MANILA, Philippines – Whatever happens to Justin Melton’s career in pro basketball, which starts in the Philippine Cup, he wants to leave something tangible to society.
Melton, San Mig Coffee’s new 5-10 guard recruit, wants to build houses, courts, and churches.
“I want to be in a position financially where I can give back. I want to build houses and churches. To say it now is a long shot, but ultimately, that is my goal,” he told Rappler.
Many clamor to be in the PBA, but only a few are given the golden opportunity to play. Melton knows he is lucky to be in the big league and he sees it as a responsibility too.
“I just want to know where I came from, it’s good to be here, and it’s a platform. There are a lot of people who’re trying to be in this path (so) it’s a way of giving (back).”
Melton, a devout Christian, has no concrete plans for this goal. But Melton will find ways to achieve his dream. It may sound a bit ambitious, but Melton is keen on fulfilling that goal.
“I guess as the days go on, things will be more clear. I know for sure I cannot do these things by myself so partnering somehow with others who share the same heart would be great,” he added.
Melton arrived in Manila a month ago and settled in Las Pinas City. Before the PBA draft, he watched local basketball games to get a feel of the style of play.
Once, Melton sat at the Patron section of the Smart Araneta Coliseum to watch Game 7 of the PBA Governor’s Cup between the Petron Blaze Boosters and the San Mig Coffee Mixers.
He saw how Coach Tim Cone garnered his 15th PBA title and how Marc Pingris showed his fighting heart. He saw how the Petroniverse and San Mig Planet backed their teams. He had a first-hand experience of how much Filipinos loved the sport. (READ: A hero’s welcome for Marc Pingris)
Melton did not know that the team which bagged the Governors Cup trophy would eventually draft him.
The Mixers landed Melton as the 13th overall pick in the 2013 annual draft which highlighted the 26-year-old guard’s return to the country.
“I never imagined that I’m watching the PBA finals and it never crossed my mind that I’m going to be part of the team,” said Melton.
Born in Angeles City, Pampanga, Melton spent his early basketball career in the United States. He went to Tabb High School in Yorktown,Virginia. He moved to North Carolina where he attended Mount Olive College, an NCAA Division II school. Then he played professional basketball in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
He took two years off to finish a Masters Degree in Commercial Photography in Savanna College of Art and Design at Atlanta.
He moved over to the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) where he played under Filipino mentor Ariel Vanguardia for the Malaysia Dragons.
Through 16 games, he averaged 9.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 4.9 APG, including a team-best 21 points a game in the semifinals.
Melton decided to settle in the Philippines. It was a big move for him since most of his relatives are scattered across the United States. But he does not regret staying here for good.
“There’s nothing like doing what you love in your home country,” said Melton.
He can’t wait to show his stuff in the PBA, which he says is a battlefield.
“The style of play is very different. It’s very aggressive. I’ve been to D-League games and it’s a war out there,” he shared.
Backed by his family in the United States and new friends in Manila, Melton easily adjusted.
“I’m a bit tired working out with teams, but I’m loving every minute! I am staying with a great family in Las Pinas right now and they made the transition smooth,” said Melton, who stayed with his agent Gerry Ramos’ family.
Ready for the spotlight
With his prior experiences, like a stint with Gilas Pilipinas, Melton believes he is ready.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this so I’m ready. I’ll just do what I need to do for the team,” he said.
Asked what he can show the PBA fans, Melton said he will outwork anybody.
“I’m taught not to get intimidated. I’ll work hard. I like to outwork anybody, that is my personal goal in every game,” he added.
Melton’s basketball career has been full of ups and downs. Arriving here marks a new start to his journey, and he is happy to have the finish line set back here. – Rappler.com
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