By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
August 22, 2013
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – It had been 40 years since the Philippines hosted the International Basketball Federation or FIBA. The last time the Philippines qualified in the FIBA World Cup was in 1986.
And this month, Filipinos all over the world marveled at the Philippine Team who fought their way to the top. And they made it, under the leadership of team captain, Jimmy Alapag.
“It was an unbelievable experience, probably the most special experience that I’ve had as a basketball player. We had so much support from the entire country and every night, every game — 20,000 people cheered their hearts out,” he shared.
The 35-year old Alapag was born in Los Angeles, California. Basketball became his passion, even as a young kid.
“I started playing when I was three years old. I was fortunate enough to have a family and two older brothers who taught me how to play at a young age,” he said.
He said growing up as a basketball player in the States was a struggle, because people always consider the good ones to be Caucasian or African-American. And besides, he was the smallest kid in class. But his coaches believed in him.
“Despite my size, despite how small I was, they always pushed the idea that you just have to work harder than everybody else. And here I am, almost 11 years into my pro-career and it’s still something that I hold onto,” he remarked.
Alapag was in college at Cal State San Bernardino when he was approached by scouts in the Philippine Basketball Association to play in the Philippines. He grabbed the opportunity, knowing that it would reconnect him to his Filipino roots.
“Looking back, it was probably the best decision I ever made,” Alapag said.
Alapag has risen as one of the most explosive point guards in the Philippines. He was named PBA Rookie of the Year in 2003. That same year, he led his team, Talk ‘n Text Tropang Texters to the All-Filipino championship.
He said he owes part of his success to his wife of three years, actress LJ Moreno.
Moreno said theirs is a perfect fit. “We’re both really competitive. So, it’s actually perfect that I married an athlete.”
Moreno said they’re trying to start a family. But with Alapag and the Philippine team busy training for the World Cup in Spain next August, a baby might just have to wait.
“Hopefully, after all this madness, we’ll eventually have one,” she said.
With the support of his wife, his team and his kababayans, there’s simply no stopping Alapag in getting the gold.
“To qualify and to help put the Philippines in the world map for basketball, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Alapag concluded.
For more information, you may contact Henni Espinosa at email@example.com.