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Ex-PBA import reaches out to Cardona

MacMac Cardona. STAR File Photo

MANILA, Philippines – Former PBA import Lamont Strothers, who played in seven conferences over six years with San Miguel Beer up to 2002, yesterday delivered an inspiring message to NLEX’ MacMac Cardona who is recovering in the hospital under psychiatric care after barely surviving a suicide attempt.

Unaware that Strothers reached out, Cardona mentioned that the NBA veteran was one of his hardcourt heroes during a chat with visitors in his Makati Medical Center room last Friday. Cardona said he grew up idolizing Tanduay’s Eric Menk and Sonny Alvarado but San Miguel was his favorite team as a kid because of Strothers whom he remembered calling by his moniker “Helicopter.”

“I don’t know this young man but I have a passion for my fellow Philippine friends,” said Strothers in a message from his Virginia home. “My message to him is that the world at some point in time breaks everyone but afterwards, we become stronger at the broken places. Men, we have to be like tea bags, the hotter the water gets, the stronger we have to become.”

Strothers, 48, told Cardona not to lose hope. “I will be watching to see you fight back,” he said. “People loved the song ‘Started From the Bottom,’ this is your bottom and you will rise again. As men, we make mistakes. But we must be big enough to admit them, smart enough to profit from them and strong enough to correct them. Take care, young man, and surround yourself with love.”

When informed he is one of Cardona’s basketball heroes, Strothers commented, “Wow, amazing! Please send him my regards.” Strothers was an underdog throughout his basketball career. His left eye was permanently damaged in 1986 and he played with impaired vision. Although he came from a Division III school, Strothers played two years in the NBA with Portland and Dallas. As an import, he played in seven countries over 11 years.

Strothers, who has nine children, is a coach, referee, life instructor and training camp organizer in his hometown. “What’s keeping me busy?” he said. “Kids, mine as well as others. I still run my youth organization, VA Hard2Guard Basketball. I also help coach at my daughter’s high school. Adria, a junior in high school, has already committed to Hampton University, a Division I program to play point guard. By the way, they all use the spin move as well as the Strothers’ patented step-back jump shot. There are many kids in my program and everyone that I’ve trained since they were youngsters have all received Division I scholarships. The latest is sophomore Adrienne Motley attending the University of Miami.”

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Strothers said he has fond memories of playing against Alaska. “Alaska has always been a well-oiled machine when they ran the triangle especially with two of the most skilled Filipinos that I’ve ever competed against, Kenneth Duremdes and Johnny ‘The Flying A’ Abarrientos,” he said. “When it comes to that swarming D, you have to keep floor balance and spacing in order to be effective.”

Strothers said Duremdes is one of the best players he’s ever faced. “I talk about him all the time in the US when I speak about Filipino basketball,” he said. “One day, maybe I’ll come over and coach a team.”

Cardona’s contract with NLEX is expiring at the end of the month. He said he hopes it will be renewed. “I’m so happy that Mac is recovering well,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez. “My advice to Mac is to be strong with all the problems he’s facing right now, get well and try to go back to basketball once he is given clearance to play. We all know Mac loves basketball.”

Regarding rumors that Cardona may be traded to GlobalPort to reunite him with his La Salle coach Franz Pumaren, Fernandez said the possibility has never been discussed. “MacMac was put in the reserve list because of health concerns,” he said. “We are not trading MacMac and there are no feelers also from other teams asking for him.”

Cardona, 34, is the youngest of five children. The eldest Raymundo is a tricycle driver. A sister Rowena is a TV talent. Two sisters live abroad, Carmela in Vancouver and Sheila in Los Angeles. Two half-sisters Michelle and Amanda reside in Los Angeles. Cardona’s father Reynaldo, a Tour of Luzon cyclist and jeepney driver, died of tuberculosis in 1994 while his mother Criselda passed away in 2011. His uncle Max taught him how to play basketball at an early age. His aunt Lolita took care of him as his mother left to become a domestic helper in Greece when he was only three years old and his father, who was constantly drunk, had no steady job.

“Uncle Max was Mac’s father figure but he now lives in Winnipeg,” said his sister Rowena. “Mac has no father figure to turn to. But we’re here for him. Mac is a loving, generous and caring person. He shares his blessings. He loves his family and kids. Mac grew up in the streets of Mandaluyong. Basketball gave him his big break.”

Cardona’s La Salle teammate T. Y. Tang said he is the Archers’ modern version of Lim Eng Beng and encouraged him to start an advocacy in inspiring those in despair not to give up hope. Another former La Salle player Dino Aldeguer called him the “Miracle Man.” Aldeguer and his brother-in-law Paranaque Councilor and former PBA coach Binky Favis rushed Cardona to the hospital after he was found nearly unconscious in his townhouse. Cardona swallowed about a hundred sleeping pills in an attempt to take his own life out of desperation as his girlfriend and their two kids left him because of his dysfunctional behavior.

 

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