MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-Italian point guard Dalph Panopio may have been born and raised in Rome, but the 18-year-old is every inch Pinoy.
The new Batang Gilas recruit – despite never having played in the Philippines – admits he has patterned his game from some of the national team’s biggest names.
“Mga idolo ko sa Gilas, sina Jimmy Alapag, si [Jayson] Castro, [Terrence] Romeo, yun. Mga point guard,” shared Panopio, whose parents are both Filipinos.
(From Gilas, I idolize Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, there. The point guards.)
Even as one of the newcomers in the Philippine basketball youth team that’s set to compete in the FIBA Asia Under-18 Championship, Panopio acts like he has been here all along.
“Excited na po ako,” he told reporters in fluent Filipino after a team practice in Taguig. “Kasi hindi ko po kilala [skill-wise] yung mga makakalaban namin doon.”
(I’m excited for this since I don’t really know whom we are facing skill-wise in the tournament.)
And like a true Pinoy joker that you always seem to find in any barkada (group of friends), he smoothly transitioned to taking jabs on his 7-foot-1 teammate Kai Sotto – the undoubted main star of the country’s youth basketball program.
“Ang pressure ko lang po na hindi makakuha ng bola si Kai at di maka-shoot,” he said with Sotto looking on next to him.
(The pressure is on me to keep Kai from getting the ball and scoring.)
“Sana makuha niya yung mga pass ko para ano, manalo,” he continued while giving Sotto a good stare.
(I hope he gets my passes so we can win.)
Of course, what enamored Gilas scouts to tap the young Panopio, aside from his wealth of humor and charisma, is the skills he got from the Stellazzura Basketball Academy back in Rome.
The 6-foot-1 guard actually turned down an invite to play for the Italian youth squad for a shot to finally represent his home country.
Batang Gilas kicks off its bid in the U18 tournament against Lebanon on Sunday, August 5, in Nonthaburi, Thailand
“Parang kinuha nila yung nilalaro ko sa Italy eh,” said Panopio. “Gusto ko rin na ma-improve din ang team ng Pilipinas, na umiba din laro niya, na parang magsama yung bilis at yung technique. Itong practice namin maganda kasi natutulungan ko rin sila sa mga konting tip. Gumagaling din sila, nag-iimprove din. Sana mag-improve din ako.”
(It’s like they got me for my game in Italy. I also want to help improve the Philippine team, to make its game different, to combine our speed and techniques. I like our practices because I get to help them out and give tips. They’re improving. I hope I do too.)
At this point, all that’s left for him is to finally don the country’s colors and play his game. From the looks of things, he was born to represent where his heart truly is. Italy just helped him out. – Rappler.com
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