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Ewon gives back to women’s basketball

  • Written by Lito Cinco
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 267

EWON Arayi holds the  distinction of  being on the current Philippine women’s  basketball team for the longest time since she first made it in 2007 for the SEABA team handled by my old firend and former PBA cager Fritz Gaston.

Although at 31, she is at a crossroads of sorts  between full time coaching and  suiting up for the national squad.

Ewon is a  half Filipino,  half  Nigerian as her mother hails from Pangasinan  while  her father   is a policeman  in Nigeria who studied  at the Philippine College of Criminology  before Ewon was born.
But she has opted for full Filipino citizenship and considers herself a  Filipina, period. She was encouraged by an uncle who played basketball to get into the game  as she used to tag along with her uncle when she was four years old.
She first played organized basketball in Pangasinan but  after finishing high school there, she was offered to try out for a slot in Adamson  where she became part of two champion teams in the UAAP in 2003-04  under Coach Vega.
Ewon remembers that it was at the tryout that she met Asi Taulava at the gym  and  he gave her encouragement to  realize  her dreams in life.
She also  had good words for Fritz whom she felt played no favorites when he was handling the national squad  and  gave her  playing time even as a rookie, specializing in defense.
Well, Fritz was a defensive player during his prime so it comes as no surprise for me.
In her last stint  with the Philippine squad, Ewon was supposed to suit up for the last SEABA tournament in Malaysia  a few months  ago but contracted dengue and  did not recover in time  to play for the team.Although she joined the team to  Malaysia and was equally happy  with her teammates when  the Philippines emerged champion  even if her role was to be  a cheerer for her teammates.
But then it is not  really  her credentials   or accomplishments as a player that  impressed  me. It  was her desire to give back to the game  that shaped her into what she is now, and enabled her to finish Banking & Finance in Adamson, but rather  what  is doing to promote Philippine women's basketball, a dream that her driving force in her efforts to organize  women's basketball leagues here.
It is a fact that after college,  local women players have nowhere to go  unlike in men's basketball, and  this  is  one reason why the women's of the game has not developed side by side with men's basketball.
Ewon was looking at the Women’s National Basketball Association ( WNBA )  as a model  and she  firmly believed that given the push, private companies will see that there is  promise in women's  basketball, that there are a lot of female  players  just waiting  for that chance  to continue playing the game beyond college.
That is why she was happy that the PBA itself has already  recognized  women's basketball, even  if just as 3 on 3 tournament, having held  already three side tournaments  with the PBA teams drafting from  the best players available. So far, Global Port, NLEX, and  Blackwater have won their share of titles in this side tournament of the professional league.
It was in 2014 when Ewon, with  nothing to bank on except her own resources and  passion for the game, first organized the Pinay  Ballers' League ( PBL),  a  no frills basketball tournament exclusively for  women and she even had different divisions one for aspirants  and one for elite players or those who have played in UAAP.   So far, teams  from the Philippine Army,  Philippine Navy,  Air Force, De La Salle, and  a  group of  UAAP alumni have joined this  category while   some  companies support  teams in  the aspirants, a lot of players  pool their resources and without any corporate support, pay their own entry fees just to play.
She   is also experimenting with an Open format where aspirants are joined by two elite players.This year, Ewon  went further with the Philippine Collegiate League, exclusively for  school based-teams .
I went to La Consolacion in Mendiola last Sunday   as Ewon had the opening  of the PBL and as I said, it was a no frills  tournament, no opening ceremonies, with the two teams  seeing  action in the first game, Phoenix and Flashback, simply warming up, then  start playing when the  horn sounded to start the game.
Ewon admits that with  very limited  support from the outside, she   struggles  at times, relying only on entry fees  to fund the operations of the  tournament, even advancing her own  money at times and not receiving any pay at all.
Her priority is to  pay off everything first before she would even  think of getting  an  allowance for herself or reimbursement for her expenses.
And she  is  happy that  she is able  to work  with  her commissioner Cay Lim and two others  to continue  the tournaments.
And  maybe  taking  notice of  the  PBL when it first emerged, other  people  followed with  their leagues like the Liga Filipina, Liga Manila, and the Next 5 Hoops, she welcomes them but thinks it would be  good  to consider  uniting  the different organizers' efforts and come up with  a  unified league for women's basketball.
I  was able to talk to  one player at the venue last Sunday,  Kara Santos, who used to play  for college intrams in UST and   made the observation that for the last two years, indeed, women basketball players  here have  had more opportunities to play their favorite game beyond college, citing the entry of PBA in women's basketball  too  as one proof.
On the side, Ewon also conducts   basketball  clinics for kids  wherever and whenever possible, again, looking  at is her contribution to women's basketball and  not as a business venture.
My  promise to  her, I  would extend help in whatever way  I can  for I am also someone who recognizes what  sports has done for me, not as  an athlete but  as a chronicler of sports.
Definitely, it will be an uphill battle for Ewon with her tournaments but you have  to give it to this Filipina, she  has put her money where her mouth is, and instead of just seeing what is  wrong with sports here, has decided to do something about it with no thoughts of making money out of it.