By Peejay Barua
As early as 8 years old, I knew I wanted to be an athlete. I started out by playing volleyball for Palarong Pambansa, but after watching the great Michael Jordan play on TV, I became hooked to basketball.
As a child growing up in the province, we never had the opportunity and exposure that the children from Manila had. We had no varsity teams or no formal sports clinics in my hometown of Guimaras. All we had then was “larong kalye”, and “ligang barangay”.
I only became initiated into a formal “varsity team” when I reached my 3rd year of high school in 2003. I was 15 at that time, and I was referred by a friend to a talent scout for University of Iloilo which was recruiting basketball players. And that’s when my hoop dreams started to become a reality, as an athletic scholar, playing for the University of Iloilo HS Basketball Team, the UI Wildcats from 2003 to 2005.
While I was with UI, I was fortunate to have been coached and mentored by people who treated me not just as their player, but also like their own son. It was also because of my high school coach , the late Molet Medez that I mustered the courage to try out for DLSU Men’s College Basketball team in May of year 2005.
He sent me to Manila during the summer of 2005, where his nephew , Nong Butch Valencia was based, and he accompanied me to the Green Archer try outs. To make the long story short, I made the initial cut. But hard as that was, it was just the beginning as nothing was sure yet – I had yet to be lined up. We were sent to a three week long rigorous training in Korea before the UAAP season 68 officially started. Fortunately, I was chosen to be part of DLSU Green Archers for UAAP season 68 alongside with my fellow rookies, James Mangahas and Kish Co.
The training under coach Franz Pumaren was grueling and punishing. On top of practices, there were classes to attend, exams to take, aside from making sure I had enough time to rest. It was a tough juggling act, and there were times I wanted to just quit, but I felt I was just too blessed to throw away a once in a lifetime opportunity. With the guidance of Dave Dichupa, my foster parent and guardian in Manila, I survived being a student athlete. My stint playing for the DLSU Green Archers from Year 2005 to 2009 was unforgettable.
Being a student athlete has built my resiliency and strengthened my never say die, never give up spirit. And one day, I hope to pass on these to my son – Cairo, who as early as 18 months is already showing signs that he loves basketball. His early athleticism comes not only from me but from my wife Cathy, who was into extreme sports. Hopefully he will follow in my footsteps as an athlete in basketball, or in his choice of sports.
The discipline that was inculcated in me by all my coaches and mentors from University of Iloilo to DLSU has helped me in my journey with PBL,PBA – Dleague, and as of recent- MPBL.
Thank you De La Salle! To the DLSU Green Archers Varsity team of Season 82, good luck! Make most of this experience, and always give 100% to all your games! I’m a better person because of all of this, and if you persevere, you will be too.
Ed’s note: Today’s La Salle supporters may not be familiar with his name, but during his stint as a Green Archer, Peejay Barua was one of the most feared snipers in the league. Known for his quick release three pointer and ability to get to the hoop, Peejay was always closely marked whenever he was on the court.
A true student athlete, Peejay completed his college degree, and instead of pursuing a basketball career to the exclusion of others, he decided to enter the corporate world while dabbling in competitive basketball at the same time. Today, he works with the Ayala Group and keeps himself fit by playing in the Ayala Group tournament, the DLeague and the MPBL.
It’s not well known that Peejay was included in the Gilas 1.0 team, but he begged off due to conflicts with his academic commitments.
Sounds like a true La Sallian student-athlete.