CESAFI dunk champ Puerto is no stranger to hard work
CEBU CITY, Philippines - The newly crowned CESAFI Slam Dunk winner Garciano Puerto Jr, fondly called Garexx by friends, may stand 6-foot-3 inches tall but it wasn’t until he was 17 years old that he decided to play basketball. The reason—he wanted to get a college degree.
Puerto said that he decided to play ball after his father got sick and eventually passed away.
“Chess player ako dati, 3rd year high school, wala sa akin yung basketball dati but dahil sa matangkad ako qinamit ko ang basketball para makapag-aral ako kasi namatay yong papa ko. Wala nay mag pa-eskwela nako.” (I used to be a chess player in third year high school, I had nothing to do with basketball then but because I am tall, I decided to play basketball so I could continue my studies. My father died and no one can send me to school anymore.)
Puerto, who is on his second year as the team captain of the University of Cebu (UC) Webmasters, is a native of the City of Pagadian, the capital province of Zamboanga del Sur.
The fifth and youngest boy among 8 siblings, and with a farmer for a father and a mother who sells produce at the market, Puerto is no stranger to hard work. To help his family, Puerto became a working student as early as Grade 5 to First Year high school in the neighboring province of Aurora, about an hour away from Pagadian.
It was also for this reason that despite his height which is coveted by most of those who aspire to become a basketball player, Puerto never had time to go into the sport. He had to dedicate his time to helping his father in farming when he was home and doing other odd jobs when he was in school.
However, the summer after his first year high school, Puerto had to return to Pagadian because his father got sick.
“Pag human nako og first year sa Aurora pag summer nagsakit akong papa mao mi-uli ko sa amo kay ako man magbantay niya, ako man iya gipangita permi so mi-uli nlang ko Pagadian din pagka July 19, 2007 he passed away.” (After my first year high school in Aurora, my father got sick during the summer. I decided to go home to Pagadian to take care of him because he keeps asking for me. He passed away on July 19, 2007.)
Puerto was 14 years old at the time. Knowing that he’d never be able to finish his secondary studies anymore, he decided to follow the advise of family and friends to try the sport of basketball.
He became a school varsity player for two years, got to play in the inter-city and regional meets until he eventually graduated high school.
“Nong una nag adto ra ko sa among bukid pagka graduate nako ug high school. Nasasabi ko kung hindi ako mag-aral siguro dito ako magtratrabaho habang buhay.” (At first, after graduating high school, I just stayed in our place in the countryside. But, I said to myself if I won’t continue studying, I’d probably just be able to work here for the rest of my life.)
Puerto said he decided to continue playing basketball. Fortunately for him, a former Webmaster saw his potential and recommended him to UC. In 2013, Puerto then started playing for the Webmasters as a small and power forward while taking up BSBA Major in Marketing. He took over the reins as team captain last year.
Aside from playing for UC in the CESAFI, Puerto has also been tapped for the Visayas squad twice for the Private Schools Athletic Association (PRISAA) meets.
This is also the second year that he has been named to the CESAFI All-Stars.
Last year, Puerto has also received offers from the College of St. Benilde and the Mapua Institute of Technology but he opted to stay with UC as getting his college degree was more important to him.
With that goal in sight now, as he will already be graduating next March, Puerto is now deciding if he would stay and play for UC for another year or try his luck in the PBA D-League and probably emulate his idol PBA hotshot Dondon Hontiveros, who also played for UC in his college years. This season being his fourth year in the CESAFI, Puerto has one more year to play.
In the recently concluded eliminations of this years CESAFI, Puerto averaged 10.8 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Puerto admitted that he wants to help UC get another CESAFI title. It is a long shot for this season as the quarterfinals will already start Tuesday, October 4 with the Webmasters going up against the number 4 team, the defending champion University of San Carlos Warriors, who enjoy a twice to beat advantage.
Whatever Puerto decides on, one thing is for sure. Now that he is about to get his degree, he wants to continue to play ball and try his luck in the big leagues. – Rappler.com