On chasing dream
On chasing dream
Words: Cole Micek @colemicek
Photos: Henry Wu @hello.henry
Style: Nikko Panti @misterbaks
Groom: Christopher Miles @christophermilesmakeup
My entire life I dreamt of earning a basketball scholarship and becoming a professional athlete. I dedicated every fiber of my being to these arduous goals that I set for myself at a young age. I remember writing down my short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals and putting them up all over my room along with all of my Slam magazine posters. I wanted to play professionally overseas; specifically in the Philippines since it’s the homeland! Committing your life to a sport, like anything in life, takes an exceptional amount of hard work, dedication, perseverance, and an enormous amount of patience. I’ve had a basketball in my hands since I was a baby. We have home videos of me as a toddler making consecutive baskets in my Little Tikes hoop. I’m wearing a Michael Jordan Bulls jersey that fits me like a dress and holding my little follow through while telling my sister to finally pass the dang ball back. Mom is in the background clapping and encouraging me while seemingly surprised to see her child make all of these shots. It’s a pretty awesome video I must say.
I come from a very athletic family. My mom played volleyball in college and dad played college hoops. My older sister played volleyball at NC State then went on to play professionally both beach and indoor. She is now a superstar head coach of the men’s volleyball program at Windward. My dad was a college basketball coach for decades, a pro trainer, and my personal trainer and b-ball guru my whole life. As you can tell, basketball and volleyball are in our blood. Ball really was life, and it is surreal to say it still is after all of these years. I am immensely fortunate to have had a great basketball career thus far. The wins, the losses, the championships, the bus rides with teammates, the training camps from hell, the opportunities to travel to new places, the injuries, getting to meet and coach with Kobe and other pros—I’m truly thankful for it all.
The game was all I ever thought about and dreamt about. I brushed my teeth and ate cereal with my left hand so it would translate to me making more left-handed layups and floaters. I bounced the ball in the house against my mom’s orders and would do euro-steps throughout the kitchen. Basketball is, and always will be, my first love. It has taught me so much about life. All the late nights and early mornings taught me discipline that I’ll take to the grave. It has given me the opportunity to travel all over, learn about new cultures, learn about my own Filipino culture and heritage, and meet the most incredible people. Being able to cultivate lifelong friendships and mentorships has been the greatest takeaway. Not to mention it also provided me with an education and paid for my degree in psychology. I truly owe everything to this game.
Now that I’ve professed my love for a game that involves throwing a ball into a hoop, I can finally get into what has been going on these past few years. After graduating college with honors (yes, my Asian mom was proud), my plan was to sign with an agent and play professionally overseas. So I signed with a really good, young, up-and-coming agent and then … pandemic. We all know how that went--all sports were put on hold and overseas professional leagues shut down. During the pandemic, having to adapt to the situation, is when my mind began to rewire and shift in a new direction. I started to think about life after basketball and what I could see myself doing as a career. Sport psychology always intrigued me, however, I wanted to do something that I found exhilarating. I started to think pensively about modeling and acting as a career rather than just something I do on the side.
As the world started to open back up again, my basketball agent was looking to send me overseas as soon as pro leagues opened back up. The Indonesian Basketball League (IBL) was looking like the best option for me to begin my overseas pro career where I could thrive and lead a team. However, my modeling career was starting to really take off—I finished a campaign with Hugo Boss, started filming my first feature film, and was getting auditions consistently for lead roles in tv shows and movies with promising feedback. It was a tough decision, but I decided to change the course of my dreams and just a few months prior to the draft I pulled my name to no longer pursue my pro rookie season overseas. I wanted to focus on building what I have here at home, rather than living thousands of miles away; everything I needed in life was all right here.
I’ve come to learn that changing course from what you previously thought you were going to do is perfectly okay. Change can be a good thing and I had faith that something even better was coming my way. I’ve taken ample time to reflect and am very happy with the decision I made. It has allowed me to still do what I love to do, and most importantly be around the people I love. I am re-energized being grounded in California while pursuing multiple passions.
However, I couldn’t completely go cold turkey from basketball—oh heck no. I’m still playing at a high level as a pro 3x3 basketball player; it’s just not the traditional form that everyone watches and the one I played my entire life. FIBA 3x3 is an official Olympic sport that involves a fast-paced half-court game of 3 on 3 hoops. It’s crazy fun and remarkably entertaining for the fans—you have to watch it! I began training for 3x3 basketball in 2020 after my good friend, Kareem Maddox, introduced me to the game. He is one of the best 3x3 players in the world, so certainly not a bad guy to learn from. I started my own team, Team LA Legends, and we have made some excellent strides in this sport! We’ve qualified for and competed in two USA National Championships at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. We’ve also been selected three times as the USA select team to compete and train against USA National team to get them ready for the Americup and World Cup. I am certain we will continue to reach new heights as our team continues to get better each season. I’ve always been a big dreamer and I am not afraid to tell people to just watch and see how far these chicken legs will take me. All jokes aside, I am training to become a top 3x3 basketball player and to put my team on the map—World Tour here we come!
In 2018 I started commercial acting, however, it wasn't until the pandemic when I decided to pursue becoming a tv and film actor and turn it into a career. Some could say I just took a long hiatus after my lead roles in my elementary school Shakespeare plays. I have the utmost respect for the craft and love acting and storytelling. When I am passionate about something I tend to become obsessive and put all of my blood, sweat and tears into it. Just like I did with basketball for decades, I knew that I needed to put countless hours of hard work and dedication into becoming an actor as well; it’s time to become a gym rat in a new gym.
I’ve been putting in work with my incredible acting coach and am grateful to be training alongside very talented people. Some of my best friends who are also actors have helped me out a ton. I am tremendously fortunate to have my good friend, Jamie Foxx, as a mentor. It’s not every day that you get to pick the brain and receive acting advice from one of the best in the business and one of the most genuine, good-hearted people in Hollywood; he’s the GOAT. (Fun fact: my first acting scene was with Foxx and I had to punch him pretty hard in the stomach.) It really helps to have a good, solid support group in an industry like this. Good people with good energy can be hard to come by these days so it’s crucial that when you find those people, you hold onto them. My family and friends have really started to see and believe in the vision I have had for myself for years and having their support means the world to me. I am grateful to have worked on some amazing films so far, and I am very excited about upcoming projects. I can’t talk about it too much but I’ve also been working on a dream project with my best friend and producer. It’s still in its embryonic stages but just know that it’s going to be beautiful!
I have always been goal-driven but I know that I need to enjoy the journey and find pleasure in the process. Kobe Bryant emphasizes that the journey is actually more special than the destination. I try to remind myself that these new beginnings, this journey that we are all weaving through, and the times when you don’t have it all figured out, are in fact the “good times”. Give yourself a pat on the back for how far you’ve already come and don’t forget to smile; we have to celebrate those small wins too! At the same time, to reach new heights and “succeed” you just have to keep going. I think the advice that has definitely helped me and can resonate with younger athletes, artists, entertainers, and any field really, is to just keep going. Whatever it is that you love to do, just keep working at it. Go all in. Be fearless. Do everything to educate yourself and train smart and consistently at your craft. You may start to notice that not everyone has the same determination to persevere and that is what will make you stand out.
I’ve definitely come to terms with this new turn of events in my journey. Younger me would be tremendously proud of the decisions I have made and how I have adapted, learned, and applied new skills to push the ball full speed toward my new passions. Younger me would also be proud of the way that I have handled adversity through difficult times. My journey hasn’t been an easy one but it has been fulfilling. At this point I can honestly say that I have fully accepted the concept of what is meant for me is meant for me, and when one door closes, another one will open just around the corner. I’ve faced a fair amount of rejection in basketball growing up and now in the fashion and entertainment industry I hear “no” every day; but the times I do hear “yes” are as sweet as an Ubatuba acai bowl on a hot summer day in the valley (you have to try it). I’m thoroughly enjoying the process and am filled with joy knowing that I have the opportunity to really grow in three different career paths. A lot of that comes from having a certain amount of confidence that comes from a few sources: my preparation, my experiences, and positive self-talk. I guess that psychology degree came in handy after all.
I’m constantly learning, evolving, and growing as an athlete, actor, model, and, most importantly, as a human being. I’m ready to make the seemingly impossible become possible. Those that know me know that Asian representation is super important to me. I am hopeful for the future and have this enormous passion and desire to always put the Asian community in the best light. I believe that we must speak up about our unique AAPI experiences and ensure that the voiceless now have a voice. It is up to us to keep pushing boundaries, have pride of where we came from, and consistently celebrate each other as we shine bright. We all have this creative and spiritual force in our hands that we must ignite to create something special. So let’s cheers to new beginnings, move with love, keep up the good vibes, chase those impalpable dreams, and shock the world!