Ballin’ in the Bronx with teen cagers from the East CoastBy Aimee Ulep
On Saturday, June 18, the World Basketball Ambassadors Club (WBAC) hosted its inaugural International Showcase tournament at St. Raymond’s Gym in the Bronx to promote global acceptance of cultures through basketball.
Six countries — Philippines, Panama, Dominican Republic, China, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica — were invited to bring teams to compete for the event. The players were supposed to be 18 years old and under. Team Philippines was set to play against Team Panama. Event organizers chose representatives for each team, who were given the responsibility to bring promising athletes.
After careful selection, Coach Simeon “Bong” Ulep, co-founder of Filipino-American Sports of Ocean County, New Jersey (FASOCNJ), reached out to various Filipino American organizations for players to represent Team Philippines.
Looking at Team Philippines vs Team Panama, one could easily see the height difference. However, Team Philippines was not intimidated. Although lacking in height, they made up for the difference with hustle and intensity. Both teams played an even first half, leaving for halftime tied at 50-50.
Adjusting to the game, the Philippines players exhibited versatility by implementing new defensive strategies. This ultimately helped them gain the momentum leading to an upset victory over Panama, 125 to 111. Both teams played a competitive game and displayed great sportsmanship.
The event was a unique opportunity for Filipino Americans to represent the Philippines and their ‘kababayan.’ Basketball is important sports for Filipinos, who love the fast pace and find it entertaining.
Countless FilAm basketball groups across America compete against each other in tournaments. In the midst of competition, it is easily forgotten we are all united. By players embracing their nationality, camaraderie is formed without false intentions and individual recognition.
After the game, Jordan Bartlett, leading scorer of the day with 47 points, commented, “The WBAC was one of the best experiences I’ve had playing Filipino basketball. Not only was I able to compete with players from all over the globe, but we were able to bring together a group of select athletes that have never played together to showcase our talents. The event was well-organized and it was even cooler playing in front of former NBA stars. It’s always a great experience when you are blessed enough to represent your country!”
With this mindset, the future of Filipino American youth is looking bright in keeping the Pinoy pride alive here in Americas.
The Filipino-American Sports of Ocean County, New Jersey is a non-profit sports organization founded in 2005. It serves to foster the development of Filipino American youth athletes in Ocean County who aspire to develop their personalities on and off the basketball court.
Their coach, Bong Ulep, was born and raised in Kalinga province in the Philippines. Before moving to New Jersey, he attended undergraduate and medical school at St. Louis University School in Baguio City. There, he played both varsity and intramural basketball. Bong is the co-founder FASOCNJ. He and his wife Shirley, a pediatrician, have six children.
Visit FASOCNJ on Facebook.