More than 400 players in Hamilton Filipino basketball league
As the month of December winds down the thoughts of many members of Hamilton’s Filipino community have been turning to basketball.
“Filipinos are passionate about basketball,” said Leo Zarzuela, a former player and past president of the Philippine Basketball Association of Hamilton (PBA) who now oversees officiating in the league.
Another season of PBA action is slated to begin in January in the gymnasium at Hill Park Secondary School.
This year the league will feature over 400 players on 40 boys, girls and adult teams with players ranging age from seven to 55.
Founded in 1990, the roots of the PBA date back to 1976 when Zarzuela and several other members of the local Filipino community wished to further the passion for hoops they learned in their home land.
The group of young men in their 20s and 30s formed a team that competed on weekends against Filipino teams from the Toronto area.
As the local Filipino community grew, so did the league.
By 1980 six teams of young men were playing out of the Valley Park recreation centre in upper Stoney Creek.
“It’s very competitive,” said Zarzuela, who noted the league features a 13 week schedule and games are played each Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Hill Park.
Prior to the season, many players attend pick-up games and the league runs children’s basketball camps through October.
Zarzuela noted the basketball games are also an opportunity for the local Filipino community to gather together each week to socialize, share a bite to eat and cheer on their favourite team.
With the pending closure of Hill Park in June, PBA president Romy Valencia said the group is looking for a new home for the 2015 season.
He noted St. Jean de Brebeuf, Westdale and Delta secondary schools have provided gym space in the past.
Zarzuela said basketball is popular in the Philippines due to American influence and because it’s an inexpensive sport to play.
“You can play barefoot,” he said. “You can put a ring on a coconut tree.”
Zarzuela noted that since most Filipino players are well under six-feet in height, the emphasis is on speed and shooting rather than slam dunks and aerial action that are often seen in the brand of basketball played by very tall North American athletes.
“You improvise,” he said. “A lot of three-point shots.”
The PBA also features a $1,000 scholarship for players entering college or university that was organized in 2011 by league supporter Ruby Sarmiento Amog and then league president Jun Policarpio.
Sarmiento Amog said funds for the award were raised through private sector donations