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Finding second wind: Former Lyceum star Dexter Zamora fights for PBA dream
by Niel Victor Masoy, December 04, 2019 12:24pm
Before the era of C-Jay Perez, Mike Nzeusseu, and the Marcelino twins Jayvee and Jaycee, Dexter Zamora used to be one of the stars for the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates.
The 5-foot-9 point guard used to be one of the top guns of Lyceum - then bannered by players like Joseph Gabayni and Shaq Alanes, and mentored by now Colegio de San Juan de Letran head coach Bonnie Tan - during its infant years (2011-2014) in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s basketball tournament.
However, Zamora’s ascent in the oldest collegiate league in the country came to a screeching halt just weeks before the NCAA season 91 unfolded in 2015.
In a tuneup game in Bohol in late May, Zamora went down with an injury, tearing his ACL in his left knee. That forced Zamora to sit out all of season 91 to recover from the said injury.
Zamora did recover from that ACL tear and was supposed to play in season 92 - his fifth and final playing year in the NCAA. The native of Tagbilaran, Bohol, though, was dropped from the Pirates’ lineup as a ‘disciplinary action’.
Lyceum didn’t get him back since.
This, and the said ACL injury had Zamora spiraling downwards. And what was once a pretty promising basketball career turned into dust, virtually.
“Supposedly may one year pa ako sa Lyceum that time. Unfortunately, na-injured ako. I torn my ACL in my left knee, so yun yung nag-ano sakin na hindi ko na nalaro yung last year ko,” said Zamora in a phone interview with Courtside Philippines.
After his ACL injury and unceremonious exit at Lyceum, Zamora felt so dejected he thought of quitting basketball and just stop achieving his dream of playing in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
“After my injury, medyo naging cold sakin yung basketball so I was thinking na, ‘para sakin ba ‘to? Parang hindi na para sakin.’ Naisipan ko mag-quit, to be honest, naisipan ko talagang mag-quit.”
And as if that ACL injury was not enough, Zamora injured his ACL once more in June of 2018, this time, the one in his right knee.
It came after when he played for the Batangas - EAC (Emilio Aguinaldo College) in the PBA Developmental League in 2018 (D-League) and had a stint in Malaysia in 2017. The disaster struck him just as when he’s starting to regain his groove after his first ACL injury.
There’s no denying it, Zamora hit rock bottom.
“Last year sa D-League (with Batangas-EAC), I torn my ACL again, this time naman, my right knee. Medyo talagang mahirap, ang dami kong struggles na pinagdaanan, and then I considered that the lowest point of my life,” shared Zamora.
An ACL tear is one of the most devastating injuries an athlete can incur in any sport. Zamora described experiencing such an injury as a ‘nightmare’.
“It is a nightmare. Ang hirap. I don’t know. Siguro kung sa ibang athlete nangyari feel ko gi-give up na sila kasi nga mahirap.”
Better perspective through the healing process
Most of the time, every setback allows an individual to have a better understanding, a better perspective of how things go and how life goes. It becomes a gateway for an individual to become a better person.
His two ACL injuries led Zamora to just that. More than being meticulous when it comes to taking care of his body, Zamora said he came out as a better person because of such.
“Mahirap sa’kin yung process kasi nga parang those years are the lowest points of my life, sobrang nahirapan ako,” remarked Zamora.
“But dun nag stay si God sakin, he gave me and showed me the light na ganun yung nangyari sa’kin, and it helped me to transform into a better individual. When it comes to being an athlete, when it comes to my sleep, yung nutrition and everything, medyo nag-broad yung pananaw ko dun.”
Zamora would have not recovered had he not received any help from the people around him. He made sure to thank those people for their helping hands.
“Thankful ako dahil may mga taong naniniwala pa rin sakin, sumu-support pa rin sa akin na i-continue yung passion ko sa basketball,” uttered Zamora.
“Yung second injury medyo mahirap. Pangalawa na eh, second time no na eh. parang ang hirap, pero thankful pa rin ako dahil yung mga PTs (physical therapists) ko, yung mga strength and conditioning coach ko, talagang tinulungan nila ako makabalik sa basketball career ko - regaining everything, yung strength ng tuhod, overall. Yung performance nung body ko.”
Fighting for his family, province
Through it all, Zamora found the second win to carry on.
His quest to make the PBA is not just for himself. Just like every PBA aspirant, Zamora keeps on going for his family.
After all that has happened to him, it’s definitely hard to bounce back. But for Zamora, with his dedication to push through against all odds, hopes to inspire the people, especially the kids in his hometown Tagbilaran to go for their dreams as well.
“Unang una, yung family ko (ang inspirasyon ko para magpatuloy),” said Zamora.
“Gusto ko magbigay ng message sa mga young athletes and sa individuals dun sa’min since I grew up and lived in the province, gusto ko magbigay ng message sa kanila, sa mga bata sa’min. Gusto ko magbigay ng message na which way of life they’re going to choose, if they have the grit to pursue their dreams, everything, anything is still possible.
“Yung basketball kasi dun samin medyo hindi pa ganun ka—alam mo yun. Yung basketball program kelangan pa talaga maimprove, which is marami talagang bata sa’min na gusto talaga mag-PBA, so gusto ko makita nila kahit papaano na posible pa rin na kahit taga-province (maabot ang PBA), ayun.”
At 28, Zamora can be considered late for applying for the PBA Draft. But that’s the other message he wants to impart: no matter what your age is, you still have the time to pursue your dream.
“Yun nga, in everything na sabi ko sa parang gusto kong magbigay ng message sa kanila if you have the grit talaga to pursue your dreams, kahit ilang taon ka na, you have to go for it. You still have time.”
Ready for the Draft Combine, PBA Rookie Draft
Zamora spent the last 18 months recovering from his second ACL injury. He spent those months honing his skills more and just preparing for the PBA.
Now, Zamora, who submitted his Draft credentials last Thursday, November 28, feels he’s ready for the Draft Combine slated on December 5 and 6 at the Gatorade Hoops Center, and as well as for the PBA Rookie Draft set on December 8 at Robinsons Manila.
“Oo, ready na (ako for the combine and Draft),” said Zamora.
“I sacrificed and gave everything for this moment. Kung baga blood, sweet, tears. Sabi ko nga sa sarili ko, I’m more than ready to face the outcome dahil alam ko sa sarili ko na binigay ko talaga yung best ko.”
It’s been five years since Zamora was making noise with his play in the NCAA. The basketball fans, perhaps, have forgotten what he did and who he was. Zamora also knows that he’s an underdog in this year’s Draft class. He’s used to it, though.
“Okay lang sa’kin. It is what it is. Ever since nung college days ko parang underdog ako eh. And going into this draft underdog na underdog din ako so medyo sanay na ko. Sanay na ko na I need to prove myself,” he remarked.
Despite feeling the nerves, Zamora is just excited for the combine and the Draft proper. He was supposed to apply for the Draft at least four years ago, after all.
“Ngayon pa lang nagsi-sink in sa’kin eh (na magpapa-draft na ko). Kinakabahan ako na excited kasi once in a lifetime experience siya.”
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