Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Russel Escoto: From Angeles, Pampanga’s playgrounds to the UAAP, PBA, and Gilas

Russel Escoto: From Angeles, Pampanga’s playgrounds to the UAAP, PBA, and Gilas
by rick olivares

As a youngster growing up in Angeles, Pampanga, Russel Escoto watched some the kings of the playground - Calvin Abueva and Arwind Santos to name a very few – work their magic as well as the crowd.

“Si Calvin kung tawagin nga sa amin, ‘kabayo’ kasi hindi napapagod,” related Escoto. “Grabe siya. Halimaw. Sa Angeles pa lang, crowd favorite na. Basta naglalaro si Calvin pinapanood ng mga tao. Ma-i-inspire ka talaga.”

Incredibly, basketball wasn’t Escoto’s first sport. “Nagsimula ako volleyball player (playing the open spiker position),” Russel revealed. “Sobrang enjoy din ako sa paglaro ng volleyball. Enjoy. Mabilis pa.”

It wasn’t even his family that pushed him to switch to hoops but his classmates. “Sabi ng iba kong teammate, ‘sayang daw height ko. Dapat daw ako mag-basketball’”.

It took a while for the six-foot-six lad to take to the game. It also took a trip to the playground to watch some of the local legends to strike Escoto’s fancy and inspire him. “Nung masubukan ko na maglaro, na-in love na ako sa sport. Yan – tuloy tuloy na.”

With his success in the high school and collegiate level, his younger brother, Richard was inspired and he (now playing for the Far Eastern University Tamaraws) followed suit.

“Nung mag-champion kami sa FEU nung last year ko – bonus na yun,” admitted the center who is the eldest of four children (Richard is the third). “Pinagpala kami sa hard work, dedication, at tiwala sa isa’t isa.”

“Ngayon nasa national team – sobra ako nagpapasalamat. Hind ko inisip mga ‘to. Simple lang. Laro lang sa halfcourt o whole court. Nung mabigyan ng scholarship sa FEU, nakakatuwa at nakakataba ng puso. Naisukli namin ng championship.”

With Russel’s achievements in his young career, he smiles at the thought that the world has turned. It’s the kids now in Pampanga watching him.

“Hopefully, maka-inspire ako ng ibang bata diyan sa amin na sumunod sa dinaanan namin – high school, college, national team, tapos PBA. Sipag at tiyaga lang yan.”

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