WATCH: How an Ilonggo farmer's son landed a La Salle scholarship
ANTIQUE, Philippines – Ilonggo basketball player Ryan Calamaan is the latest addition to the La Salle Greenhills Greenies for the upcoming National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Juniors Basketball Tournament.
The 6'4"-tall player from Sta Clarita International School in Iloilo will start training immediately after representing Western Visayas in the Palarong Pambansa 2017.
He previously led the Visayas team to win silver in the national leg of the 2016 Batang PBA tournament.
Balling for fun
Ryan, the eldest among 4 siblings, had to earn his keep in life. He helps his father in the farm while his mother works as a domestic helper overseas.
"If I only stayed in my hometown in Leon, I would still be drying coconuts for copra and burning wood for charcoal,” Ryan shared in Hiligaynon.
In front of their home, a metal ring attached to a piece of salvaged wood served as his training ground for basketball. As early as kindergarten, he played against boys his age and those older on a dirt court.
“I only played basketball in my hometown. Before I knew anything about varsity basketball in the city, I played just for the game. People told me I'm good at it but for me, it's more about the fun I get when I play the game,” he added.
The lack of formal basketball training did not stop him from pursuing his dreams. From elementary to highschool, he was consistently part of his school's basketball team.
This led to his discovery.
Playing for a better future
"Before, I only played but I didn't exactly dream of getting as far as the PBA. I only wanted to finish my studies," Ryan said.
He shared that Sta. Clarita International School's basketball team coach, Rodel Camacho, invited him to play for their team.
"When Coach Rodel came and asked me to play for them, telling me I had a future in Basketball, I thought to myself that it's possible, that I can actually do it,” he added.
Ryan believes that playing basketball could change his family's life for the better. And getting a full sports scholarship is a step closer to making that happen.
Before, he has to wake up at 5 am to fetch water from a downhill well and prepare for the long ride to his former school. Now, he lives in the comforts of his school's dormitory with running water all day.
The scholarship covers full tuition and miscellaneous fees. It also include free board and lodging as well as monthly allowance for his other needs.
"Here, I can walk to school easily. Back in Leon, it was too costly to go to school,” he said.
Ryan wants to become an Electrical Engineer someday. He also hopes to help send his siblings to school.
“My siblings are all in high school. My dream is to help them and give them a better future.”
Nothing great comes easy
Ryan’s first few months in training was tough. He had to adjust to being away from home and dealing with new people.
“It was hard at first, to the point that I went home after the first 4 days of practice for varsity. It was really tough and I wasn't used to formal training. I told myself that I'm only going to survive the week then I will go home and never come back.”
Ryan was almost ready to give up on his dreams but Coach Rodel knew Ryan’s potential so he never gave up on him.
"After a month, I decided to go back to my old school. I realized that I can't handle the intensity of the training. I never thought being a basketball player could be that hard. Coach Rodel never gave up on me. He went to my hometown in Leon several times to convince me that I can have a good future. That's why I persevered too get where I am today.”
Ryan's first game was far from perfect. He wasn't used to playing in covered courts. He was wearing a uniform bearing his school's name and rubber shoes for basketball he could only dream about back in the days.
“I wasn't used to all the attention. It was my first time and a lot of people were watching. I only used to play bare-footed against my friends, there were no cheers nor drums. We only played for fun. In comparison, our first game was too serious.”
Pride of Western Visayas
Ryan has gone a long way from his first game. In the short time since he became part of the varsity team, he has managed to dominate local basketball competitions, making him one of Iloilo's top basketball athletes to watch out for.
"I'm proud that I'm bringing the name of Iloilo province now,” Ryan declared.
Sta Clarita International School were crowned champions in the 2016 Iloilo Private Schools Athletic Association (PRISAA) and 2017 Western Visayas Regional Athletic Association (WVRAA) meets, with Ryan as the major driver of their victory.
Despite his undeniable talent in the court and the fame that comes along with it, Ryan remains grounded.
"Put your heart and give your all in every game. If you have the talent, just keep on practicing. Don't forget to pray and be thankful that you were given that ability,” he added.
Ready for Palaro 2017
Coach Rodel claims that the team has matured a lot in terms of strength and game play. As the competitions are coming close, he is hopeful that the team can replicate their previous victories.
"We're doubling our efforts. We had additional moral and endurance trainings, our game plan is to come ready to the games," Coach Rodel said.
Asked about the looming loss of a great asset for the team, he is positive that Ryan could reach greater heights. "We are very happy for him. Moving up to play for NCAA is a great opportunity for him to come closer to UAAP or even PBA. We will always be proud to say that he was a part of our team."
Western Visayas was never short of basketball talents. Famous basketball personalities like James Yap, Bong Ravena*, Eman Monfort, Anjo Caram, Don Sasuman, Ken Bono and Anjit Singh all trace the beginning of their basketball careers to Iloilo.
With all his current feats, Ryan surely follows the same path as these Ilonggo athletes in making it big in the national arena. While the promise of a rewarding basketball career awaits, he never forgets the reason why he does what he does.
“I always think of my family. I'm doing this for them and for coach. He's the person who believed in me and helped me get where I'm at today.”
Ryan has a piece of advice to young athletes who come from a humble background like him.
"Never give up. As long as there is time, never lose hope. Practice hard and pray harder.”– Rappler.com
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