This year’s Jr. NBA Philippines National Training Camp participants are a lucky bunch. They’ll be learning from two established floor leaders from the NBA and the WNBA. Rookie Collin Sexton and the legendary Ticha Penicheiro are in town to inspire the young campers.
Collin just finished his first year in the league with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But just because he’s only been in the league for a year, doesn’t mean he won’t have any lessons to impart to the ballers. Sexton has been playing ball since he was the same age as the participants in the Training Camp. He was even selected to be part of the Team USA U17 team that competed in the 2016 FIBA World Championship.
He shared that when he was 14 years old, there was the temptation to compare himself to players that are the same age. But instead of focusing on his contemporaries, he poured in all the effort into his own game.
“You don’t have to worry about somebody else whose in front of you. You got to just keep working, each and every day. Don’t worry about the fame or anything like that. Just because some of those guys that are pretty much better than you right now, they may not be five, six years from now. You have to just working each and every day and don’t worry about anything else,” Collin says.
“Just be patient. When you’re being patient, great things come to those who wait.”
Ticha echoes Collin’s sentiment about working hard every day. That’s how she reached great heights in her time in the WNBA.
She was one of the most entertaining players to watch, whipping fancy passes all over the court. Ticha was the assist leader seven times in her 12-year career. She won one championship, was named to the WNBA First Team twice and was part of the All-Star Team four times.
She explained that keeping the fire burning inside is an important part of a player’s growth.
“If you really want to be good at something, you have to have a passion for it, and then a desire to get better everyday. So just take baby steps and just make sure that you were better today than you were yesterday. And work hard. There’s no real secret ingredient to be great. The most important thing is to work hard everyday.”
“I think you have to truly love the game. To want to be great, to really respect it, to get in the gym,” she adds.
For Ticha, she’s more excited to impart the lessons from her years of experience with the female ballers in the Camp.
“I like when a girl beats a boy in any sport, in anything, because that used to be me. The boys didn’t think I could play until I was able to show them that I could actually beat you. I just needed the opportunity,” she said proudly.
“I truly love the game. It was love at first sight, the first time I touched a basketball. In order to be great you really have to love what you do and really want to be better. That’s my advice to the young women of the Philippines.”
As for Collin, he’s already seen up close a product of the Jr. NBA Philippines. He’s had the chance to work out several times with Kai Sotto. The seven-foot Jr. NBA alum is currently training in US, working hard to make his NBA dream come true.
“With Kai, he’s just good. You can see when a player is just good, they have it. He listens. He tells me what he sees when we work together. He’s going to be good, for sure,” he shares.
When asked about Kai’s NBA future, Collin exuded optimism.
“I feel like he can make it. He’s seven-foot, he can shoot it. So we just keep working out together. He’s been getting a lot better. When he comes back, you’ll all see.”
Both Ticha and Collin believe that the Jr. NBA program is a great opportunity for young ballers to take their games to the next level. They’re excited for the next few days, ready to teach the next batch of NBA and WNBA aspirants.
“It’s huge. 2019, we’ve been preaching this for a while, asking for equal oppotunities and this is a league where it’s really the same for men and women, for little girls and little boys. So I’m all for equality, I’m all for women empowerment,” says Ticha.
“I know that if I have encouraging words or just take my time [with the Jr. NBA participants] it’s going to go a long way,” explains Collin.
“Just me being here, they could have chosen a million other players, but they chose me to be here. I’m very thankful for that. I know it’s going to be a great week.”