Meet Charles Pepito, USC Warrior and Cebu's rebound machine

CEBU CITY, Philippines – University of San Carlos (USC) Warriors power forward Charles Pepito is playing in his last season of the CESAFI men's basketball tournament and he has vowed to leave a lasting impression.

So far, Pepito has not disappointed. He’s been named best player of the game 5 times so far this season. Not only that, he has also been in the Warriors' starting lineup in all of their games.

But most amazing of his achievements' this season is his outrebounding their import, Shooster Olago of Cameroon, who is a good 4 inches taller than him at 6-foot-7 in 6 of their 12 elimination games.

The best rebounding performance that Pepito had was when they faced defending champion Southwestern University (SWU) Cobras last August 30 wherein he had a total of 22 rebounds, 9 of them on the offensive side.

He has averaged 11.4 rebounds per game, just 0.7 fewer behind Olago.

The 25-year-old hopes that a strong final collegiate season will springboard him to bigger goals on the national level.

After CESAFI, Pepito, who hails from Daanbantayan, a municipality located in the northern tip of the Cebu island, hopes to be given a chance to play in the PBA D-league.

Like many Filipinos, Pepito grew up dreaming of becoming a basketball player. As a young kid, he constantly played the sport and made conscious effort to develop his game as he aimed to become a varsity player. He played in every league tournament held in his town and sometimes made a few pesos for his efforts.

When he graduated from his secondary studies, he came to the city to achieve his ambition. He first went to SWU and then at the Cebu Institute of Technology-University (CIT-U) but had no luck. He went back home, but not to give up on his dream. He came back and tried his luck at USC and the third time was the charm for Pepito.

In his first shot, he was made a second stringer until he made it a couple of times to the starting lineup last season.

He has been named to the All Star squad twice and chosen to compete in the slam dunk contest. This season has been a masterpiece so far.

Pepito learned that achieving his dream of making the varsity team is not the end of his goals.

“I learned that being a basketball player is really hard but you have to do it because it is what you want. I also learned how difficult the life of an athlete-student is but you have to sacrifice to succeed in a lot of things,” said Pepito.

This business administration student looks up to fellow Cebuano hotshot Dondon Hontiveros, who before seeing action in the PBA, started his career in the now defunct Cebu Amateur Athletic Association (CAAA), the predecessor of CESAFI.

Pepito said he likes the Gilas 3.0 gunner Hontiveros because he hasn't lost his ability t shoot despite already being 38 years old.

Pepito also names Hontiveros’ Gilas teammate Calvin “The Beast” Abueva as someone he admires, because he’s a fighter on the court and he plays each game with heart.

Among the international players, Pepito prefers His Airness, Michael Jordan.

As for the young ones who wish to play basketball at a high level, Pepito has these words for them: “Always practice hard and listen to your coach. And, most especially always pray to the Lord.”

Pepito will have a chance to close his CESAFI career in style as his USC Warriors are in the men’s basketball finals. The only thing left standing between Pepito and a fairy tale ending to his college tenure are the University of the Visayas Green Lancers. –