Fresh off our disappointing third place finish in Shanghai, we were unsure where to go next. The storms that had forced the tournament indoors, were heading for the Philippines, our next destination, and all but two of us were already on the way back to LA. Our plan, much like our team in the final rounds of the tournament, seemed to be falling apart. We packed up and made our way downtown, hopped on some bicycles and set off to see what else the largest city in China had to offer. From the breathtaking skyline at the Bund, to the back alleys of Nanjing road to the sizzling Szechuan peppers at the Peacock Room, with many hidden hoops in between. That ride offered up some welcomed perspective on the beauty of where this game can take you, even when the results on the court are not what you had hoped for.
That night, we reached out to the legend Mike Swift (@pinoyhoops, @iammikeswift), about making our way to the Philippines. He said the weather was “maneuverable.” And that was all we needed to hear. The next morning we were on our way to Manila, byway of Hong Kong. We decided to take advantage of our 8 hour layover and hit the ground running on a speedy, Hong Kong style hoop journey. Finding and hooping on as many courts as we could before our flight to Manila. On the “yellow courts” Nick stepped in and offered some coaching and inspiration to a team of kids that were VBL fans (coached by @coachcompasshk). We finished off our day at the magical Rainbow courts at the Choi Hung Estate. We went undefeated there, despite a close last game with some local OG’s. As always, we left s ome Veniceball basketballs behind with the youth to hone their skills and passion…and we were off to Manila.
Legendary Mike Swift picked us up in the Manilafornia tour van and took us up to the world famous Tenement Courts.
From there, the Hoop Journey continued through the streets of Manila, where the love of the game is in the air and everywhere. There is a court, or at least a hoop, on almost every street. The resourcefulness and craftsmanship on the ground there is truly amazing.
Later that day, we found ourselves participating in tryout scrimmages for the FIBA 3X3 international team, alongside local hero Kobe Paras. Our day ended in Tondo, under the lights, hooping with the locals. That night, we set out towards the jungle, in search of the perfect court.
After some strong Batangas coffee and a few dozen rambutans, we made our way along the coast and through many villages where basketball once again served as a universal language to unite us all. After some epic small ball pickup games on a pinoy style hoop constructed on a bamboo tree, we settled on an abandoned glass factory in the middle of the jungle, in the Mataas Na Kahoy province of Batangas.
Over the next three days, with the help of many talented locals (special shoutout to our brother, Rashid @sandiganrakid) and beautiful people, gallons upon gallons of paint, and an unforgettable after dark freestyle cypher courtesy of Brooklyn legends J-Hon and Mike Swift, The Jungle Dome was born…
We painted, we built, and we hooped from sun up til sun down, until it was our time to go. That last morning, there were over 150 people on the court, playing on their new beautiful playground. And when we left, our main man, the hospitable Officer Cy Mendoza sent us this message, “Thank you bro. What you guys have done, it really means a lot for the community. Especially for the kids. They always hang out there now. They always used to hang out at computer shops. Now it’s different…”