MANILA, Philippines – Every Filipino basketball player dreams of making it to the PBA, the undisputed highest level of the game in the country.
While some make it and make it big, others make it but ever so barely. This was the case of former Mapua Cardinal Gab Banal, who played sparingly in the PBA before trying out his wares elsewhere.
As it turns out, his decision to no longer pursue his PBA dream was the opening his career needed to gain steam, as he is now a trusted name and an MVP winner in the semi-pro ranks like the PBA D-League and the MPBL.
Not only that, but the 28-year old guard has represented the Philippines in multiple international tournaments like the Asia League, FIBA 3×3 Challenger and currently, the William Jones Cup for Mighty Sports-Go for Gold Philippines.
For Banal, his long list of duties is enough proof that hoop dreams don’t begin and end with the big league alone.
“For all the competitions and tournaments I represented the country, it’s like it’s better than just staying here,” he said. “Because I’ve been in the PBA already. I have nothing to prove anymore. I have nothing to prove to anyone else. Been there, done that.
“And I’m happy where I am. I get to travel and represent the country for different tournaments, different leagues, different teammates, different imports, so the experience that I get is very rich that I can’t replace.”
With the journeyman grind, however, comes equal consequences. For Banal, who is currently signed with the MPBL’s Bacoor Strikers, it comes in the form of physical pain that he has just learned to bite back.
“Just two weeks ago, I was practicing thrice a day for 3×3, for MPBL and for Jones Cup. It’s draining but I just have to recover my body well because I’ve done that before,” he said.
“When I was playing 3×3, D-League, MPBL and the league in Macau, the Asia League, I was doing 4 practices a day, so I guess I got used to it and I know how to approach it already. I just have to recover my body well.”
Still, no pain for him could compare to the joy he gets just by playing for flag and country.
“As long as you represent the country, you’re like a soldier. Whenever you’re needed, no doubts, 100%. Let’s go and be present,” he said.
“It’s more than just Bacoor, it’s more than MPBL, it’s more than whatever league. It’s the Philippines you’re representing, So it’s an honor for me to represent the Philippines whenever I’m needed because it’s a rare opportunity.”
For Banal, it’s simply all about the pursuit of your happiness in the world of basketball.
“Ang importante sa tao, ang importante sa player ay kung saan siya masaya eh. Why would you be in the PBA if you’re not happy? PBA ka nga pero di ka masaya.”
(What’s important for people or players is going where you’re happy. Why would you be in the PBA if you’re not happy? Sure, you can in the PBA, but not if you’re not happy.)
“For me, to the players out there, to the young kids aspiring to be in the PBA, just be happy where you are because the PBA is just a standard,” he concluded. “But if you’re happy playing internationally and other leagues, then why not?” – Rappler.com