Actor Motorola Case has never made his passion for the game of basketball a secret.
In his first feature film, the movie-based-on-a-Rexona commercial “First Day High,” Case played a basketball varsity star named Michael Jordan “MJ2” Ramirez. (In the movie, his brother was played by PBA player Rich Alvarez).
He participates in celebrity basketball games, like the “Fastbreak” charity game organized by UAAP star Kiefer Ravena to aid in tropical storm “Sendong,” wherein he scored 11 points before halftime despite arriving at the venue late. When Case’s former leading lady Kim Chiu was linked to former De La Salle University player Simon Atkins, he jokingly agreed to play the collegiate player one-on-one in an interview.
It’s no surprise considering that way before he was discovered by show business, Case used to aspire for basketball stardom.
“Siguro nag-start ako mag-basketball sa States nung middle school ako,” said the 23-year-old Case. “Mga idol ko sila Allen Iverson, LeBron James.”
He kept his love affair with the sport going when his family moved to General Santos City when he was 14. Case joined the basketball varsity team of Holy Trinity College, where he was named MVP of an interschool tournament participated by most of the high schools in the SocSarGen area.
At that time, it wasn’t so far-fetched to think he could have earned a spot on a UAAP or NCAA team.
“Oo naman,” Case answered when asked if he had plans of playing college ball back in the day. “Pangarap ko mag-college basketball, and maybe even make it to the PBA.”
“Dati gusto ko masama sa San Miguel or B-MEG, Purefoods pa sila nun. Or Shell, kaso wala nang Shell ngayon.
“Naalala ko kasi nung pumunta silang GenSan, like 2004.”
But life – or more specifically, showbiz – got in the way of those plans when he joined Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Edition in 2006, and Case saw his career skyrocket almost as soon as it began.
Not that he regrets the decision. He obviously loves what he’s doing right now. But he also doesn’t let it stop him from playing ball when he can.
Passion for basketball remains
On Wednesday night, for instance, Case was playing in the finals of the MY League Basketball tournament at the San Juan Gym.
“Lagi ako naglalaro, minsan nakakasabay rin ako ng kapwa artista,” he said before the title game. “Pero this is my first time na ganitong klaseng basketball league, yung talagang may competition.”
Case was invited by his stylist to be part of the Mansoto Trucking basketball team, and he jumped at the chance right away.
“Maganda kasi it’s below 6-feet so magkapantay lahat.”
A week and a half ago, the 5-foot-10 Case created a buzz when he scored 34 points, including five three-pointers, in a MY League game against the CDO team.
But the finals were a different animal, where his team was to play a very tough Nougat Peanut Bar squad that also featured a celebrity, actor JC Tiuseco, on their roster.
Case, wearing jersey number 3, started the game at shooting guard. He almost scored very early in the game when he leaked out on transition, but couldn’t control a long outlet pass from a Mansoto teammate.
Barely two minutes into the game, he showed what he could do in a sequence that would have made his idol Iverson proud.
He grabbed a rebound and ran out on the break, but was met by three defenders near the halfcourt line. With a series of crossovers and behind-the-back dribbles, he weaved through his opposition and drove hard into the lane. Case then looped a high floater over two help defenders to score his first bucket of the game.
With 4:34 left in the first quarter, he knocked in a three-pointer that sparked a 6-0 run for his team, as Mansoto cut the Nougat lead down to just one, 13-12.
That was as good as it got for Mansoto in this game, though, as Nougat rattled off 15 unanswered points to end the first quarter up 28-12. They never looked back after that as the physical Nougat squad defeated Mansoto Trucking, 105-81, behind lights-out shooting from three-point range in the second half to win the MY League title.
Case didn’t shoot particularly well in the game, but still managed to finish with a solid line of 16 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals and two three-pointers.
In the first half, he scored nine points while staying on the floor for all 20 minutes for his team. He sat out less than five minutes the entire game.
Almost an NLEX player
While he says it’s the first time he’s played competitively since high school, Case has come close in the recent past.
In March of last year, Case joined the practices of the NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA D-League and was even expected to be named to the lineup, but his busy schedule wouldn’t allow for a stint in the semipro league.
“Naka-dalawa, tatlong practice ako with them,” Case confirmed. “Nagkaroon rin akong chance to play with them kaso may ginagawa akong soap at that time, sayang.”
Rumors say that he did pretty well in the practices of the powerhouse team, which has won every D- League conference since the league’s inception, though Case downplayed stories that he kept up with the Calvin Abuevas and the Eric Salamats of the team.
“Wala,” he laughed. “Those guys are amazing. Sobrang kundisyon sila. I’m just really really thankful na nakasama ko sila.”
“Sila Salamat nandun. Yung mga ibang Fil-Ams like sila Cliff Hodge, friends ko na ngayon,” he added. “It was such a great experience.”
Right after the MY League game, Case gamely posed for pictures with members of the audience, including several children. As the throng of admirers got bigger and bigger, though, Case was whisked away by his party. He exits the arena.
Just another guy
It was back to the real world for him, back to being the showbiz star. For 40 minutes, though, he was just another guy on the basketball court. He was making drop passes off of picture-perfect spin moves, or slapping balls away from offensive players, or like in one sequence in the second half, finding himself on the receiving end of a foul that sent him to the floor, rubbing his obviously-sore jaw.
Case isn’t quite ready to close the door on the basketball chapter of his life. At least not just yet.
“Sana,” he said before the game when asked if his D-League plans might still push through. “Kahit hindi sa NLEX, kahit isang professional season lang. Para matupad din yung isang pangarap ko.”
He knows, though, that if he is to play professionally, even for just one conference, he’ll have to do it soon.
“Yeah, habang bata pa,” he said, laughing. “Habang kaya pa ng mga tuhod ko.”
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