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The rise of Kristine Cayabyab

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About a month ago, in a scrimmage which featured Indiana Pacers star Paul George, 12-year-old Kristine Cayabyab shone after stealing the leather off George’s hands and finishing a layup in transition.

If you’d ask her a year ago if she envisioned any of this to happen, her answer would be no.

She played the center position back in her hometown of Dagupan City where she represents her region in the Palarong Pambansa.

But when she found out about Nike Rise, she endured everything to make the initial cut, including skipping classes and being away from her family members.

Being among the 24 athletes of Nike Rise, Cayabyab had to adjust and play the backcourt position, and she slowly blended well with the help of formal training and learning under the tutelage of Nike Rise’s coaches.

On Thursday, Cayabyab was named part of the Rise Final 12 during Nike’s exhibition game at the Mall of Asia Arena.

People can already see the difference Cayabyab has made in a span of months when she suited up in the game which also featured Nike athletes like Chris Ellis, Cliff Hodge, Chris Newsome, Jeff Chan, and Thirdy Ravena, among others.

Cayabyab ran up and down the floor pretty well, was able to put down the ball better than before, and was moving side to side with ease.

In the first half she did make some uncontested baskets inside, although struggled from the outside.

But during the halftime festivities, Cayabyab joined the three-point contest. She was not even part of the three original contestants but Chot Reyes asked the orgnanizers to let her compete at the last moment.

It was an opportunity she did not let go of, and in front of LeBron James who was intently watching from the sidelines, Cayabyab buried 15 triples out of a possible 25 and was backed by rabid chants from the packed MOA Arena crowd.

The scene became crazier in the second half when James finally decided to check in with only four minutes left in the exhibition match.

Cayabyab was on the floor during that time for Team Black; James happened to suit up for Team White, and at one point she and the NBA superstar crossed roads.

Perhaps impressed with the way Cayabyab performed, James decided to “defend” the young lady, drawing laughter and chants alike from the crowd.

Cayabyab and James were both smiling, then Cayabyab broke loose from the “defense” when she made a front cut and converted on a layup.

Struggling all night long, Cayabyab then hit a three and added a pull-up jumper in transition to her total, helping Team Black win the highlight-filled exhibition match, 100-86.

After the match, James approached Cayabyab, gave her a hug and a signed basketball as the Dagupan native left a lasting mark for the night.

She once again lived the dream, and took advantage of being on a once-in-a-lifetime stage.

Cayabyab has come a long way, and the possibilities are limitless.

Future Perlas?

First Filipina in the WNBA?

Play in the FIBA Women’s World Championship against the Maya Moores, Sancho Lyttles, Isil Albens, and Ana Dabovics?

Who knows what more can she achieve with the way she has taken the local scene by storm.

Cayabyab is only 12 years old, is raising the bar to a whole new level, and is helping her fellow athletes realize they can achieve dreams if they persevere, work hard, and rise beyond belief.

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