Jackson Corpuz almost left his second sport for good.
Transitioning from volleyball to basketball in his teens, the Philippine Christian University alumnus’ hope was all but lost when he got left out in the 2014 PBA Draft.
“I almost gave up. But my girlfriend told me to continue dreaming because all of these are just challenges,” he said in Filipino.
Nearly three years after what had been the toughest days of his basketball career, Corpuz’s dream was finally realized when he got the call from Mahindra and started in his first professional game on Sunday.
“I’m so happy. When I entered the Mall of Asia Arena, I didn’t know what to do because I’ve never been in this position. When I entered the dugout, I was looking at my jersey and the badge read PBA. There’s no more D-League. I’m so happy because I finally got my dream to play in the PBA and play against my idols,” he said.
Corpuz’s path to the pro league is quite an unconventional one, the first of its kind for that matter.
Though a number of hopefuls who went undrafted in the Draft tested their mettle in the PBA D-League for a year before finally kissing their dreams goodbye, Corpuz kept his fight going for three years, establishing himself as a solid contributor as he bounced from one team to another.
He started out as a bench player when he first joined the D-League with Erase Plantcenta before he slowly made his mark as part of Derulo Accelero and Bread Story and proving himself as a serviceable undersized big man in his stops with Cebuana Lhuillier and, for the past three conferences, with Racal.
Corpuz had his best showing in the recently-concluded 2017 Aspirants’ Cup, where he averaged 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds to help the Tile Masters reach the Finals for the first time.
Though Racal ended up as bridesmaid to Cignal-San Beda in the Finals, Corpuz’ hardwork did get noticed by the PBA teams as the Floodbuster immediately plucked him from the free agent pool on Thursday and signed him up for the rest of the season.
“I didn’t expect that after the Finals, Mahindra will sign me up. They said they really want me and I’m glad that they gave me the chance,” said the 28-year-old. “I’m also surprised that I’m just here for two practices and they already have that much trust on me to put me in as a starter.”
Corpuz went scoreless but had six rebounds, an assist and a steal before fouling out after logging 22 minutes on the floor in the Floodbuster’s 86-84 loss to TNT.
Corpuz also didn’t deny his excitement as he defended one of his idols Ranidel de Ocampo for a considerable amount of time during the game.
“I’m happy that coach Chris (Gavina) matched me up against him because Ranidel is one of my idols along with Marc Pingris,” he said. “It was tough defending him because he’s so good, but I just tried to do my usual defense.”
Getting to the PBA is one thing, but staying here is another and Corpuz knows that as much as he is overcome with emotions for all the breaks he has been given, the real work begins if he wants to have a lasting PBA career.
“I feel so blessed for all of the blessings I’m getting right now. Though I wasn’t able to win the championship in the D-League, this opportunity opened up for me and made me achieve my dream. I’m just thankful for all the chances that has been given to me,” he said.
“But I know I still need to adjust. I need to do extra work, double or triple the effort. I have to do everything I can in the role that will be given to me by the coaches.”