CESAFI: RJ Dinolan says sick father makes him fearless on the court

CEBU CITY, Philippines – If there is an award for a player who epitomizes the words “no fear” in every game that he plays, then 19-year-old Ralph Jude “RJ” Dinolan, the shooting guard of the University of San Jose Recoletos (USJ-R) Jaguars, would hands down win it.

This second year student-athlete, whose major is Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Major in Human Resource Development Management, has installed himself as one of the hoop stars in the collegiate division of the 15th CESAFI men's basketball tournament with his stellar performance, averaging 16.1 points per game in this season's eliminations.

Dinolan once again came up big for the Jaguars, scoring 20 and grabbing 9 rebounds in a third place-clinching Game 3 win against Southwestern University on Sunday, October 11.

Playing for his father

Despite standing just a little over 5-foot-11, Dinolan fearlessly goes up against players much taller than himself for rebounds, averaging 6.2 rebounds per game after grabbing 74 rebounds during the eliminations.

The story behind the intensity he shows on the court is a sad one.

Dinolan may have grown up wanting to become a basketball player but playing hoops has taken on a new meaning since last year.

“Basketball for me is a motivation for my father gyud. Gi dedicate nako ni tungod kay sick cya. Kung unsa ako makaya mabuhat pinaagi sa basketball ipakita nko para ako papa ma motivate pud mu stand,” said Dinolan.

(“I dedicate this to him because he is sick. Whatever I am capable of doing through basketball, I show it so I could motivate my father to stand.”)

Last year, on Dinolan’s birthday, a stroke paralyzed the left side of his father's body. Dinolan says that his father’s condition has motivated him to play extra hard on the court each time.

“I've become fearless when I play for my school and for my family gyud. Just doing my job,” said Dinolan who added that he doesn't mind getting elbowed or hit because it means he can convert it to baskets.

“I just want to help the team no matter what happens to me because it will be worth it.”

Aside from his father, Dinolan also pays tribute to his oldest brother by wearing jersey no. 14 in his memory.

Dinolan's brother, who died while training due to over-fatigue while training for boxing, was born on the 14th of a month Dinolan doesn’t remember. He remembers the date of his brother’s death: November 14.

The USJ-R hoop star said it was because of him that he and another sibling got into sports. Aside from him, Dinolan also has an older sister, Richelle, who is an accomplished taekwondo jin who not only became the most valuable player of UAAP season 72 while studying at Far Eastern University, but also became part of the Philippine team and won a silver in an international tournament held in South Korea.

Street dreams

As a young boy of 5 or 6 years old, Dinolan started playing in the streets of Panagdait in Mabolo, a barangay in Cebu City, where he learned to play tough alongside another brother. Even to this day, he continues to play in the streets to improve his craft.

“Nagdako ko na muduwag kalye. Bisan karun og wala lay practice mu duwa gyud ko kay mas makita man gud nako na ara ka more makat-on than sa school. Makat-on kag dirty tactics, more physical ka, courageous, etc.,” said Dinolan.

(I grew up playing in the streets. Until now, if there is no practice, I still play in the streets because I can see that I learn more there than in the school. You learn dirty tactics, you learn to be more physical, courageous, etc.)

In his elementary years, Dinolan also tried athletics but he found out that he prefers the sport of basketball.

Because of what happened to his older brother, his mother had reservations about his interest in basketball.

“She got scared that I might get hurt like maybe slipped or stumble and hit my head on the court but in the long run she understood me and now she supports my basketball career.”

Though his parents would like to watch his games in person, his mother has to stay at home and take care of his father. They still get to watch the games on television plays shown on IBC-13 with VIVA Sports.

The exciting nature of the games may be too much for his father to bear, but Dinolan’s siblings still attend the games.

Young veteran

Although he has been playing as a Jaguar in the collegiate CESAFI for two years, he actually started joining big tournaments in his secondary years as part of the University of the Visayas (UV) passerelle team from 2010 to 2011 and a Baby Lancer from 2011 to 2012 wherein they finished as first tunner-up in the Milo Best, another first runner-up honors in the Coca Cola PBA Young Stars and as national champions in the SBP National Championship.

He was also selected into the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association (CVIRAA) basketball team manned mostly by players from Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu (SHS-AdC) which won the junior basketball title in the Dumaguete Palarong Pambansa for the first time ever.

After his stint with UV, Dinolan said that he opted to transfer to USJR and become a Jaguar.

“For some personal reasons. First UV is a famous school in terms of basketball. At that time, they recruited many players. So, I thought I better try another school because I don't want to waste my time not playing basketball. I know I have a talent so I want to use it. That is why I applied in USJ-R.”

Dinolan struggled as a first-time Jaguar last year, finding it hard to adjust to their style of play. He toiled as a third stringer, but did not give up hope.

“I worked doubly hard on my studies and my game and it eventually paid off,” said Dinolan, who has not only been made to start in all games this season but has also been named into the All Star squad. He was also picked for the 3-point shootout, finishing second to UV’s Francisco Arong in a tiebreaker.

Championship goals

Despite his accolades this year, Dinolan isn’t content just yet; he believes he still has much to prove.“There will be more in the future.”

Among his goals, Dinolan wants to end his collegiate career with a championship title for USJ-R to give pride to his school, his family and his friends.

As a collegiate ball player, Dinolan said he learned to be focused all the time.

“Collegiate basketball is way different than high school. You need to use your mind well rather than just talent, like what I have done in my high school days,” said Dinolan.

Just like every other basketball player, Dinolan hopes to play in the PBA in the future.

Among his basketball heroes are NBA star LeBron James, whom he admires for his athleticism and versatility, and Calvin Abueva of the PBA’s Alaska Aces because of his fearlessness.

For the young ones who want to try their hand in basketball, Dinolan said “If you love basketball, you must earn it by doing hardwork, sacrifice and discipline. In it nothing is impossible. And, have faith in God, pray to him. As written in the Bible, Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Dinolan also abides by a phrase in the Bible which their priest prays over them before every game - Isaiah 40:31 - “But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

This is the reason why the USJ-R Jaguars do not grow weary in every game, Dinolan feels. – Rappler.com