Miguel Plata: On hurdling challenges and preparing for life after basketball

For the 5th episode of our exclusive interview series, Dribble Media’s ZerJosh Serrano sat down with MPBL hooper Miguel Plata as he looked back at the twist and turns of his basketball career, and how he is preparing for life after basketball.

Miguel Plata is a former USC Warrior (CESAFI) who is now playing for Basilan Steel in the MPBL

Miguel Plata is a former USC Warrior (CESAFI) who is now playing for Basilan Steel in the MPBL

For the millions of Filipino basketball players aspiring to suit up in the PBA someday, only a handful of them will be given the opportunity to take that career path. Despite that harsh reality, the Filipinos’ love for the game of basketball still influences them on and off the court.

Miguel Plata, 28 years old, knows that it’s now improbable for him to put on a PBA jersey. Now playing for Basilan Steel in the MPBL, Miguel went back-and-forth from Davao to Manila in hopes that he may have a shot at playing in the most prestigious basketball league in the Philippines.

This PBA dream started when he was still a young kid learning the game under the tutelage of his own father.

Miguel: Nag-start ako mag-basketball when I was in Grade 4 (elementary) at naging influence ko yung father ko. Dati rin kasi siyang magaling na player kaya gusto rin niya maituro sa akin yung mga natutunan niya.

It turned out that Miguel has the talent to play at a high level, and soon he was recruited to play for University of San Carlos, a Cebu-based school playing in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc (CESAFI).

Photo from Jan Dizon Images

Photo from Jan Dizon Images

Miguel would become an All-Star and a three-point shootout winner in just his first go-around at CESAFI, but personal problems forced him to go back to Davao and stop playing basketball.

Miguel: Naglaro ako sa PRISAA (Private Schools Athletics Association) noon then may nag-scout sa akin at pinaglaro ako sa San Carlos. Malaking karangalan para sa akin kasi unang taon ko pa lang sa CESAFI, nag-champion ako sa 3-point shootout, tapos napabilang pa ako sa All-Star team. Kaso right after that, bumalik ako sa Davao kasi may personal problem ako dito. So nag-stop ako sa basketball bigla.

It was an unfortunate turn of events, particularly for Miguel’s basketball career. When he looks back at that specific twist-and-turn in his life, Miguel can’t help but feel a pang of regret.

Miguel: When I look back kung bakit hindi ako nakarating ng PBA, lagi ko naiisip yung noon na nasa Cebu na ko, tapos umuwi pa ako ng Davao. Nakikita ko na yung mga dati kong kasabayan, ngayon established na yung mga career nila sa PBA. What if hindi ako umuwi, baka naging successful na PBA player din ako. Pero hindi ko naman na dinidibdib yun kasi ganun naman talaga ang buhay, kailangan magpatuloy ka pa rin.

After his CESAFI stint, Miguel would work as a bank teller for a couple of years. But his passion for the game never went away. One night, when he was drinking with his friends, a buddy of him motivated him to pursue his basketball luck in Manila. In an effort not to have any regrets that he didn’t do everything to get into the PBA, Miguel immediately resigned from work and travelled to the country’s capital.

Miguel: One time, nag-inuman kami ng mga kaibigan ko. 23 years old pa lang ako noon, tapos sinabi ng kaibigan ko na sayang naman yung talent ko sa basketball. So napa-isip ako bakit hindi ko subukan, bata pa naman ako. Kinabuksan nag-resign ako sa bangko para pumunta sa Manila at mag-tryout. Gusto ko lang subukan kasi ayoko ng may pagsisisi ako sa huli.

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True to his word, Miguel tried his luck in Manila and competed for a spot in the PBA D-League roster. His hardwork paid off as he was selected by Victoria Sports during the 2016 Draft. However, Miguel would play only two games in the D-League, another heart-breaking experience that could have forced him to give up basketball.

Miguel: ‘Di rin naging madali para sakin yung D-League experience ko kasi mababa lang ang allowance na bigay sakin ng management. Tinanggap ko yung offer kasi nasa isip ko, last chance ko na ‘to. Kahit nga walang bayad, tatanggapin ko basta magkaroon lang ng opportunity na makapag-laro sa PBA. Kaso two games lang din tinagal ko doon, nawalan na ako ng pag-asa. Bumalik na lang din ako sa Davao.

Despite that unfortunate experience, Miguel has one positive takeaway from his D-League stint in Manila. He was taken aback by how hardworking the players are, even those who already have brimming talent and skills.

Miguel: Iba yung level of competition sa Manila kasi even yung mga magagaling na players, nag-eextra workout pa, which is hindi ko ginagawa dito sa Davao. Sobrang kumpyansa kasi ako sa sarili ko noon. So parang nabigla ako na magaling ka na nga, sobrang sipag mo pa. Naging challenge din sa akin yun, hindi lang sa basketball, pero sa everyday life ko din.

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Still, Miguel didn’t give up his love for basketball as he is now hooping for Basilan Steel in the MPBL. But with how the COVID-19 outbreak has changed the landscape of sports nowadays, Miguel had to think of other ways on how he could still put food on the table for his family.

Miguel now manages an all-in-one online shop called MN Shop, a business that he just put up last April.

Miguel: Noong nag-start yung pandemic last March, wala na rin kami sahod sa MPBL. So sabi ko sa sarili ko, kung hindi ako didiskarte, paano na yung mga bills ko? Paano ko mababayaran yun? And syempre, hindi naman buong buhay ko, makakapag-laro ako ng basketball. So kailangan meron pa rin akong ibang source of income.

As for his message to basketball players like him who are from the province, Miguel says that they should not be affected by outside criticisms and just work hard in improving their craft. While it’s true that there would be disheartening sacrifices that have to be made, Miguel believes that it will be all worth it in the end.

Miguel: Kapag nasa province ka, hindi naman ibig sabihin na ‘di ka na marunong maglaro. Actually, madaming PBA stars ngayon na galing din sa probinsya. Huwag lang mawalan ng pag-asa at sipagan lang palagi sa pag-eensayo. Gawin mo inspirasyon yung family mo, at magbubunga din naman lahat ng sacrifice at pagod mo.

Follow Miguel’s online one-stop shop on Facebook, MN Shop. You can buy anything, from fresh food products to home furniture and utensils.

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