path as he grew to be 6’1” in high school.
Oftana fell in love and never looked back.
He played in whichever inter-barangay league he could find and even in rough pickup games for mere ice water at stake.
“Tapos tuluy-tuloy na. naging flow na sa buhay ko yung basketball. Naging hagdan pataas,” said Oftana, who got his first big break playing for coach Mike Villahermosa at Asian College-Dumaguete.
But while other varsity players would only lean on their coaches to develop their skills, Oftana took an unconventional route to hone his craft: teaching himself via social media.
“More on YouTube, kung ano yung mga dribbling skills, hanggang dumating din ako ng San Beda, more on self-training lang din ako eh, kung ano yung mga basic na ginagawa,” Oftana revealed. “Dati kasi dito sa probinsya, walang basic training, so naninibago yung mga player dito na probinsyano pag pupunta sa malalaking lugar.”
“Pag tungtong ko ng Maynila, hindi ko nga alam may mga pangalan pala yung mga screen, may mga depensa,” he added with a chuckle. “So naninibago din.”
Oftana would search YouTube for shooting and dribbling drills, including one with a tennis ball by renowned coach Ganon Baker, and the basic form of shooting.
“Yun yung naging advantage ng mga kabataan ngayon. Lahat ng bagay na gusto nila, nasa Youtube na, nasa social media na, nasa internet na,” he said.
Coupled with his varsity experience, Oftana put his name on the basketball map when he transferred to San Beda, helping the Red Lions win three NCAA titles and capping his collegiate career by emerging as the 2019 MVP.
Now a 6-foot-5 combo forward who can handle the ball, Oftana has become one of the Road Warriors’ go-to guys and has earned a look to become part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool that’s preparing for the next year’s Fiba World Cup in the country.
Track and field’s loss is certainly basketball’s gain.
“Siguro napaganda din,” Oftana smiled. “Blessed din kasi maganda yung guidance ng family ko at ng mga taong nasa paligid ko. Siguro yung pagiging disiplinado din sa sarili. Kaya ito, nagbunga na lahat.”
“Pero I’m not satisfied,” he was quick to add. “Parang may gusto pa ako patunayan hindi lang para sa sarili ko, para sa team ko.”
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