by Regin Reyno
Basketball is crazy in the Philippines. Almost every Filipino plays basketball-and a huge chunk of the population watches pro basketball. That's why even American author, Rafe Bartolomew , was so amazed when he visited the Philippines and witnessed the obsession of Filipinos with basketball. That prompted him to write a book about it, which is entitled Pacific Rims.
|Froilan Baguion, 2nd from left|
ASEAN Basketball Leauge (ABL) star player
I used to watch PBA games every Sunday and Tuesday nights on PTV 4-supporting my favorite team- Sunkist Orange Juicers, headed by Vergel Menesses, Nelson Asaytono, Kenneth Duremdes and Boybits Victoria. And in the NBA, my favorite team was the mighty Chicago Bulls-with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman as their stars.
MY FAVORITE PRO BASKETBALL TEAMS
1. Sunkist Orange Juicers. Fave players: Vergel Menesses and Nelson Asaytono
2. San Miguel Beermen. Fave player: Danny Seigle
1. Chicago Bulls. Fave players: Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman
2. LA Lakers. Fave player: Kobe Bryant
FAVORITE STYLE OF PLAY
1. Jason Kidd
2. Steve Nash
3. Boybits Victoria
4. Dennis Rodman
But nowhere in my wild imagination that someday, I'll be able to experience playing with a professional basketball player. Yes, that's right. I was able to experience a rare opportunity of playing basketball with a pro as my teammate.
I met Froilan Baguion during the Championship Presentation Dinner at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in March 2011. They, the Chang Thailand Slammers were the champions during that time-the 2nd season of the newly formed professional basketball league in Southeast Asia-the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL).
|photo credit: Thananuwat Srirasant|
He was a player of National University Bulldogs in the Univeristy Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), Philippines' version of NCCA. After which he played in the Philippine Basketball Association joining various teams like Welcoat Dragons, Coca Cola Tigers and San Miguel Beermen. He was part of the San Miguel team who grabbed the champions trophy in 2009 with Gabe Freeman as their import.
Standing just 5'7'', Baguion is a pure "1" or point guard. With his quickness, athleticism, an excellent dribbling skills, and a Jason Kiddesque eye-he can run plays and carry a team. That was evident when he guided the Chang Thailand Slammers to the finals of the 2nd season of ABL and eventually won the cup.
With a team composed of mostly Thais-which basketball is not a popular sport here in Thailand-it was Baguion who really carried the team. With his play-making ability and excellent passing skills, they were able to defeat the AirAsia Philippine Patriots, the then-defending champion. He finished the 2011 ABL season as one of the leaders in assists.
That was his 2nd ABL ring as he was the point guard of Philippine Patriots who were champions during the 1st season of ABL.
I met him again in Jakarta, Indonesia in June 2012 where they played the finals with Indonesia Warriors. He was San Miguel Beermen's point guard during that season.
He is currently playing for Chang Thailand Slammers-a team managed by former Bangkok Cobras management.
Since I am living in Bangkok, and ABL is a club versus club competition-not a country versus country-my favorite team in ABL right now is Baguion's team, the Chang Thailand Slammers.
Franz and I really love the playing style of Baguion. He is like Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, and Rajon Rondo. A "magician" as what ESPN commentators have said and a real assists machine.
So during our game, we let him bring the ball up and down the court. We wanna experience how it is to have a pro assists machine as your point guard.
Point guards are the one who normally handles the ball and make the plays. They are like quarterbacks in football and midfielders in soccer.
Although he doesn't force much during the game (and we all know the reason why), the assists kept on coming. We became instant scoring machines. The play was smooth. He set it up and brought out the best in his teammates. The games became a delight. Even our Thai opponents enjoyed the games because of the proper flow of play and a sense of competitiveness.
Sometimes, he played the role of a shooting guard as not to tire much. (He just came from a full 40 minute-game against the Westport Malaysia Dragons). We switched role which saw me playing as the point guard. I just feed him the ball in the 3-point area, and he kept on gunning from the 3-point line.
It was a series of games by Filipinos versus Thais, and we ended up winning most of the games (I don't need to mention that, it's a natural thing in the world). Nevertheless, what's important was, we enjoyed the games as well as our opponents-because we were playing with a pro.
It was another wonderful and memorable experience. A rare opportunity of a lifetime, to be able to play with a pro-not just a pro-but the league's leader in assists, the team's play-maker and the current record holder of the most number of assists in the ABL. It was a wonderful feeling-a feeling of fulfillment, accomplishment, euphoria, and camaraderie.
We would like to thank Froilan Baguion, a down-to-earth pro basketball player, a humble individual, and a person who possesses the real Filipino spirit of camaraderie through basketball. It was one of our best basketball game experiences ever. More games to come bro!
Those who want to see him play, you can watch their games live at Nimitbutr Stadium in Bangkok, Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore, Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City, BritAma Arena in Jakarta, MABA stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Tan Binh Competition House in Saigon or tune in to ESPN, Fox Sports, ABL livestreaming, or ABL on YouTube.
You can checkout ABL website or follow ABL's facebook page for the games' schedules.
P.S. As of the moment Froilan Baguion is the league's (ABL) leader in steals too, with an average of 2.88 steals per game. That makes him the leader in both assists and steals department. And just recently, he had a triple double in their game against the Saigon Heat. With 10 points 11 rebounds 11 assists 5 steals, he is the first and only player in ABL to have a triple double.
"I wish I could have seen him when he was 18 years old. I would have pushed him to go to the National Basketball Association (NBA). He has the kind of skills of Chris Paul and Steve Nash. He has a great leadership skill in him and has made my job a lot easier."--Joe Bryant talking about Froilan Baguion
Froilan Baguion Slammers vs. Heat highlights