From goals to buckets: How LA Andres' decision to switch sports led him to Gilas
TEHRAN (Iran) - It has only been a few years since he began shooting hoops, but LA Andres already finds himself donning the Philippines' colors.
The 1.96 M (6'5") winger is part of the Gilas Youth set to compete in the FIBA U18 Asian Championship, an opportunity he never thought would come his way -- he never even saw himself playing the game when he was much younger.
"Three years ago, I never even thought of playing basketball. And now, I'm representing the country," the 18-year-old reflected.
Andres initially played varsity football in high school as a goalkeeper, although he hardly earned minutes. "I was never good at playing soccer," he shared. "However, it was enough to get me into the high school varsity team."
But the shift from the pitch to the hardwood did not happen until 2019, when he and his family decided to move back to Dubai.
"I was enrolling in one of the Philippine schools in Dubai, and one alumni saw my height and immediately gave my father the number of his coach," he shared.
"I then went to their practice and played for his under-14 team, being that I was already 6'3" at the time. From there on, I was in that team training, until that team got me a connection with the coaches here in the Philippines."
He quickly picked up the tools of the trade and for Andres, that's thanks to the support he has around him -- and some of the lessons he got from football.
"The everyday practice for the whole two years taught me a lot of important qualities and especially got me used to 'the grind' and really gave me the passion for sports," he said.
"I feel like just the joy of playing the game and loving the grind and my parents and coaches pushing me to be the best of myself are the reasons that I have quickly picked up on the game so easily," he added.
Andres has spent most of his life in Dubai and going back there, he said, proved beneficial for him upon his switch to a totally different sport.
"I believe I would never even be playing basketball at a high level if I didn’t go back to Dubai that year. Being a big fish in a small pond got me opportunities to learn from so many coaches and develop my game to something decent."
Opportunities, indeed, came his way since, including an invitation to try out for the Philippine youth team that eventually led him to the final lineup.
"It is a great honor just being invited to the tryouts," said Andres. "I am at a loss for words. This is something my Dad always prayed for me to achieve and to be here is amazing."
Not only did Dubai give him the needed exposure, it also paved the way for him to know and form a bond with Kevin Quiambao. Yes, the young forward that dazzled in the Asia Cup 2022 with his remarkable passing.
"Kevin is really a great guy, and a phenomenal player. We hung out and played together a few times in Dubai," said Andres, who's committed to play college ball for De La Salle University -- the same school of the 21-year-old.
"His character is great and his humility is inspiring. He isn’t somebody I’d ask for advice but more as someone I really look up to, mastering the game and playing at such a high level against national teams at such a young age," he added.
Quiambao is one that Andres looks to emulate but he knows that it is a long way to go, considering that he's only in his first years playing the game.
"I honestly believe I am so far from better compared to my peers here in the team," he said. "Nonetheless, I am so grateful to be a part of this pool."
For now, Andres is focused to put in the work towards the growth he aspires to achieve, and at the same time represent the country the best he can.
"Being able to represent the Philippines means so much to me -- wearing our nation's name in our chests, and to play basketball against the best players of other countries," he said.
"I have so much more room for improvement. Being called a part of the bright young stars of the Philippines right now is something I don’t think I am yet, but I know that I will always work on everyday to be."