Tough love from Seigle
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - February 14, 2020 - 12:00am

Tough love isn’t exactly the kind of romantic love you share on Valentine’s Day but it’s something basketball legend Danny Seigle says he imparts whenever he advises PBA hopefuls, no matter what day of the year it is.

In the UAAP men’s basketball tournament this season, Seigle was La Salle’s head of basketball operations and recruited three Fil-Am college graduates to play for the Archers under the one-and-done rule. They were Jaime Orme Malonzo, Keyshawn Evans Meeker and James Laput. The period of adjustment for the three recruits was short as they arrived only after they finished their collegiate obligations in the US and the UAAP season itself was shortened to make way for the Southeast Asian Games. Meeker and Laput coped with injuries and never got to hit their stride. Malonzo was the exception as he blossomed as a major impact player, averaging 15.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 28.3 minutes in 13 games.

Because of his UAAP performance, Malonzo was picked to join the Mighty Sports squad that won a recent international tournament in Dubai and starred in several highlight reels. He’ll play for Marinero in the PBA D-League starting March 2 with Laput. They’ll register the required D-League games to gain eligibility for the next PBA draft.

Meeker has offers to play as an Asian import in Thailand and Japan. Seigle says his advice is for Meeker to play in Thailand, get his feet wet then later, consider a move to Japan where the competition is at a higher level. Both Malonzo and Meeker show NCAA Division I credentials. Malonzo played at Portland State and Meeker at Illinois State. Laput, who’s 6-9, saw action at Young Harris College, a Division II school in Georgia.

“If we had maybe two or three more weeks of practice, it would’ve been a different story for La Salle,” says Seigle. “We lost two games by a point each and if we had won instead, we would’ve been in the Final Four. But that’s basketball.”        

Seigle also brought in Jermaine Byrd as La Salle’s active coaching consultant last year. Byrd was offered to stay as the Archers skills development coach for the coming season but has decided to go back to the US to pursue other opportunities. La Salle’s new coaching staff is headed by Derick Pumaren with Noy Falcasantos, Gabby Velasco, Mon Jose and Gian Nazario as assistants. Each coach in the new staff has a La Salle background.

Seigle says he always tries to keep Malonzo’s feet on the ground. “I told Jaime it’s not about those highlight plays but it’s about playing consistently,” he says. “In Dubai, he was featured in a lot of highlight reels but what was his shooting percentage, how was his defense? Defense will be his money-maker, not his highlight plays. When he gets to the PBA, he’ll be scouted. Opposing teams will take away his strengths. They’ll know what his weaknesses are. It won’t be easy making shots. Jaime’s athletic, he has a lot of talent. But he’s got to work hard and play defense. I think Jaime and James will enjoy long basketball careers if they stay grounded. They’ll do well with Marinero. In a recent practice game, James had 17 points and 11 rebounds while Jaime scored over 20.”

Seigle says it’s a temptation for a Fil-Am to think playing in the Philippines is a cakewalk. “I’ve been in that situation,” he admits. “You think after getting big numbers in the US, it’ll be easy in the Philippines. You’ll find out soon enough it’s a challenge. It’s more physical and there’s more pressure playing in the Philippines.” Seigle constantly repeats this message to Malonzo as his way of showing tough love.

Seigle points to his father John for keeping him grounded. “I remember University of Rhode Island coach Al Skinner offered me a scholarship and my dad told me to think it over carefully,” he recalls. “In the US, there’s an early signing and a late signing for college recruits. Coach Skinner wanted me to do an early signing. My dad reminded me that if Rhode Island really wanted me, they’ll wait. Well, they didn’t wait. I ended up at Wagner College, also a Division I school. In my first year, I scored 29 points against Rutgers and was offered to transfer by Rutgers. That’s a Big East school. But again, my father reminded me to think things over. At Rutgers, I probably would’ve sat on the bench a lot. At Wagner, I had the chance to grow my game. I stayed at Wagner and became a Hall of Famer. I owe it to my dad for guiding me to make the right decisions.”

It was in high school where Seigle began to realize that basketball would open a lot of doors. As a junior in Carbondale, his high school team went 30-0 and won the Pennsylvania state championship. During one stretch in his prep career, his team won 59 straight games. “I’ll always cherish my high school basketball years,” he says. “I remember when Kobe Bryant came to Manila in 2011, we played at Araneta and Kobe, Gabe Norwood and I sat next to each other on the bench. Gabe also played on a Pennsylvania state high school championship team and so did Kobe. Three players sitting side by side, all from Pennsylvania state high school champion teams. I mentioned it to Kobe and he was like wow.”

Seigle, 43, played on eight PBA champion teams from 1999 to 2017 and was a four-time Finals MVP. After years of involvement in the game, Seigle will finally get a chance to enjoy a well-deserved extended vacation with his long-time partner Rosanne, grand-daughter of the late PBA founding commissioner Leo Prieto. Seigle says he also has work to do in New York, things that were put on the back burner during his basketball days, and will return to Manila in September.

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