Filipino basketball players

The Robots await in Javi’s next chapter

Naveen Ganglani

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The Robots await in Javi’s next chapter

FLAG AND COUNTRY. Javi Gomez de Liaño says he remains committed to Gilas Pilipinas.


Javi Gomez de Liaño will begin a new chapter in his career as a professional player in the Japanese B. League for the Ibaraki Robots

Javi Gomez De Liaño is on his way to the University of the Philippines. 

He is taking the same route which for years served as his daily journey. 

Only this time, it feels different: it isn’t necessarily the last time he goes through this same path, for the destination will always be considered “home,” but there is a good chance it is the last time for at least a while.

“Maaaan,” he tells Rappler on the morning of Saturday, July 3. 

“How does it feel?” he is asked.

“It’s mixed emotions,” he allows a peek into his sentimental state.

“I can’t believe I’m done.”

Javi, the second-oldest “GDL Bro,” and the first to play in the UAAP, is scheduled to have his grad pictorial shoot. Having completed his Sports Management degree units in one of the country’s most reputable universities, graduation provides the next reason for him to celebrate. 

But “I’m done” isn’t only limited to his schooling, nor does it only mean that Javi’s career as a Fighting Maroon has come to an end one season before his UAAP eligibility culminates. 

“I’m done” means the ending of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. 

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Javi Gomez de Liaño joins brother Juan in Japan, signs with Ibaraki Robots

Javi Gomez de Liaño joins brother Juan in Japan, signs with Ibaraki Robots

The Ibaraki Robots of the Japan B. League have announced signing up Gomez De Liaño to its Asian Player Quota position. This is the same designation of former Ateneo superstar Thirdy Ravena, who is with the San-En NeoPhoenix, and Javi’s younger brother Juan, who is with Earth Friends Tokyo Z. 

Javi becomes the latest Filipino hooper to try his professional luck internationally right after college. 

“I’m excited for that,” he said. “I worked my whole life to chase my dream to play abroad. Not specifically anywhere, to just play outside the country. That’s a very big step for my career, getting a first contract.”

B. League teams invoked their interest in Juan and Javi as early as last year, although due to complications with the brothers’ passports – they are both dual citizens – the league’s rules prevented them from signing then. 

“Where Juan signed, Tokyo Z, the management were able to fix that rule. When they fixed that, Juan immediately signed with them,” Javi explains.

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Juan Gomez de Liaño joins Earth Friends Tokyo Z in Japan B. League division 2

Juan Gomez de Liaño joins Earth Friends Tokyo Z in Japan B. League division 2

Once it was understood that Javi would be eligible under the same provision, as many as four teams reached out to him and his agent, Marvin Espiritu of the Espiritu-Manotoc Basketball Management. 

“I also told myself that the first team that shows interest in me, I’ll take [the deal],” Javi said. “It just so happened that Ibaraki was the one. They were very professional. We had a meeting with the president, management, and head coach. They had good plans.”

A few days after the meeting, a formal offer was presented by Ibaraki. In the last weekend of June, Javi signed to a one-year contract, commencing a new period in his life that’s poised for challenges and excitement.

“Expectations and pressure are high for me, as well as the team, since they’re now in Division 1.”

The same goal

The Robots will compete in Division 1 of the B. League by virtue of advancing to the Division 2’s finals last season. They came up short against the Gunma Crane Thunders, but nonetheless earned the reward of elevating to the same tier as the best of the league as consolation. 

Ravena’s NeoPhoenix is also in Division 1, while Juan is tasked to help Tokyo Z get there. Javi’s skill set, which his new head coach Richard Glesmann covets, is what Ibaraki hopes will help the team prove it belongs in the big stage. 

“They did a good background check on me. They know me as a player. Even the coach, based on the videos he watched of me, he also knew the things I’m good at and the things I need to improve on,” Javi said. 

The two “share the same goal,” he added. “Our goal together is to get better and improve.”

Javi, who turns 23 in July, likens Glesmann’s system to coach Tab Baldwin’s. Gomez De Liaño has gone on the record in the past to complement the Gilas Pilipinas national team head coach’s tutelage for bringing out the best in him as a basketball player. 

“He likes the transition, flowing offense,” Javi said of his new 43-year-old mentor from Wayland, Massachusetts.

“He likes his shooters, so I think I’m the perfect guy for the job. That’s what they need, so I’m going to give them what they need.”

According to Asia Basket, the Robots shot 33.6% from three-point range last season. In his final season with UP, Javi was one of the UAAP’s leaders in three-point percentage.

Ibaraki will also need Javi to improve on his defense, a challenge the now 6-foot-2 combo guard admits he’ll face. Having played the forward positions for most of high school and college, his defensive assignments will involve more perimeter containment of speedier guards rather than banging in the paint with the big boys.

“Now that I’ve adjusted playing the combo-guard position, I need to work on my defense against smaller guard.”

As for his call of duty, Javi makes it clear that he’ll “always be dedicated for the national team.”

“Even when I’ll be playing abroad in the future, when there’s an opportunity for me to play in the FIBA games and if it doesn’t conflict with my mother team, then it’s all good for me.”

We need to make sacrifices

As glorious as it all sounds, Javi knows it doesn’t come easy.

“We have to make sacrifices,” he said. “It maybe because of your dreams, or opportunities, because these are blessings that no one should miss out on.

“I always love being around my family and my girlfriend (UP football star Einica Buhain), so it’s going to be hard for me, but I tell them it’s going to be worth it, and that’s life. You’ve got to make sacrifices.”

Javi’s dad, Bert, told Rappler the first year is going to be a “hump” for both his sons.

The GDL bros view it as a way to exit their comfort zone, especially living alone. That means taking care of laundry and being accountable for their own meals, among many other responsibilities.

“The last time I was in Japan, I gained a lot of weight,” Javi said with a light laugh, admitting that he’s trying to currently lose some pounds. “I don’t want to repeat that. I have to be disciplined with what I eat there.”

But make no mistake about it: he will “try everything” that Japan’s lustful food culture has to offer.

Javi, whose contract terms are not disclosed, said: “I just want to let these young hoopers know that there is life, basketball, outside the Philippines that they should also aspire to play one day.”

After all, helping others believe in themselves is a passion close to Javi’s heart.

“I always want to inspire the youth. Growing up, I was never the best or most talented, but I just dreamt big and worked harder. I want to show to everyone it doesn’t matter how good you are now, it’s how good you want to be in the future, and it’s where you want to be, and how to get there.”

Javi Gomez de Liaño made a name for himself as a member of the UP Fighting Marooons.
No goodbyes

You can call Javi many things. Resilient, as Bert likes to describe all his kids, is definitely one of them. 

He wasn’t good enough to play in Ateneo, so he carved a path at UP. 

Even if they weren’t winning a ton, he and his brother put UP Integrated School on the high school basketball map.

When he wasn’t going to make team A of the Fighting Maroons as a rookie, he mustered up the courage to talk to coach Bo Perasol and asked for the chance to prove himself. He did.

In his junior season, he helped University of the Philippines make history by returning to the UAAP Finals for the first time since 1986, inserting his name in the history books forever.

When many thought he wasn’t good enough to make the national team, he earned his spot and proved it should have never been doubted.

“Most definitely,” he said when asked if he’ll look back at his time at University of the Philippines with fond memories.

“I had some up and down moments there,” he admitted.


“They were my family.”

As Javi is reminiscing about old times, suddenly, the connection on the phone is unstable. 

Perhaps it’s a tunnel which cut him off.

For a minute, it is silence.

He’s gone. 

But eventually, he returns. 

After all, it’s home. –

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