Dribble Media sat down with 2021 PBA Draft prospect Kenneth Mocon as he opened up about how his goal-oriented mindset helped him overcome his fear and doubts, and why he is not feeling any pressure in following the footsteps of his younger brother Javee in the PBA.
2021 PBA Draft prospect Kenneth Mocon
If you’re one of the millions of Filipino basketball enthusiasts all over the country, a chance to play for your school’s varsity team is already an achievement in itself. It just means that you have the talent to play the sport that you love, and do it in front of your family and friends. Whether you qualify for the more-heralded Team A, or work your way to the top while playing for the Team B, it’s a great feeling to be part of something bigger than yourself.
But if you’re someone like Kenneth Mocon who has always believed that he will get to the PBA whatever it will take, then suiting up for your school’s Team B will not cut it. Kenneth played college ball for the storied San Beda Red Lions. But the problem was that he could not make that next step of suiting up for the Red Lions’ main team.
Kenneth was only exposed to a system-based type of basketball in his second year in San Beda, which was already a great disadvantage.
“Nagsimula lang ako makapasok sa team na may sistema talaga noong pangalawang taon ko sa college sa Fatima (OLFU). Ang alam ko lang noon ay larong labas. Disadvantage na kaagad sa akin yun kasi dapat meron ka na din experience noong high school pa lang. Pero goal ko talaga na makalaro sa PBA. Gusto ko makatuntong ng Team A kasi gusto ko makita ng lahat na kaya ko. Gusto ko makita na lahat ng ginagawa ko, may mapupuntahan.”
Kenneth spent almost seven years in San Beda as he continued trying his luck of being promoted to the main team. But the promotion never came, and Kenneth could have given up on his PBA dreams right there and then. He didn’t enjoy playing basketball anymore, and it seemed to him that the people around him are starting to doubt his abilities.
“Grabe yung struggles ko sa Beda kasi parang six or seven years ako na-stuck sa Team B. Hindi na nakakatuwa kasi I was aiming for a bigger goal. Pero kahit na dumami yung mga nag-doubt sa akin, hindi ko hinayaan na mawala yung tiwala ko sa sarili ko. Alam ko kasi na kapag hindi na ko naniwala na kaya ko, babagsak lahat ng mga plano ko.”
So, how did Kenneth overcome these struggles? He revealed that his mindset of always exceeding his limits is what got him through those tough times. Kenneth is a big believer of the fact that talent comes from pure hardwork, and that was his approach right from Day 1.
“Makukuha mo yung skills and talent when you go over your limits. Kung gusto mo talaga umangat, kailangan mo gawin yung mga bagay na hindi karaniwan ginagawa. Nothing great comes easy. Kahit anong gawin mo sa buhay, basta binigyan mo ng oras at binigay mo lahat ng makakaya mo, malalaman at makikita nila na may mapupuntahan ka.”
Kenneth, who has already entered his name in the 2021 PBA Draft, is the older brother of Rain or Shine Elasto Painters’ young star Javee Mocon. Javee is already making a mark in the league as he is quickly becoming the main man for Rain or Shine.
So, is Kenneth feeling any pressure in following his brother’s footsteps to the PBA? No. Not even a small hint of pressure.
“Walang pressure for me. Alam ko na may sarili akong timeline at may sarili akong goal. Mas mahalaga para sa akin na natutulungan at nasusuportahan ko siya sa paglalaro niya. Sobrang saya ko na nakarating na si Javee sa PBA. Ganoon naman na yung relationship namin ever since. We assess and help each other improve every game.”
Kenneth’s brother Javee puts up a jumper during a game between Rain or Shine and Ginebra. (Photo from PBA)
Still, even getting this opportunity to get drafted in the country’s biggest basketball league is a goal that cost Kenneth a lot of pain and disappointments. Usually, prospects who apply for the PBA Draft are big stars in the UAAP and the NCAA, two of the most prominent amateur leagues in the Philippines.
There are also Filipino-foreign players coming from abroad who want to gauge how their skills match up with the best hoopers in the country. But Kenneth didn’t even step foot in the NCAA, and he has always been a virtually unknown player even while he was playing tremendous basketball for the Davao Occidental Tigers in the MPBL.
Kenneth gave us the time to take us back to his journey from San Beda’s Team B to becoming a key player for Davao Occidental last year.
“Yung first opportunity ko na maglaro sa MPBL ay yung try-out ko for the Makati Skyscrapers under Coach Cholo Villanueva. Maganda yung naipakita ko noong try-out, lalo na yung depensa ko. After that, nag-message na sa akin yung team na they are welcoming me to the squad. Ito na yung sinasabi ko na lahat ng pinaghirapan ko, may mapupuntahan. Pag-uwi ko sa dorm namin, humagulgol talaga ako ng iyak kasi naalala ko na ang daming tao na hindi nagtiwala sa akin before.”
But another hurdle came into Kenneth’s view as he admitted that he wasn’t able to play up to his standards in Makati. His confidence level decreased, but he stayed the course and continued to put in the necessary work.
Kenneth’s second opportunity in the MPBL came when he cracked the roster of Davao Occidental. Davao Occidental was already one of the strongest teams in the MPBL at that time, and Kenneth’s arrival gave them much-needed depth in the backcourt. What’s even more amazing was that Kenneth’s best game in the MPBL came during a bout against his former team, in which he nabbed the Best Player of the Game honors in Davao’s win over Makati.
“Nag-start yung pag-angat ng career ko noong nakalaban namin yung Makati. First game namin yun ng 2020, tapos nakuha ko pa yung Best Player of the Game award. Sa laro na yun, lahat ng mga kaba ko natanggal. Tumaas yung kumpiyansa ko sa bawat galaw ko. ”
Aside from his playmaking, Kenneth’s calling card is his pride as a defender. (Photo from PBA.ph)
Now that he is hoping to hear his name called in the draft, we asked Kenneth about the asset that he can immediately bring to a PBA team. The 5-foot-10 point guard emphasized that it will be his pride as a defender, along with his ability to make plays for his teammates.
“Defense talaga yung calling card ko ever since. Kakaiba yung feeling kapag napipigilan mo yung star player ng kabilang team. Dahil sa role na yun kaya lagi ako motivated at nagpapakundisyon. Kahit noong nasa Beda pa ako, 5’10 lang ako pero I’m already used to defending bigger players. Most of the teams na napupuntahan ko, ang pinapagawa nila sa akin ay bantayan ko yung laging umiiskor sa kalaban. Kahit mas matangkad o malaki yung player na yun, I will never back down. Para sa akin, ang pinakamasayang pakiramdam sa basketball ay kapag napipigilan mo yung star player ng kalaban.”
To wrap up the conversation, Kenneth also opened up to us about his passion for being a skills coach. Kenneth has started a training program called HOOP3XPERT, where he teaches young aspiring hoopers how to play the game the right way.
Kenneth emphasized that he’s not in this line of work just to earn money. He says that teaching and seeing young players improve is already a passion of his.
“Buhay ko na ang basketball, at gusto ko ma-enjoy din ng iba ang sport na ito. Yung mga experiences at adjustments na nagawa ko before, tinuturo ko na sa kanila para hindi na nila magawa yung mga maling bagay. Hindi lang ako naging skills coach para lang kumita. Kapag kinuha mo ako as your coach, I’ll make sure na gagaling ka talaga. Gusto ko matuto ka, at dapat gusto mo rin na matuto.”