IT’S not easy for a PBA player to swallow his pride, especially when one has multiple championships and is a son of one of the all-time greats in league history.
But for Paolo Hubalde, the basketball journey never stops and he proved to everybody that there’s an eternity of life outside the PBA.
For 12 years, Hubalde did the best he can to live up to the family’s name, which has become a symbol of excellence. His dad, Freddie, was a member of two grand slam teams of the fabled Crispa Redmanizers, a former Most Valuable Player, one of the PBA’s 25 Greatests and a 17-time PBA champion.
His old dad did throw a big shadow to his sons’ careers, including Paolo, who for 12 years won two championships while playing for Ginebra and Petron.
But when opportunity came for the younger Hubalde to be invited to join the PBA anew, Paolo turned it down and chose to stay where his heart truly belongs.
“I put my heart into it, parang nung naglalaro ako sa PBA. Sabi ko, dito (MPBL) I can show my craft, I can show my skills. I’ve been in the PBA for 12 years, I won championships there, but may mga dreams ako of being the main guy. Here (in the MPBL), I felt like I’m home sa Valenzuela. May mga offers ako when the season started last conference (sa PBA), pero I chose to stay with Valenzuela,” Hubalde told FOX Sports Philippines in an exclusive interview.
Playing for either Ginebra or Valenzuela yields no difference, according to Hubalde. While the Gin Kings are more prestigious, he felt more love while playing in the MPBL, the fastest growing regional basketball league in the country.
“Yung crowd ng Valenzuela parang crowd ng Ginebra. Nung naglaro ako doon (sa Valenzuela), parang parehong-pareho. When I won the championship sa Ginebra, I was doing minimal minutes, sometimes reserve, pero ginamit ko siyang motivation to improve. Yung warm welcome ng Valenzuela, iba. Ultimo kahit naglalakad ka, kilalang-kilala ka ng mga bata. I’m super at home sa Valenzuela,” he added.
With Valenzuela, Hubalde was given a bigger task – and that is to serve as a model to his younger teammates and fans alike.
“Ang role ko is being the leader of this team – to guide these young guys to play for the championship. Yung experience ko sa PBA, matulungan ko yung homegrown players, tapos yung ibang mga teammates ko, matulungan sila on and off the court,” added Hubalde.
Being in the MPBL made Hubalde realize several significant things and that made him choose the up and coming league over the more established one.
“I know parang sinasabi ko lang, pero ang totoo kasi, the league is growing, maganda ang exposure and maraming natutulungang players,” added Hubalde.
But he still continues to encourage every player to pursue their dreams. He knows the PBA is the final destination for every Pinoy ball player out there, so he advised them to pursue happiness.
“Give your best, sa akin kasi naging motivation ko sa sarili ko to always give my 100-percent every practice and every game. Kung papalarin kayo na mapunta sa PBA, so be it. Yun naman ang ultimate dream ng bawat Pilipino (player). We just have to find your happiness,” he added.