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Former DLSU Green Archers aim to excel as rookies in the PBA

Becoming a professional basketball player is not an easy task. The pursuit of making it to the professional leagues is a life-long endeavor, requiring long hours of dedication and hard work. 

From representing the Green-and-White as part of the men’s basketball team to now playing in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), DLSU Green Archers alumni Andrei Caracut of the Rain-or-Shine Elasto Painters, James Laput of the Terrafirma Dyip, and Joshua Torralba of the Blackwater Elite impart their experiences on playing for the UAAP, how they are adjusting to the PBA, and their personal career goals.

A life-long dream

Caracut was once the focal point of the offense for La Salle, serving as the team’s high-volume shooter even back then as a San Beda Red Cub in high school. 

On the other hand, despite only being a part of the team for one season, Laput and Torralba were impressive for their size and ability to play both offensively and defensively. Before getting drafted in the PBA, Laput,  6’10”, continued his career in the Chooks-to-Go-sponsored 3×3 league where he suited up for the Porac Big Boss Cement, while Torralba saw action for the Makati Super Crunch in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).

It has been years in the making for these athletes, who have been training for this moment their entire lives. The day Caracut found out his name was drafted remains a fond memory for him as he recounts, “Hindi ko nga inexpect eh, naiyak nalang ako that time. Tears of joy na natupad ko na pangarap ko.”

(I didn’t expect it. I just cried that time. It was tears of joy because I finally achieved my dream.)

Torralba, meanwhile, shares that he felt a great sense of accomplishment to be able to play in the PBA court. Playing as a member of the national team since 2009, it was a dream come true for him, stating that “it’s just life coming full circle.”

Laput also shares the same sentiment, as playing in the PBA has also been a dream. For him, the level of competition in the league is an adjustment he needs to embrace. “The players have welcomed me in a very physical and professional way,” he adds.

Adjusting to the new lifestyle

The transition from the amateur ranks to the professional level can be daunting for many athletes. Many factors of your life as a player may change, such as strenuous routines, added exposure, and increased standards of skill level. There is newfound pressure to deal with these changes; some fly high and make a name for themselves in the professional scene, while others fail to handle the heat of the greater difficulty in competing within the league. 

For this new DLSU-produced batch of PBA rookies, adjustments were made to live up to the standards of the country’s top basketball association. 

For Caracut, many factors were taken into consideration, “Physically, syempre kailangan prepared yung katawan mo. Mentally, syempre magagaling sila, (PBA players) sa offense and sa defense [kaya] kailangan ready ka sa kung anong ibabato nila sayo. Siguro, through experience, makaka-adjust naman ako.

(Physically, your body needs to be prepared. Of course, PBA players are highly skilled on offense and defense; you need to be mentally prepared to handle whatever they throw at you. Through experience, I believe that I can adjust.)

Laput echoes Caracut’s sentiments explaining that there are “huge differences” between the UAAP and the PBA, citing that “the tempo is much faster [in the UAAP]”. The bigman shares what rookies go through in terms of adjustments, “The physicality is a very, very big difference…But for players in general, the big adjustment is the pace of play and having to use more of your brain rather than solely relying on your athleticism and your skills.”

To adapt and evolve

Not long ago, these individuals were only trying to make a name for themselves in the UAAP, but today, they are now part of the country’s staple of professional basketball players. Looking back, in a number of ways, DLSU has helped shape them to be the athletes they are now.

It was all about “the work ethic” and the values of approaching the game for Torralba. “In La Salle, under Coach Juno [Sauler], Coach Allan Caidic, and the whole coaching staff were [in] the PBA. They kind of told me beforehand, even before coming to the PBA, that work ethic is important. Anybody’s job is on the line and you always gotta have that ‘next man up’ mentality. You always have to stay ready,” the swingman expresses.

Explaining that playing basketball should be rooted in your love for the game, Laput relays, “The lesson I learned from La Salle that I still use in my career is just to have fun and not to overthink everything. At the end of the day, we started playing this game because we love it…Basketball opens doors. It’s a blessing. But it’s not the end of the world if something bad happens on the court. Learn from it. Forget about it and try to become a better player.” 

Only time will tell if these young and promising players adjust well to the PBA’s challenges. For now, they are starting their journey by competing among the country’s top professional basketball players—and that alone is a major achievement. The sky is the limit for them, no matter what kind of success they can achieve throughout their careers.

By Dayne Aduna

By Miguel Robles

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