Missing the Court | Rec League legend Alwin Alday looks back at KOTC, “Panalay” days

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By Jonas Egan Reyes, published June 21, 2020

Regulars of recreational leagues in Metro Manila knew of one hooper who terrorized weekend tournaments, trooping from one playing venue to the other - way before his hot-shooting ways on primetime television.

Before donning the threads of the Quezon City Capitals and the Bicol Volcanoes in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), this basketball prospect suited up for Prima Pasta, Los Gwapitos and Baketech/Gymrat in various Kings of the Court (KOTC) leagues, among others, including those of teams from the provinces.

Alwin Alday, another product of those tough Tondo basketball courts, fondly remembers his “formative” days in competitive basketball via the recreational league and “Panalay” routes.

Rec League rise

Alday played varsity ball for La Consolacion College – Manila from 2010 to 2012, under the tutelage of coach Bong Dela Cruz. Just as his college basketball stint ended, weekend tournaments became a thing in the metro. Basketball courts inside schools and other private establishments became hosts for leagues that cater to young professionals and those craving for a weekly hoops fix.

And so, the 5-foot-11 shooting guard quickly jumped into the bandwagon.

“Nung tapos na ako sa college, nauso yung mga recreational leagues. Tuwing weekends yun. Hanggang sa marami nang nag-aya na recreational leagues. Halos lahat ng recreational leagues, nalaruan ko. Laro lang ako nang laro,” shared Alday.

Soon after, Alday became a fixture in KOTC tournaments, where he went up against players who also made the eventual jump to the MPBL and the PBA Developmental League. Honing his game in the recreational league scene, Alday shared the hardwood floor with the likes of Mike Ayon-Ayon, James Castro, Francis Camacho, Melgar Morillo, Felix Apreku, Mel Mabigat, Floyd Dedicatoria. Erwin Sta. Maria, and a few other hopefuls who also dreamed of making it to the big stage.

“Sa Kings of the Court, nakapag-champion ako ng dalawang beses. Natatandaan ko yung unang sali ko, Prima Pasta kami. Ang nakalaban namin sa championship, sila Mike Ayon-Ayon ng Soldiers of Love. Sila yung nakalaban namin. Yung Zark’s, sumali din sa mga recreational, tapos pumasok ng D-League. Yung Royal MNL naman, sumali rin sa recreational leagues, sumali naman sila sa MPBL, sa Quezon City,” said Alday, who spent two years with the Capitals before transferring to Bicol in time for the 2019–2020 Lakan Season.


Joining Alday in “venue-hopping” during weekends was his then-girlfriend, now wife Shirmel – who drove him around the city just to play in basketball leagues.

“Taga-Tondo pa ako. Minsan ang mga venue sa Asia Pacific, sa Cloverleaf. May Dumlao pa. Masipag lang talaga ako maglaro. Pagdating ng weekends, automatic, kami nung girlfriend ko, na asawa ko na ngayon, parang siya yung driver. Lipat-lipat kami sa mga laro.”

Going through all those weekend leagues eventually led Alday to playing opportunities in the provinces, known in the local parlance as “Panalay”. From Metro Manila, Alday took his playing sneakers to provinces like La Union, Butuan, Batangas, Mindoro, Pampanga, Cagayan and Abra to join basketball tournaments, usually put up by local politicians during town fiestas.

“Maliit lang kasi ang mundo ng basketball e. Pag sobrang bait mo, yung hindi ka sa pera talaga, darating naman talaga yan e. For the love of the game na lang. Ako, dati kahit walang bayad. Walang binibigay na pamasahe. Nagpupunta ako kahit malayo. Darating na lang yan, blessings na lang yan. ‘Pre, yung mayor ng ganyan, nagpapahanap ng player. Baka pwede kang maglaro.’ Magugulat ka na lang. Thankful na rin ako sa mga nakilala ko saka mga naging kaibigan ko sa recreational league,” Alday quipped.

“Malaki ring tulong ng Panalay. Biro mo, maglalaro ka, babayaran ka ng P5,000 per game. Naka-check-in ka sa hotel, relax ka lang,” he added.


But what sets KOTC leagues apart from the other tournaments that Alday has played in?

“May mga writeups. Nilalagyan nila ng story. Yun ang maganda e. Mas feel mo. Mas gaganahan ka. Sa ibang liga kasi, basta may video lang, may pictures lang. Pero sa Kings of the Court, lalagyan nila ng istorya yung laro mo. Parang aabangan ng mga nakakabasa,” he shared.

“Yung laro sa commercial leagues, pukpukan din talaga e. Maganda kasi may mga pictures, may highlights, may writeups. Parang feeling mo naglalaro ka sa college saka sa PBA D-League. Parang ganun na rin yung datingan. Pero yung competition din kasi, hindi rin sya basta-basta na parang relax-relax lang. Malaking tulong din yung mga recreational leagues para makapaglaro ka sa mas mataas na level.”

The big jump

After years of grinding it out in the “minor leagues”, Alday finally broke through in 2017 when Zark’s entered the PBA D-League and drafted the Tondo native. Then in 2018, Alday also signed with the Capitals for the inaugural tournament of the MPBL, called the Rajah Cup.

For Alday, toiling in recreational leagues prepared him well for the bigger challenges in the D-League and MPBL.

“Naglaro naman ako sa college, so alam ko na naman pakiramdam ng pisikalan. Pag dating mo lang sa recreational leagues, magugulat ka lang sa mga ex-UAAP, ex-D-League, ex-PBA na makakalaban mo. Malaking bagay na mare-ready ka pagdating mo sa MPBL kasi sila rin makakalaban mo. Hindi ka rin naman mabibigla. Ang pagkakaiba na lang nyan, televised na. Kita ka na sa national TV. May exposure. Yung game, yung physicality, halos parehas lang din,” said Alday.


But with the Lakan Season put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020-21 edition still in question, Alday still hopes for a better showing the next time he sets foot on the MPBL floor.

“Ang mindset ko, mas mag-improve pa yung game ko. Makapag-champion sana ako dito sa MPBL. Lahat ng season ko, lagi naman ako nakakapasok sa playoffs. Every season din, nagi-improve ako. Parang first season ko, three points per game. Tapos nung sumunod, seven (points per game). Ngayong season yata, 14 (points per game),” he shared.

Next up for Alday? Maybe a callup to enter the PBA Draft. But for the feisty two-guard has his priorities carefully lined up.

“Kung may makakapansin, may tatawag, ‘magpa-draft ka na’. Bakit hindi? Pero ang mindset ko talaga ngayon sa MPBL lang, mag-focus lang,” he shared.

Lockdown life

Making ends meet, the Aldays own a small hardware that support their everyday needs, especially now that basketball tournaments have been shut down by the community quarantine. The store’s location, however, has prohibited Alday from opening it fully.

“May small hardware ako. Kaso ang problema, hindi pa rin ako makapagbukas. Yung area ng hardware ko, napapagitnaan ng evacuation center. Ayaw ako payagan ng Dad ko. Pag-uwi ko raw kasi, nandoon yung anak ko, yung asawa ko, tapos yung Dad ko na senior na. Natatakot din sya kaya ayaw nya ako pagbukasin. Sa kanan, nandoon yung Almario na school. Dun tine-test yung mga taga-Tondo. Alam mo naman sa Manila. Tondo yung pinakamarami (na cases). Tapos sa kaliwa, nandoon yung ospital saka yung Delpan Complex na dating basketball court, ginawa na ring evacuation center ni Yorme (Isko Moreno). Kaya natatakot yung erpats ko. Pero ako, kinukulit ko na nung May 15 pa. Gusto ko na talagang magbukas, ayaw pa akong payagan. Kaya nagagalaw na yung ipon. Ang ginagawa ko lang ngayon, workout. Linis dito sa bahay. Minsan, shooting-shooting,” Alday shared.


Still, Alday looks forward to the “new normal” and expects the adjustments the MPBL will take once the tournament resumes. The excitement for competitive basketball is obvious for Alday, but still, safety comes to his mind first before the sport he loves makes its long-awaited return.

“Malaki ang magiging difference. Yung liga kasi namin, yung MPBL, fan-based yan e. Syempre hindi na yan papayagan, tulad ng dati. Para sa aming mga players, iniisip namin, mas okay nang huwag madaliin para safe. Kesa yung mamadaliin mo, tapos mas lalala. Lalo lang tatagal. Next year pa raw mago-opening. Iniisip ko na lang, pag nag-improve na lang saka papayagan ng government. Unti-unti, yung PBA mago-open. Syempre mag-gagayahan na yan. Doon na lang kami umaasa na sana mas mapaaga, kung ibibigay ni Lord. Sabi rin ni Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes, marami pang ii-improve. Gusto lang nila, magka-vaccine na para mabalik na lahat sa normal,” said Alday.