Jayson Montes was the earliest to arrive at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong for the PBA Season 47 Draft Combine, Wednesday.
“Nauna pa ako sa mga nagaayos ng tarp,” quipped the aspirant.
“Galing pa akong Cavite. Inagahan ko na para iwas traffic, iwas hassle.”
But it wasn’t really the proximity woes that made him get up so early. To play in Asia’s first pro league has always been a dream of his, and to take part in the two-day pre-draft activity is an opportunity he’ll cherish for the rest of his life.
“This is my childhood dream,” said Montes.
“Sa basketball career ko, this is the highest level, this stage na naabutan ko.”
With his clean-shaven head on a stocky 5-foot-9 build, the Opol, Misamis Oriental-born cager was quite noticeable among the 57 hopefuls. But he’s fully aware, too, that it would take a lot for him to be taken a look at by scouts.
Montes is the oldest applicant at 34. And, it has been a while since he last played competitively. He suited up for Emilio Aguinaldo College-Cavite from 2008-11 and played in leagues such as the UCAA, NCRAA, and Fr. Martin.
He could have tried his luck in the pros upon his graduation, but an opportunity to make a living elsewhere came up, and chose it immediately. He left for Saudi Arabia in 2013 and worked there as a waiter.
“After college, pagka-graduate, ‘yun ang best opportunity na dumating sa akin,” recalled Montes. “So. ginrab ko lang.”
He went back home in 2020 and married his girlfriend, and later celebrated the birth of baby daughter Kianna Gail — milestones that make Montes feel immensely blessed amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
And those are exactly the reasons behind the pursuit of reviving his aspirations of making it to Asia’s first pay-for-play league.
“Family,” said Montes. “I want to inspire, especially ‘yung anak ko, si Kianna Gail. Noong dumating siya sa life namin, ‘yung motivation ko, andun.”
Montes gamely took part in all the drills and tests for applicants, although he admitted that it wasn’t easy especially going up against much younger hoopers badly wanting to make an impression as well.
“Iba ‘yung level. Akala mo na kundisyon ang katawan mo, pagdating mo dito, iba na compared sa kanila, [pati] sa height, sa build,” he confessed.
Still, it doesn’t demotivate Montes, for he always brings him with the never-give-up mantra — the same message he wants to tell others who dare to dream.
“At my age of thirty-four, sinubukan ko magpa-draft. Just never give up on your dreams,” said Montes, who idolizes Mark Caguioa.
“Stay motivated all day, you never give up in life. Whatever happens, never give up.”