Filipino basketball fans are always eager to see who will be the first Filipino to make it to the NBA. Half-Filipino Raymond Townsend played in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors back in the late 1970s, but we all want to see a full-blooded Pinoy make it in the big leagues. Johnny Abarrientos was reportedly on the NBA scouts’ list in the early to mid-1990s, but never got invited. Japeth Aguilar‘s NBA aspirations were doused when he recently failed to make the cut with the NBA D-League team that drafted him. The search, then, will have to continue.
While we hunt for a legit Filipino NBA prospect, we already might have a kababayan who has a legitimate chance to be the first WNBA player from the Philippines. Her name is Sofia Olalia Roman. She was born here in the Philippines in 1994, but her father, Tonyboy, an attorney, and wife June, moved the entire family to the United States in 1998, when Sofia was only four years old. She has lived most her life in White Plains, New York, but recently had to move away from the comforts of home to be a student-athlete at Dartmouth, an Ivy League college in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she is now a 5’7 freshman guard for the Big Green in the US NCAA Division I.
Tony recalls that when Sofia was eight, her new school was looking to form a girls’ basketball team for an inter-school league. Sofia signed up because “it was fun to play with her classmates.” She continued playing for two years, and, like other girls her age, “shot with two hands that crossed on ball release, played defense standing with arms outstretched, and dribbled shoulder-high.” The difference with Sofia, though, was the passion she developed for the game, and the desire to improve each day.
In the US, she likes Jeremy Lin, her former hometown boy with the NY Knicks, and now of the Houston Rockets, whom she always watched while he was still in town. She says she loves the way Lin carries himself on and off the court, the way he is deeply religious, humble and hardworking. Sofia says she can relate to the struggles Lin has faced in his life….