When the AMA Online Education Titans announced Owen Graham as the first overall pick in the 2017 PBA D-League Draft, many quickly went to Google to search who the Filipino-Canadian was. However, there were only a few articles to be found about his past exploits.
This was in stark contrast to their draft haul a year ago, which was headlined by heralded Jeron Teng. And that’s just the way the Filipino-Canadian likes it.
“With hard work and dedication, I’m pretty confident that you’re gonna hear more about me,” the 25-year-old shared.
“Maybe not now, not later, but someday you’ll hear more from me because I believe hard work pays off.”
Even with a class that includes the likes of local collegiate stalwarts Alvin Pasaol and Arvin Tolentino, the staff of head coach Mark Herrera decided that’s it was better to stick something familiar rather than risk getting spurned after one conference, like what happened a season ago.
“Rookie siya sa D-League pero he played for me sa NAASCU na, sa Fr. Martin and NCRAA, so medyo marunong na ‘yung bata,” said Herrera.
“Pretty much, I heard there are tryouts and I just decided to stop by. I just asked to play with them,” recalled Graham, who decided to take the risk of coming back home to the Philippines in 2016.
“They gave me a shot and I just showcased my abilities after that.”
The 6-foot-4 swingman almost did not get a chance to fulfill his dreams of playing basketball.
Back when he was in college in Toronto, Canada, he — together with close friends Norbert Torres and James Forrester — had been recruited by schools such as De La Salle University. However, he had to fulfill a promise to his mother first: he needed to get his college degree before he could pursue his hoop dreams.
“I’m a late bloomer. I started to take the game serious when I was 20,” shared Graham, who is also close to Matthew Wright and LA Revilla. “When I was younger, they told me to come here, but I had to fulfill my moms dream which is finishing school in Toronto.
“Now I’m fulfilling my dream.”
Graham hopes to achieve the same success that his friends are experiencing in the pros. But it’s a good thing he knows that the journey will be long and tedious. And more importantly, he knows that nothing comes easy here in the Philippines.
“They told me nothing comes easy so I got to come in with a chip on my shoulder, stay hungry, stay humble. That’s just my way,” he said. “Nobody knows about me, I like it that way. It just give me a better chance to prove myself.
“You know I’m forever grateful for this opportunity. There’s always be pressure in everything you decide to do, but I’m just gonna stick to what I know which is do my best, work hard, dive for the ball, get dirty if I have to and hopefully, make an impact.”