Forty-seven players trooped to the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong last week.
One of the hopefuls was a familiar face not seen by collegiate basketball hopefuls for the last three years: former Adamson Soaring Falcon Ryan Monteclaro.
“Sabi ko, why not end my career with how I started it,” shared Monteclaro, the first-ever Batang PBA Most Valuable Player.
But it took a long time before he could reach this point, let alone overcome his fears.
Monteclaro’s collegiate career was a roller-coaster ride, to say the least.
Teased as the next Terrence Romeo due to his boyish looks, the 5-foot-7 guard from Butuan City would always have stellar pre-season campaigns. But all the hype would not be justified during the big games itself.
However, it was beyond his control.
“Unfortunate events yung mga nangyari sa akin.
“During my third year, my mom passed away,” recalled Monteclaro. “Life-changing yun. Hindi naman ako naging bread-winner, pero sobrang hirap. Myself, the community, and sila coach Leo expected na magkakaroon ako ng breakout season.”
He ended up averaging just 1.9 points, 2.1 assists, and 1.6 rebounds during that year – down from his norms during his sophomore year.
In his fourth year, Monteclaro was named the team captain of the Soaring Falcons. But again, disaster struck – this time in a form of an injury.
“Season Seventy-seven, one week before the season, hamstring injury naman,” he lamented.
Moreover, he played with a heavy heart during that season as his father, Resty, had passed away before the season began.
“When my dad passed away, I needed to find a way to move on with what happened. A year before that my mom passed away,” shared Monteclaro.
“I had to move on.”
Fresh off college, Monteclaro needed to find a way to leave all this behind and start anew. And an opportunity came by in a foreign place, Vietnam.
“I decided to take an alternate route by working abroad. Through Coach Eric Altamirano and Anton, nagka-opportunity ako to work,” he shared.
“For three months, dapat I was supposed to work sa Vietnam. After three months, nagustuhan nila kaming mga players kaya they gave us another three-month extension. After nun, naging one year.”
Following his stint in Vietnam, Monteclaro decided that it was time to come back home and find the next level.
Another door opened, however – an offer no one in their right mind would refuse.
“I was planning to join the draft last year, but another opportunity came from the same company. Similar to athletic director yung work ko dun,” said Monteclaro, who is working for Saigon Sports Academy, the mother company of ABL club team Saigon Heat.
“Pero I can’t wait for another draft, kaya nag-decide ako to join this draft.”
Needing to catch a break, Monteclaro decided to come home for a vacation.
In a reunion with fellow Falcons – which included pros Rodney Brondial, Don Trollano, and Jericho Cruz – he was once again able to find the fire that made him pursue this sport two decades ago.
“Unfortunate events yung mga nangyari sa akin. My dad passed away tapos nagka-injury pa ako. All of a sudden bumalik ako dito. I talked to my friends like Rodney Brondial. By talking to them, nahanap ko yung love ko for the game,” he disclosed.
“Nandun pa rin siya nun. Pero sa stage na ito, gusto ko makita kung nasan ako eh. Before this, ang daming nag-contact sa akin from D-League and MPBL, but I had to turn them down,” he added.
“This time around, hindi na puwede.”
Come Draft night, a familiar face and someone close to his heart selected him.
For the ninth pick in the third round, Leo Austria and the San Miguel Beermen selected Monteclaro.
“Nung nakita ko siya, na-surprise ako nung Draft Combine. Alam ng lahat na player ko siya sa Adamson. Pero walang pumipick up sa kanya kanina. Eh di binigyan ko siya at yung team namin ng opportunity na umakyat sa stage,” shared Austria, who coached Monteclaro in Adamson.
“Ako na kumuha.”
Given what had happened to Monteclaro during his collegiate years and how he was able to move forward, Austria could not help but be proud of his ward, whom he treats as his son.
“After losing yung parents niya, bumangon siya eh. Nagkaroon siya ng vision. Na-surprise ako sa mga posts niya na nasa Vietnam siya at nasa Paris siya,” the decorated tactician admitted.
“Sobrang saya ko tuwing nakikita ko yun kasi parang anak ko na siya.”
At the end of the day, Monteclaro has no regrets with the track he has chosen. Whether he gets signed by the Beermen or returns to his lucrative job in Vietnam, at least he can tell himself that he was able to fulfill his promise to his parents.
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