Emman Monfort has always been an unlikely proposition.
With his height—“5’6”…kapag may sapatos,” as he quips—he’s stood out, no pun intended, in every team he’s been a part of since college. His career could have easily been a novelty that was interesting in college but quickly petered off in the pros. But he’s still here. Eight years in the PBA since he was drafted in 2012, and now, he continues the journey as part of the coaching staff of the NLEX Road Warriors.
“I wanted to win a championship for NLEX. That dream hasn’t changed, just my role,” says Monfort. “I’ll do my best to help as a coach to make that dream come true.”
NLEX officially signed Monfort as a skills coach for the Road Warriors last month, but the 30-year-old athlete had already taken a step back from playing in 2019. Seeing Monfort’s experience with putting up basketball camps in his hometown of Iloilo, the organization had tapped him to lead programs in the northern provinces—a natural fit for Monfort, who enjoys teaching kids and seamlessly moves between coach and “kuya” roles to better help them. Now, he will be taking that leadership to the team that he’s called home since 2016.
“I’m just lucky enough to have a wonderful organization like NLEX as my family since the transition was smooth. The opportunity was already there, and this is what I’ve wanted to do—I always saw myself becoming a coach one day,” he shares. “I’m blessed because now I have the opportunity to learn how Coach Yeng shapes a team: how he treats players, staff, how he prepares people physically and mentally.”
As an underdog athlete, Monfort knows better than most that challenges are not fixed barriers, but merely obstacles to be overcome. That isn’t something you can quantify, but for an underdog team like NLEX, that intangible quality is key.
Monfort also looks to his favorite NBA coaches as inspiration. “Steve Kerr was also a player who transitioned to be a coach, and you can really see his teams enjoy playing under him,” he says. “I also admire Gregg Popovich. He demands that his players stick to his system. They’re so disciplined, even his opponents respect him.”
It isn’t lost on Monfort that he has outlasted taller players in the league. Two years ago, he told SLAM PH that he wants to inspire small kids—the shortest kids in basketball camps, the ones who may be picked last on teams, the ones who feel like they have something to prove.
“My biggest motivation as a PBA player is we should influence a lot of kids, and people in general, to believe na hindi porket maliit ka, you can never be successful. It’s not true,” he said at the time. “It’ll take a lot of smart work, a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of prayers, pero kaya.”
Today, Monfort can say that he’s held true to that principle. And he continues to hope that his journey can serve as motivation for others.
“Don’t be afraid to dream big,” he says. “My career hasn’t been smooth sailing. I was blessed to be given a shot in the PBA, but I’ve been injured, I’ve been put on reserve. But I just kept the faith and took it one day at a time. Enjoy the journey and the hard work you put in, don’t be afraid to seek help from others. And when the time comes, don’t be afraid to evolve.”