AFRICAN Stephane Kazembe is making waves in the hard court of Cagayan de Oro basketball after leading newcomer Philippine Countryville College (PCC) Stags to the final of the 14th Loyola Cup.
The Stags will clash with defending champions Southern Philippine College (SPC) Sharks on Thursday evening for the collegiate title at downtown’s Xavier University gym.
The 6-foot-8 center from Kinshasa, Congo, has already received offers from big schools in Manila and Cebu since he had set foot in the country last year. However, he has turned down the temptations to play in the Big City and opted to stay in Maramag, Bukidnon.
“It’s God’s plan why I am in Maramag,” quipped the 18-year-old lord of the rebounds.
Since he enrolled at PCC where he is taking up Information Technology, Kazembe said he is very happy and feeling at home in Maramag, (136.9 kms away from Cagayan de Oro or 2 hours and 56 minutes travel time.)
“I am so happy with my boss, my coaches and teammates here,’’ he said.
Team manager Nonon Abregana Torres and coach Milo Oliveros discovered Kazembe while playing “panalay” (paid game) in one of the barangays in Bukidnon. He played center in one of the teams although he was still awkward as he never played basketball before in Congo.
Coach Oliveros took notice and Torres did not waste time and offered him a scholarship in PCC. Kazembe then grab the opportunity to play for PCC and stay in Maramag.
“I did not know how to play basketball before and that is true, but with training and practice under my coaches Miko Oliveros and Joseph Lantong, I have improved,” he said.
Since he came to PCC, Oliveros and Lantong with the support of Torres, trained Kazembe twice daily, before and after school. “I worked so hard with the help of my coaches and I have improved.”
His ward work indeed has paid off as he has led his school in scoring and rebounds from the elimination round up to the semis. He poured in 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in their semis match against Iligan Medical Center College (IMCC) Rhinos in the semis.
With him at center, the Stags are definitely favored against the attacking SPC Sharks of coach Rey Dangcal.