Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Playing with a Pro

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 am not exempted in that obsession. I grew up loving and playing the game. Not only that, I'm a fan of professional basketball too. I have my favorite teams in pro leagues like Philippine Basketball Association (PBA)-the  oldest pro league in Asia, and the National Basketball Association.

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.


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


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 
Froilan is one of the best Filipino point guards I know. Those who are watching ABL know what I'm talking about. And he was the one whom we played with. 

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. 

On January 16, 2013, this current season of ABL, we witnessed him make history by dishing out 17 assists during their game against Saigon Heat at the Nimitbutr Stadium here in Bangkok-a new ABL record. And currently he leads the league in the number of assists averaging 11 assists per game. A Rondo-esque number. 

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

So knowing we'll be playing with a pro basketball player-an ABL superstar-that Monday afternoon brought so much excitement. My friend Franz-also a topnotch point guard in their inter-barangay league in Mawab, Philippines-and I, headed immediately to Ramkhamhaeng after class. I contacted Baguion earlier and planned to play with him since they don't have practice that day.

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


  1. Wow lucky you kuya Regin how i wish i could also play with a pro with the likes of LBJ and KD in the future. BTW nice piece very entertaining! Candia ah tlaga

    1. Thanks Mac. It was really a memorable experience.

  2. Nice to see Froilan Baguion having a great career in the ABL. He's a good point guard who wasn't able to show his full potential in the PBA due to limited playing time. It was indeed a rare opportunity to play with a pro bai! :)

    1. Indeed Earl. He is the most talked-about point guard in ABL right now due to his monster games. 17 assists with an average of 11 assists per game. 2 ABL rings in his name and 1 runner up. A great point guard indeed.

  3. This is a great experience do! So Baguion is not playing with SMB na pala, sa Slammers na. My favorite point guards in the NBA are CP3, Rondo, Nash, Westbrook. In the PBA-- Jerome Ejercito, Johnny Abarrientos, Mike Cortes..

    1. Yes do. A wonderful experience. Those are really great point guards. Yes, Baguion is now playing for Chang Thailand Slammers.