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Leap of faith: Kayla-Marie Tiangco-Williams finding her home in the Philippines

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When Kayla-Marie Tiangco-Williams told her grandparents about her desire to travel to the Philippines, they were hesitant at first.

“My lolo was nervous when I first told them I am going to fly all the way to the Philippines, and he was a bit apprehensive,” Tiangco-Williams, who has family ties in Pampanga, said.

An outside hitter, Tiangco-Williams was a star in the United States. Having played for Grambling State University, an NCAA Division I school, Tiangco-Williams was a standout. She played for four years before coaching indoor volleyball, while pursuing a Masters Degree in Sports Administration.

The 5-foot-10 Fil-Jamaican spiker based in Toronto, Canada also played for club teams in Latvia, Bahamas, Russia, and received an invite to play for the Jamaican National Volleyball Team.

Tiangco-Williams is already enjoying a great volleyball career, and could have just settled overseas, but decided to move to the Philippines after realizing how massive the sport is in the archipelago.

“When they knew I was going to be in good hands, they were very supportive of their grand daughter,” she shared. “It was a leap of faith. I was always asking for guidance. I have never been in the Philippines prior to this, but knowing that the game volleyball was growing so heavily, and I am half-Filipina, I said why not. I just figured everything was lining up perfectly, and things are falling into places. So when the opportunity came, I just said I am going for it.”

After convincing her grandparents it was something she “always wanted to do,” Tiangco-Williams finally embarked on a journey that would take her to the Philippines.

Tiangco-Williams describes her first month in the country like a student’s freshman year in college where she is in a getting-to-know stage and getting accustomed to the community. She was elated to see the turnout Filipinos have for the sport, whether indoor or beach.

“It’s been great so far. I was super excited to come here. It kind of feels like a dream come true because it doesn’t even feel real yet. I am just humbled and fortunate to be here. I am also focused on training for the PSL Grand Prix,” she said.

Williams competed in the Cagayan Friendship Games last month, and led Tuguegarao-Foton to the championship. She stays with Charo Soriano, whom she met along the way, and when not busy, Tiangco-Williams spends time with other volleyball players she has met. Sometimes, she even watches the PBA with her fellow Fil-foreigners.

From Alexa Micek's Twitter: Tiangco-Williams and Micek with Mo Tautuaa watching Justin Melton's PBA game

From Alexa Micek’s Twitter: Williams and Micek with Mo Tautuaa watching Justin Melton’s PBA game

Now preparing for the Grand Prix conference of the Philippine Super Liga, Tiangco-Williams says her immediate goal is just to be a team player who can help the team become a contender.

“It is huge. I love the energy the Filipino people have for volleyball. A lot of doors have been opening for me in 2015, and I am looking forward to play for the PSL. My no. 1 goal right now is to train hard and bring positive impact to my team. I am all about the team effort, and how my team can compete for a championship,” she shared.

Big dreams outside of volleyballKayla Tiongco-Williams

Aside from volleyball, Tiangco-Williams also has an impressive background in Broadcast Journalism. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication in 2010, before working as a television reporter and radio host in Atlanta, Georgia. She also covered Atlanta Hawks basketball.

With such background and technical know-how as an athlete, Tiangco-Williams says one of her goals as well is to “break into the broadcasting scene” here.

“Hopefully, I bring my experience and talent from North America and see if I can do both. Play volleyball and report. I love the basketball here already too,” she said.

“I am excited to see what the next season of the PBA will entail. I am excited to see if I can possibly do reporting about volleyball and basketball. If I am asked to do analyzing for volleyball, at least it comes naturally and being a basketball fan for many years and having played it in my teenage years, I know the game pretty well.”

Right now, Tiangco-Williams is just enjoying the ride, which wouldn’t have been possible if she didn’t go for a “leap of faith.”

She looks forward to finding a niche in the Philippines where she can feel she belongs, and in the next few years, find a volleyball home.

“I love the game so much. If I can find a home here where I can really establish myself as a player and help teams build a championship foundation, and where I feel comfortable and people welcome me, I would love to stay.”

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2 Comments
  • MIKA & ME

    Giving you a warm welcome Kayla girl.

  • Jason Paul Monlinong

    Her leap-of-faith paid off! Good for her! Congratulations Kayla!

Basketball

Gilas still sticking with Andray Blatche, says team manager Butch Antonio

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It will still be Andray Blatche

Gilas Pilipinas team manager Butch Antonio made it clear that naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche will be back for the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in February.

Blatche has yet to attend Gilas practices due to his commitment with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association, but Antonio said that they have already reached out to the said league for his temporary release.

“We have already made communication. We sent a letter already,” said the executive after Gilas’ practice Monday. “Kasi that’s the protocol now eh… You have to write a letter to the team through the CBA and you will just have to wait for their reply.”

It is still uncertain if and when the Flying Tigers will lend the naturalized center to Gilas, who will face Australia and Japan on February 22 and 25, respectively. But Antonio is confident that the ball club will let the former NBA cager go.

“More ofte

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Jong Uichico calls for pool players to be complete as Gilas brace for Aussies

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Cause for concern?

In their second session for the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, only nine of the 15 Gilas pool players actively participated.

June Mar Fajardo, Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Troy Rosario, Jiovani Jalalon, Carl Cruz, Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi, and Japeth Aguilar were in uniform while Roger Pogoy watched on the sidelines. Jayson Castro and Mac Belo were not present while Calvin Abueva and Raymond Almazan have yet to attend a session. 23 for 2023 cadets CJ Perez and Abu Tratter were called to duty to give the team added bodies.

The session ended earlier than usual, only practicing for around 45 minutes.

“Light lang naman. Some players had games last night,” said assistant coach Uichico, who together with Josh Reyes handled the night’s session. “Light lang pero we emphasized on some things in today’s practice, it’s more mental and a little bit of execution. “

With Gilas’ game against the 10th ranked Australia just 34 days away, Uichico expressed his concern that the Nationals won’t be as cohesive as they want it to be.

“It’s always a concern naman. We prefer once a week na lang naman, di pa tayo makumpleto,” expressed Uichico,

“We prefer really na makumpleto whether they practice or not, at least nandyan sila nanonood kung anong nangyayari.

“So mas mabilis yung pagtuto, especially if we put something new, at least nakikita nila kahit hindi nila naeexecute. We prefer and it’s really mandatory na nandito sila every Monday,” the mentor of the 2017 SEA Games team furthered.

Due to this, the staff of the team has yet to formulate a gameplan for the Aussies. A win against either the Boomers or Japan will automatically qualify Gilas to the next stage of the qualifiers.

“I don’t know. Our first plan is to practice everyday and then see if we can get the team complete as soon as possible.”

But as Gilas has proven time and time again, the multi-time PBA champion coach believes that they will overcome once more.

“There’s always challenges naman, especially the situation that we’re in. The PBA’s ongoing and we try to practice,” the soft-spoken tactician shared.

“There will always be challenges but every problem or challenge can be solved naman.”

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Willie Marcial hints at possibility of PBA lending unlimited players to Gilas

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Current PBA officer-in-charge Willie Marcial was a surprise spectator Monday night at the Meralco Gym, as Gilas Pilipinas resumed its’ preparations for the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“Sabi ko sa kanila, hindi ako bisita.

“Magkakasama tayo nung araw pa,” quipped the amiable official.

Marcial’s visit speaks volumes of the PBA’s commitment to the Gilas program even if the pro league is in the midst of recovering from a lengthy impasse late in 2017, where a power struggle in the PBA’s board room took place.

“Ang PBA 100 percent susuportahan yung Gilas. Maniwala kayo. Talagang all out ang PBA diyan,” said the league’s former media bureau chief.

And coming along with that all-out support he had affirmed is the possibility of abolishing the one-player-per-team rule in loaning players to the National Team. That ruling has seemingly limited Gilas in building the best team possible.

“Baka magulat kayo biglang mag-propose sila wala nang limit ang players ‘pag kumuha. Puwedeng mangyari yun.”

When asked if he will be a regular fixture in Gilas practices in the coming weeks, Marcial said that it would be strongly possible, barring any meetings in the league’s office that require his full attention.

“Nako, sinabi ko sa kanila pipilitin ko every Monday nandito ako,” said Marcial, a favorite to become the next PBA commissioner. “Pupunta ako rito every Monday, basta wala lang mga meeting talagang pupuntahan ko sila.

“Tingnan niyo, masaya kami, parang magkakabarkada diba? Sabi ko sa kanila walang problema.”

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June Mar Fajardo returns to Gilas practice

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With just 37 days left before the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, four-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo suited up during the second session of SMART Gilas Pilipinas.

Fajardo was absent during the team’s first practice as he battled the classic case of a flu.

Joining Fajardo were Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Troy Rosario, Jiovani Jalalon, Carl Cruz, Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi, and Japeth Aguilar. Roger Pogoy was also in attendance, but was in street clothes.

Not present were Mac Belo and Jayson Castro. Calvin Abueva and Raymond Almazan were also absent for the second straight week.

For the 23 for 2023 cadets, only two were invited for the night’s session.

Reigning NCAA Seniors Basketball MVP CJ Perez was present together with Marinerong Pilipino big man Abu Tratter.

The practice was supervised by assistant coaches Jong Uichico and Josh Reyes. Coach Chot Reyes is currently in Japan.

The PBA’s officer-in-charge Willie Marcial watched on the sidelines.

The Philippines will face Australia at the Margaret Court Arena on February 22. Three days later, the country will host Japan at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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