Forthsky Padrigao is ready to drive past doubts about his game

When talking about Morey Ball, what many consider to be the system of the analytics centered generation, people immediately think of the three point shot. Three-points is greater than two, and shooting from beyond the three point line will stretch the floor for easier opportunities all around. Simple math.

Forthsky Padrigao fit that mold of a Morey Ball type of player. In the 2017 SEABA U16 tournament, he introduced himself as a young gun with limitless range. He was a player who bended defenses because of his shooting, and attracted so much attention to make life easier for his teammates.

But an often forgotten part of Morey Ball is the drive.

A basket from near the rim is incredibly efficient, essentially a sure two points whenever you get to that spot on the court. Forthsky, for all of his three-point wizardry often struggled with the drive. There were instances where this was seen in the SEABA tourney. In the 2018 FIBA Asia tournament, this was fully highlighted.

Forthsky did not have a pretty FIBA Asia tournament. He averaged just 5.2 points per game on 28.2 percent shooting from the field. Despite making it to the top 5 in assists (4.2), he was just ranked 68th in terms of efficiency. His shooting  was bad, but it was his decision-making that was questioned the most. Most people don’t know that his struggles was not because of poor basketball IQ but because of a lack of competition.

“Malaking bagay yung residency ko nun para sa akin,” said Forthsky. Because of his transfer from the Adamson Baby Falcons to the Ateneo Blue Eaglets, Padrigao was forced to sit out a year in the UAAP. He was still playing basketball through some tune-up games with Batang Gilas, but he didn’t have the same amount of reps his other teammates had. That meant his first tournament in over a year was the FIBA Asia tournament. He was immediately exposed to bigger and better competition after almost a year away from elite competition. Because of that his confidence took a hit.

“May mga times na nagddoubt ako sa sarili ko,” shared Padrigao. It wasn’t because of Coach Mike Oliver, since he gave Forthsky the green light to shoot. The rule for Coach Mike, after all, has always been, “Kung bukas, tira.” Forthsky often found himself open for shots. It’s just that every miss didn’t just hit rim. It also hit his confidence every time.

Forthsky knew he wasn’t playing like himself, but by the end of the tournament, it didn’t really matter. Batang Gilas had completed its mission of qualifying for the FIBA World Cup courtesy of its win versus Japan. Forthsky went home happy, being treated as a hero by those close to him.

But when he opened his phone after having it on hold during the duration of the FIBA Asia tournament, he was greeted by so much negativity by fans. He was a hero, but he was with his flaws. No longer was he the Steph Curry of the Philippines. He was SuKlay Thompson, perceived as someone who focused more on his hair rather than his game.

These criticisms were the least of Forthsky’s concerns. If anything, those comments awakened the demons inside Forthsky’s head even more. If critics bashed his games with a steel chair, Forthsky bashed his own game with a sledgehammer. He knew he played bad. He knew he could be better. That’s why when he was invited to the Basketball Without Borders Asia 2018 camp, he couldn’t help but be thrilled.

“Naexcite ako kasi bagong opportunity na naman,” said Forthsky. Take note of the wording: “opportunity”. If regular people like us were invited to such a camp, we’d treat it as a crowning moment for our careers. But Forthsky isn’t regular. He knew what this camp was for. It wasn’t a vacation, nor was it some grand opportunity for him to avenge his struggles in FIBA Asia. More than anything, it was a chance to become better. “Yung mindset ko para sa BWB is matuto ako ng mga bagong (bagay) na maaapply ko sa life ko and as a basketball player.”

That was precisely what happened during the camp, as Forthsky was exposed to training not just by various assistant coaches of NBA teams, but also by NBA players. Brooklyn Net Caris LeVert continued to push the idea of not allowing this camp to be the highlight of their careers. But the biggest lesson Forthsky got during the duration of the camp was this:

“Be comfortable in being uncomfortable.”

All year long, Forthsky’s experienced discomfort. From adjusting to life with basketball again after residency, to his struggles in the FIBA Asia tournament, and with getting lambasted on social media. Even throughout the BWB Camp, he experienced discomfort with the level of training he received from the NBA coaches and players. Through all this discomfort, Forthsy started to become comfortable playing elite level basketball again.

Over the course of the BWB Camp, Forthsky’s confidence started to grow. The coaches there encouraged Forthsky to just play his game. The same dazzling style that saw a little bit of Steph Curry in his game. Behind the back dribble there, 30 foot pull up with ease. It was the Forthsky Padrigao we all came to love, and his efforts eventually paind off when he was named to the 2018 BWB All-Star Game. That wasn’t his crowning glory either. Forthsky was named MVP of the BWB Asia Camp after showcasing his tremendous talent.

Forthsky did not expect to be awarded, but he wasn’t overjoyed by the development either. If anything, he was just happy that he got his confidence back after losing it over the course of the FIBA Asia tournament. This MVP award isn’t the be all end all of Forthsky’s career. If anything, it’s a stepping stone for greater things to come for the dazzling point guard.

“Bumalik yung SEABA days ko eh, kasi noong FIBA nga, yung struggles (ko),” said Forthsky.

When Forthsky came back to the country, he put up 26 points (9/15 FG, 6/12 3FG), six rebounds, five assists and four steals to help the Ateneo Blue Eaglets beat the EAC Brigadiers in a preseason tournament. The next game versus the Arellano Braves, he was less stellar, scoring just seven points (3/15 FG, 1/11 3FG), grabbing five rebounds and dishing out six assists.

The Arellano game may have given fans shades of his struggles in the FIBA Asia tournament, but those memories don’t matter for Forthsky anymore. He has his confidence back, and he’s ready to drive past doubt so he can move on to greater things ahead.

Photo from Basketball Without Borders