Isaiah Austin arrived approximately 40 minutes into the send-off for Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas Tuesday afternoon held in Pasig City. He had just come from the Chinese Embassy in Makati.
With two days remaining before the 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup tips off in Chenzhou, China, all but two players have yet to receive their visa for the nine-day meet. Those two players are the team’s reinforcements are American Isaiah Austin and Congolese Rodrigue Ebondo — two players who will serve as anchors for the hastily-formed club team.
And the 23-year-old could not hide his frustration after his visa was once again rejected by the embassy Tuesday morning.
“I get emotional because it really is tough,” said Austin, who arrived in Manila last September 2.
“I’m really, really happy when I play basketball because this game brings me so much joy.”
During the seven days he has been practicing with Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas, he has grown a fondness to his teammates and to the country. Moreover, the 7-foot-1 native of Fresno, California has repeatedly expressed his genuine desire to be part of the Gilas program after seeing first-hand how the Filipino people have embraced him and his story.
“It’s just something that’s gonna be in me for the rest of my life,” Austin shared about his experience so far.
“I cherish every second that I get to play this game, just because of the fact that I’ve experience basketball being taken away from me. That’s something that hurt me and brought me a lot of despair in my life.
“At the same time, it helped me grow into the man I am today. I get very emotional when I talk about it because at the end of the day, I’m not supposed to be here but with God’s gracious hands, here I stand,” he furthered.
According to team officials, if they have yet to receive Austin’s visa by Wednesday morning, he will have to fly to Hong Kong and try to apply for his visa there. If it does not pan out, he’ll go back to Los Angeles and apply for one in his native country before flying to China.
Still, Austin is not giving up, continuing to hope that in some way his visa will be granted before Friday.
“I go out and I play hard so that’s what I’m gonna do,” he said.
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