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Leo de Vera hopes to continue game of life in PBA

From left to right: PBA Draft hopefuls Eric Miraflores and former San Sebastian Stag Leo De Vera, the author, and Fil-Am Jerramy King.

MANILA, Philippines -- When Calvin Abueva and company left for greener pastures, the prognosis for the San Sebastian Stags was dire. No Abueva. No Ronald Pascual. No Ian Sangalang. Ten rookies coming in… they were expected to flounder.

From the summer tournaments onwards, the young Stags showed that they were a force to be reckoned with. Behind CJ Perez, Mark Tano, Bradwyn Guinto, and Leo De Vera to name a few, they ran foes to the ground, fired trifectas with wild abandon, and ultimately crashed the Final Four party. Unfortunately, that was as far as they would go as the Letran Knights took them down.

For Leo De Vera, it was bittersweet. It was all over for him just as soon as it began. The Los Angeles, California-born Fil-Am was done. He only had one year of playing eligibility as he transferred from Pierce Community College and was getting in on the years.

De Vera excelled not only in basketball but also volleyball. However, sports had to take a backseat as Leo worked part-time at five different jobs to help his family. “It was tough,” he admitted of those years and foregoing his dreams of playing varsity ball. “But I told myself this was for the best and besides, it was for my family.”

Leo was working at a Filipino grocery when he heard patrons talk about the PBA. “I really didn’t know anything about the PBA at first,” he sheepishly admitted. “It is difficult when you are thousands of miles away. The more I heard about it, I began to look at what I could find about basketball in the Philippines on the Internet and in magazines.”

His interest was further piqued when he learned the Stags were attending a training camp near Los Angeles. De Vera made his way to the camp where he got to speak with Topex Robinson, who at that time was coaching San Sebastian.

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“We had Leo scrimmage with the team and his talent was very evident,” recalled Robinson who is now calling the shots for Lyceum of the Philippines University. “I offered him a scholarship even if he was only going to suit up for us for one year. He played with Team B along with many others who would move up to the NCAA team a year later.”

“I wanted us to win the title,” said De Vera with a little trace of disappointment. “It was for the school and for us. And if I may be selfish, for myself too. I really wanted to play varsity sports but I was working to help my family. I thought that winning a NCAA title could really help me in trying to pursue my PBA dream.”

After the NCAA, De Vera took a year off because his papers needed to be fixed before he could play in the D-League. Once he got them he suited up for Tanduay and Liver Marin for a year.

And now, he’s cast his lot in the PBA Draft.

“I’d hate to think I am a one-and-done guy,” De Vera mused. “Back then, I was working to help my family. Now, I hope I get a chance because I am building my own family.”

Last Thursday, August 20, De Vera’s girlfriend, Katrina gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Leanna Kayleigh. After the second day of the Gatorade PBA Draft Combine, De Vera rushed to the hospital to be with Kristine.

“Basketball used to be my hobby, my passion. Now, because of the game, I met my wife. And now, the game… it’s my life.”

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