GAME CHANGER | Jeson F. Delfinado: Basketball is his passon

Jeson Flores Delfinado is the third child of Patrecio Raul Perez Delfinado and Maria Fe Roselita Flores. Regine and Martin came ahead of him while Patrick and James followed him. He was born on October 13, 1994 in Davao City.

His childhood dream was to play at the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and be part of a national team. He sees himself playing with and against some of his basketball idols. More importantly, he wants his life to be an inspiration to other kids who dream of becoming a basketball player like him.

Let’s go back in time first. Jeson spent his elementary years at the Brokenshire College. After graduation, he attended Far Eastern University (FEU), where he finished high school. He graduated in 2018 with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Business Management) at the FEU.

Jeson started playing with balls when he was still a kid. He was still 10 years old when he joined the football team. But he was more interested with what his brother, Martin, was doing: basketball.

“I enjoyed watching my kuya playing basketball. I usually accompanied him while he was training for Milo Best. Ako ang water boy, taga dala ng mga gamit n’ya, at taga kuha ng kanyang milo drinks,” he admitted.

He really liked what his big brother was doing. “Makulit akong bata,” he said. So, he asked his brother to teach him how to play basketball. When his kuya had a practice at school, he joined them.

When they got home after training at school, he wouldn’t tell his father that he was tired because he still had to train at night some techniques on martial arts. “My father supported my kuya in becoming a basketball player but not me,” he said, saying that the father saw Martin’s future in basketball.

But not Jeson’s. “Our father wanted me to become a soldier after finishing high school and that was the reason why he hired a trainer on taekwondo and arnis for me.”

Although he didn’t abhor becoming a soldier, what he really wanted was to become a basketball player like his kuya. His persistence paid off. When he was in fourth grade, he was finally playing basketball for the school team.

But still, his father didn’t support him. For instance, if his father bought new shoes for Martin, he won’t buy new shoes for Jeson. “Kahit malaki ang paa ng kuya ko, iyong lumang shoes n’ya ang ginagamit ko para lang makapaglaro ako.”

After graduating from elementary at the Brokenshire College, he decided to be enrolled at the Holy Child College of Davao, where he was already training since he was in fifth grade together with his older brother. Although he was already playing basketball for the freshmen team, his father still supported Martin.

“If my kuya had a championship game, all family members were required to watch the game,” he said. But when Jeson also had such an event, it wasn’t compulsory: they had the option not to watch.

Then something happened during the summer when he was already 16. The sophomore team had won several basketball tournaments and they were given awards that summer. During the recognition day, there was one player who told them that the Far Eastern University (FEU) was having a try-out.

Jeson was excited and told his parents about it. But at that time, there was a problem. They were having a problem financially. He was given an exact amount – fare from the house to the venue gym and then back home. The try-out was supposed to be at three in the afternoon but he went earlier.

When he arrived at the place, he was surprised the venue was still closed. When he asked the security guard, he was told there was no schedule for such a try-out at the gym. He was completely devastated. (He found out later that he was given false information so that he could not join the try-out.)

When he returned home early, his sister was surprised. He told him the reason. The story would have ended there but that summer, a coach asked him to be involved in a summer clinic as a coach.

The summer training usually started at 1 and ended at 4. After that, he would join the practice of college students from 4 pm until 7 in the evening or until 10 pm. “My mindset was really to further improve my skills in basketball,” he reasoned out on why he joined the practice of being a college basketball player.

During one of his practices, his father watched him. It so happened that he was sitting beside another father who told him that the FEU coach – who conducted a try-out – was looking for Jeson. His father was completely flabbergasted. After all, Jeson wasn’t able to join the try-out.

The person, who was also a coach, told Jeson’s father that the try-out was just a formality to watch some players who had potential. What the FEU coach really wanted was to meet Jeson during the try-out.

Jeson’s father got hold of the number of the FEU coach and called him that night. The coach told him that he wanted to get Jeson for FEU. If they were really interested, the coach would buy him a ticket and for his son to bring them to Manila. He would also pick them at the airport.

When Jeson learned that he was considered, he was again excited. But he was still adamant. However, his father told him to accept the offer as everything was free. After seeking guidance from the Lord, he came to Manila accompanied by his mother who also decided to work there as a teacher.

“Actually, I accepted the offer for the sake of my family,” he said. At that time, the family was really hard-up financially. His younger brothers – Patrick and James – were already attending public schools, which he never experienced.

And so that was the start of his career. When he graduated from FEU Fern, it was the first time when the said school became champion at the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). There were so many universities that offered him scholarships but settled with FEU nonetheless.

He spent five years in college since there were some units that he failed to take as he played basketball for the FEU Tamaraws. Instead of going straight to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) after graduation, he believed he wasn’t ready yet.

“May doubt pa ako sa sarili ko,” he told spin.ph’s Gerry Ramos. “That led him to take his act to the PBA D-League, the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League and other minor leagues just to further hone his skills and boost his confidence.”

In the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft, he wanted to join but he figured in an accident. Then, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic happened in 2020. Like most Filipinos, he had a hard time.

“Half of 2020, I was in survival mode in Manila,” he admitted. “There was no basketball, no opportunities whatsoever. In order for me to survive, I became a delivery rider since I have a motor. That was my source of income during that time.”

He experienced waking up at 5:30 in the morning and eating 4-5 cups of rice. “I didn’t eat lunch because I was already on the road delivering something for people,” he recalled. “I did all those because I wanted to survive. In fact, I didn’t go home during Christmas time.”

Looking back, he questioned himself about his future. So, he returned home to ponder what God has really prepared for him. He thought basketball was not for him and so he decided he would use the college degree he had taken.

But fate intervened. “One of the coaches in Manila called me and brought me back to play basketball,” he recalls. The said coach let him played for Nueva Ecija Bespren in Filbasket, where he became known as Mr. Energy Guy.

Then, he finally tried for the PBA Rookie Draft. Although there was a huge number of rookies who applied, he was one of the five former FEU cagers who was selected. “After years of desperation and what ifs, with almost two years of hopelessness and doubts,” he wrote in his Facebook account. “Years of hard work to survive. Years of encouragement to continue.”

Jeson thanked God for allowing him to keep the fire burning and the desire of making it in the big league. “Thank you, Lord,” he said, “for bringing me back to my love, my career, and my happiness.”

The Davao cager quoted the Bible which said, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declared the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Check Jeremiah 29:11 for that.

But right now, due to a pandemic, his status is classified as “unrestricted free agent.” It means any team can give him an opportunity to play with. “I am planning to get an open door to play on any PBA teams,” he admits.

“Formally, when you get to sign a PBA contract, it matters how long the contract is, so it depends if it’s one conference, one to two years contract, and that’s the time you will have a chance to play at PBA,” Jeson explains.

He returned home to his family last December and he went back to Manila on the third of February as his coach had called him. He may not be joining a team yet but he is looking for an open door. He is staying ready “when the moment comes,” he says.

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