Over the past year, Gab Banal has won two Most Valuable Player plums and a championship. On top of that, he has represented the country in numerous international tournaments — including FIBA-sanctioned events.
But he is not in the Philippine Basketball Association and no, he is not part of Gilas Pilipinas.
The two MVP trophies he was crowned with came from the PBA D-League and the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League. He was also tapped by Philippine-based clubs that competed in the FIBA 3X3 Challenger, the Asia League, and the William Jones Cup.
“Parang sundalo eh, whenever you’re needed, no doubt, ‘Let’s go and represent!'”
Banal himself was drafted in the big league as the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 PBA Rookie Draft by the then-GlobalPort Batang Pier.
Though achieving his dream, he was not fulfilled.
“I’ve been in the league. And ang importante sa tao, ang importante sa player ay kung saan siya masaya eh. Why would you be in the PBA if you’re not happy,” shared Banal, who floundered on the bench of GlobalPort for two years before deciding to carve his own niche.
“PBA ka nga pero di ka masaya.”
Based on league records, Banal only got to play four games in the PBA from 2015 to 2017.
The now-28-year-old has played for numerous teams and leagues over the past two years.
In 2018, he was part of Marinerong Pilipino and Go for Gold in the D-League, the Bacoor Strikers in the MPBL, the IECO Green Warriors in the Asia League, and Manila Gilas during the FIBA 3X3 Shanghai Challenger.
And just last week he had to juggle three practices as he was tapped by Isabela City Chooks for the Haining Challenger and Mighty Sports for the Jones Cup while still playing for Bacoor.
“Just two weeks ago, I was practicing thrice a day for 3×3, for MPBL and for Jones Cup,” shared Banal.
“It’s draining but I just have to recover my body well because I’ve done that before when I was playing 3×3, D-League, MPBL and the league in Macau, the Asia League. I was doing four practices a day, so I guess I got used to it and I know how to approach it already,” the second-generation cager continued.
“I just have to recover my body well. But as you can see, I felt it last MPBL game. I was tired because I had shootaround for Mighty in the morning then I went to the game.”
Unlike players in the big league, players like Banal can juggle numerous teams and play in numerous leagues as they please.
It might be physically-taxing but the experience and lessons Banal has gained is something that he could gain if he was still in the PBA.
“I’m happy where I am. I get to travel and represent the country for different tournaments, different leagues, different teammates, different imports, so the experience that I get is very rich that I can’t replace.”
Though he knows that he can keep up with the big boys of the PBA, Banal found one thing that he could not find during his three-year stay in the pros — his happiness.
And that is the advice he is giving to the next generation of Filipino cagers. Even if you can’t make the cut for the 12 teams in the PBA, you can still achieve your dreams.
“For me, to the players out there, to the young kids aspiring to be in the PBA, just be happy where you are kasi standard yung PBA pero if you’re happy playing internationally and other leagues, then why not?”
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