NMI's Ethan Sablan out to learn from the top dogs and make his family proud
MANGILAO (Guam) - The FIBA U15 Oceania Championship is one of the earliest platforms for a player to get acquainted to talents outside of their country. At the games, these young players will get to learn from their opponents and get better in the process.
Among one of those younger players is Northern Mariana Island’s Ethan Sablan.
"My expectation of this event is to mainly learn and observe how these teams are considered top dogs," said Sablan.
Those top dogs are the likes of Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Guam, and, of course, the usual cream of the crop, New Zealand and Australia.
"I expect to experience a high level of basketball that not so many people from my island get to see, and I will also mentally take notes on how these players contribute and execute as a team."
Soaking up whatever is around him and using that to better himself is what Sablan is used to doing. It’s what he’s always done and what’s put him in this position to pursue a future in Northern Mariana Islands basketball.
"My uncle, who also happens to be my coach, enrolled me into this program which was hosting a summer tournament. I had no equipment whatsoever and had to start from scratch, using running shoes, swim shorts and one bottle of water. I felt miserable but I noticed if I ever wanted to get good, I would have to man up and take the challenge."
And it was certainly a challenge for Sablan. He didn’t start out with natural talents that allowed him to shine on the court right from the start. His story is that of an actual challenge where he has to put in as much work or even more to be a part of this team moving forward.
"My main turning point was one practice with my program, I couldn’t do fundamental things such as a layup," Sablan admitted.
"I was determined to get better. I shed blood, cried, and got so aggravated but I knew that I had to catch up to my peers. I put in many hours of work and eventually caught up, take note that I have been playing basketball for only a year."
After only a year, Sablan is here at this point, lined up to represent the Islands in an international competition. Not bad for the youngster.
"The feeling of representing my country can’t be explained," he said. "I feel joyful yet nervous, but one feeling that I can guarantee is pride. I feel pride as I will be bringing honor to my country, family and friends."
"It means plenty to me, I can tell stories to peers and family of what is going to happen once I come back home."
And Family is an important part of this early part of Sablan’s path through basketball.
"I look up to no one but my parents. They put in so much work in order for me to grow up, the very least I can do is bring honor to my family."
The FIBA U15 Oceanian Championships serve as qualifiers for the FIBA U16 Asian Championships 2023 with the top two teams going through.
The FIBA U15 Oceania Championships will be hosted in Guam from November 21 to November 26. Follow the event here!