Speak out: The Hurricane eyes return to PBA

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Thursday, May 29, 2014


Absalon Jayson Inocian Jr.
Contributor

New Orleans—Way back home, in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City, I grew up loving basketball. I remembered paying P2 just to watch Mama’s Love against PLDT in the Guadalupe Church Plaza. I once requested the tailoring shop to extend my basketball shorts to cover my knees as I was influenced by one of the greatest PBA imports, Tony “The Hurricane” Harris.

In September 2007, I migrated to New Orleans and I never expected to bump into a
friend who invited me to become a correspondent for the New Orleans Pelicans.

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When I interviewed the Pelicans GM, Dell Demps (a former PBA Import), he informed me that Tony Harris often visited him to watch the Pelicans game and he was just in the area. But we were unlucky to find his contact number.

But in the third season of the Filipino-American Basketball League 2014 in Baton Rouge, a chance conversation with the referee of the league who happened to know him connected us with Harris.

During a post-league gathering, the commissioner set a dinner party at his residence, inviting Harris to join. At 6’3” and still in good shape, with a Louisiana snapback on, “The Hurricane” joined us and shared his experiences. He felt grateful meeting
the Filipino community and said, “Filipinos are my second family.”

It was a gathering of some 50 Filipinos and Harris hugged each like a long lost family member.

After more than 30 years, we finally got the chance to talk. He recalled his flight to Iloilo City to play Ginebra and an old man asked him if he could break Michael Hackett’s record of 103 points, and he just said, “No sir, I can’t score 100 points, not even in a million years.”

That old man’s sense was right, for he nailed 105 points in that game. He also shared how tough it was to play in the PBA.

“I have never experienced something like that but that wasn’t enough to make me quit, I came to play physically and I was mentally prepared.” he said. He was so proud that he gave Coach Yeng Guiao his first championship.

He said he wishes one day to be back in the Philippines, to share his talent and train the young Filipino athletes, and one day be part of the PBA once again.

After his PBA stint, he signed a contract with the Boston Celtics, then went to play
at Cypress and in some European league where he again won a championship title.

Currently, he works at Exxon Mobil and does personal basketball training with kids.

“I can even pack up right now and fly the very first flight in the morning. That’s how I missed Philippines. It’s my second home, a family close to my heart, and only Filipinos can call me “The Hurricane” for you guys made me who I am. I missed every bit of it.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 30, 2014.

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