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How Filipino-flavored Hoops Reached Western Sydney

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Members of the Western Sydney Basketball Association Amigos raised their fists, and began celebrating after Vergel Alcantara — who once played for the Hoop Dreams-Australia side, which battled Powerade Pilipinas in 2009 — converted on a reverse lay-up that put WSBA ahead over the Perth Sharks, 57-55 in the final 15 seconds of the contest.

WSBA followed the possession with a defensive stop to prevent Perth from attempting a shot; time expired, and the Amigos stormed the centercourt of San Juan Arena immediately as they finally booked a win after four matches in the Philippines-Australia Goodwill Basketball Invitational, an event organized by Sports Vision and supported by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.

The atmosphere inside the WSBA dugout was electric; the players were ecstatic. On one corner was a whiteboard with the words “Best Fil-Aus team?” and “Bragging rights!” written below the team’s game plan and key points for the afternoon.

Down by nine points, 31-40 entering the halftime break, WSBA seemed leaning on “puso,” fighting back in the second half to steal the game. With a handful of Filipino-Australians on the roster, it was only fitting the selection from Western Sydney was able to book a win in stunning fashion.

A 1-3 record wasn’t really something to brag about, but for the team, which traveled several miles to get here, it was something to be proud of, as it validated the team’s passion for basketball.

After all, members of the squad started from scratch a year ago, and had to learn the ropes before finally being able to come together as one.

The team’s mentor Cromwell Alvarez, 34, was from San Andres, Manila, although moved to Australia when he was nine years old. Juggling time between being an IT manager and a hoops enthusiast, Alvarez decided to organize his fellow basketball junkies in Blacktown, Western Sydney.

“It’s my passion. Every Saturday and Sunday we play games, and that’s how it started,” Alvarez said.

Unlike in the Philippines where basketball is king, Alvarez revealed that hoops maybe the sixth or seventh most popular sport in the area, and not many people are knowledgeable about it.

Players who wish to play lack the fundamentals or basic skills, and have to undergo the many phases of training before becoming competitive, a stark contrast to prospects in the Philippines, which seem to possess the natural ability to play basketball since childhood, because of all the exposure and how integrated it is to the culture.

This pushed Alvarez to form the WSBA, trying to inculcate basketball knowledge and basics to people from the area. Prior to having a big league, Alvarez relayed that the association started with groups playing a series of pick-up games.

It slowly garnered attention, and not long after, organized basketball games were played. It is now a community-based sports league giving men and women from different parts of the globe, including a handful of Filipinos, the opportunity to play hoops.

With eight divisions and over 60 teams, ranging from semi-pros (Division I) to developmental teams (Division 8), the WSBA has given aspiring basketball stars new hope. Having started the training ground, Alvarez hopes the league continues to gro and for members to receive breaks in the world of hoops.

“I feel happy, and hopefully it gets bigger and gets more recognized because there are players there that should compete here. Mga Filipino talaga, or yung mga bata namin sana makakuha ng scholarship,” Alvarez shared.

One of the association’s goals is to also build camaraderie with the Filipino basketball population. Alvarez wishes there would be more invitational tournaments to strengthen the partnership between the Asia-Pacific countries, and for them to also learn more about how the Filipinos play.

“The Filipinos play physical. Execution is good. They are athletic, quick, and long. We’ve got a lot to learn, and that’s why we are here. I want the WSBA to grow and have a connection here,” Alvarez added.

After sharing his thoughts, Alvarez and some members chose to stay to witness the National University-Arellano University affair.

There were many points to learn and a long way to go to make the WSBA even better, but with the passion of a Filipino baller, there is nothing holding Alvarez back from achieving such dream.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times How Filipino-flavored Hoops Reached Western Sydney

Photo by JOBOY FLORES

“I just want to bring the basketball community (in Western Sydney) back up.”

 Cover Photo by Cleo Diana

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