Austria to Sariaya youth: Pursue dreams

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    GIFT-GIVING: San Miguel coach Leo Austria (right) leads the distribution of basketballs during a recent gift-giving activity for young residents of the San Miguel-Christian Gayeta Homes in Sariaya, Quezon.

    SAN Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria said the youth in his hometown of Sariaya should not give up on their dreams despite the pandemic, adding he is confident that San Miguel Corp. would boost basketball in Quezon province and produce new talents for collegiate leagues and the PBA.

    Austria, the PBA rookie of the year winner in 1985, said living in the province did not deter him from moving forward as a player and coach in the Philippine Amateur Basketball League and the pro league.

    “Ang sabi ko nga sa mga bata, ako nga na tagarito sa Sariaya ay nagsikap at umabot sa PBA. Kaya’t kaya rin nila basta magsikap sila at malaking blessing na nandito na ang San Miguel sa Sariaya,” Austria said.

    Austria, along with PBA legend Alvin Patrimonio, joined Sariaya officials led by Mayor Marcelo Gayeta and Quezon clergy led by Lucena Bishop Mel Rey Uy during the recent inauguration of the new facilities of the 5.4-hectare San Miguel-Christian Gayeta Homes, which includes a covered and concrete basketball court, livelihood center, e-library, and children’s learning center.

    Austria reiterated his thanks to SMC president and COO Ramon S. Ang for taking care of 127 families who relocated to the P352 million sustainable housing community from the risky coastal areas of Sariaya.

    “Being in San Miguel changed my life. Ang sabi ko sa mga kababayan ko ay nagpakita ng malasakit ang San Miguel and si Boss RSA (Ang) nung lockdown at hanggang ngayon ay maaasahan nila ‘yun. Magkakaroon ng trabaho at makakatulong sa income ng local government units ang pagtatayo ng negosyo ng San Miguel sa Sariaya,” said Austria.

    Upon learning that SMC’s housing community has a concrete basketball court, Austria said he would have wanted to conduct basketball clinics for children. But that will have to wait as existing quarantine restrictions prohibit team-oriented sports activities.

    Playing basketball as a teenager in Sariaya evoked happy memories for Austria. “Nag-umpisa ako ng volleyball sa St. Francis High School but madalas na ko sa intrams (intramurals) noon bago ako napunta sa basketball nung junior at senior year,” he said.

    “May basketball court sa tapat ng simbahan na tawag ay parke kung saan madalas kami maglaro halos maghapon. Ang tawag nga sa akin ay batang parke. Kung saan-saan nga kami nakakarating sa Quezon para maglaro ng mga kaibigan ko,”he recalled.

    Austria is hoping more Quezon-based players can make it to the collegiate and professional leagues. “Ang mga naalala ko ay sina Alex at Boy Clarino na taga-Pagbilao, si Gido Babilonia na taga Alabat at ‘yung bago sa PBA na si Jesper Aya-ay na taga Pagbilao rin.

    Sana marami pang umangat na player na taga Quezon in the future.”