It was easy to hesitate at that moment.
It was 2018 when tryouts were opened for the upcoming FIBA Asia U18 tournament. This incoming batch of Batang Gilas players already looked like a special bunch. Aside from wunderkind Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, Dalph Panopio, and Dave Ildefonso were intriguing prospects to look at as well with its pool of players. For the fan, this was a dream come true. For the basketball player, however, this meant the road to grabbing a spot in the youth team became even tougher.
“Nung una, natatakot,” said FEU Baby Tamaraw Xyrus Torres when tryouts came about. Xyrus wasn’t someone who you would have thought about as a potential U18 prospect. For one, he was overshadowed by more ballyhooed teammates RJ Abarrientos and LJay Gonzales. The second reason was, he had his limits as a basketball player.
Ever since Season 78, Xyrus was known for one thing, and one thing only: his three-point shooting. It wasn’t necessarily because he made a lot. His notoriety from beyond the arc was regarding the volume of shots that he took.
“Alam niya na puro sa three points ako,” said Xyrus regarding what Coach Allan Albano thought about him. Even his teammates knew about this reputation Xyrus had as a basketball player.
“Xy, puro ka three points! Wala ka na bang kayang gawin?” asked RJ at times when practicing with Xyrus.
Being known as just a three-point shooter can often lead to undesirable results for the player. He could only get spot minutes since his skillset is limited. A successful career in the next level may also be more diffuclt. Coach Allan had all the reasons to not use Xyrus.
Instead, Coach Allan opted to put trust in his player. “Sinuportahan niya rin ako noong start pa lang,” mentioned Xyrus. “Pinush niya ako.. yung pagiging three point (shooter) ko. Inimprove ko lang yun.”
Trust goes a long way. Aside from giving someone confidence in doing one thing, he’s also given the power to go beyond his limits and learn new things. That’s exactly what happened to Xyrus because of Coach Allan’s trust.
“Iniba ko naman yung strategy ko para may pangcounter naman ako,” said Xyrus. It was evident as he journeyed through high school. He’d still take a ton of three-pointers. But even more important was how he slowly developed a driving game, and his defense took a leap as well. “Kailangan mo ipush eh,” said RJ about how Xyrus grew. He did get that push, from his coaches, his teammates, and ultimately, himself. While his confidence grew, his game followed suit. Now, he had the opportunity to see the fruits of his hard work.
It was a tough pool, even beyond Kai, AJ, Dalph, and Dave. The chances of him making the lineup was slim. But Xyrus wasn’t allowing this to stop him from shooting his shot. With zero hesitation, he knew he wanted to fulfill a childhood dream.
“Pero gusto ko rin yun eh,” said Xyrus. “Pangarap ko rin marepresent yung Pilipinas.”
He took his shot, and thankfully, he went in. Xyrus was set to be a member of Batang Gilas, alongside the biggest names in his age group. It was a dream come true for him, but he knew he couldn’t stop at simply making the lineup. He took his game to another level, proving he belonged in the team, adding solid defense to his skill set.
“Focus ka lang sa depensa,” Coach Josh Reyes would tell him during the U18 tournament. “Kahit ilang beses ka tumira sa three points, walang problema sa akin, basta wag ka magkakamali sa depensa.”
Xyrus is set to start his next chapter soon, as he makes the leap from High School prospect to collegiate basketball player. It’s a scary place, as the unfamiliar beckons once again. But that’s been the story of Xyrus’ life, ever since he started his UAAP career as a Baby Tamaraw. No point in hesitating anymore. He will continue to shoot his shot. No hesitations.
The SLAM Rising Stars Classic will be held on March 31, 7PM to 9PM, at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong. The game will be aired on ABS-CBN Sports via livestream.