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Hayden hails PBA ‘experience’

Here’s a little secret why Hayden Blankley of Bay Area seems to be thriving in the ongoing Philippine basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup.

The 22-year-old Blankley, a hard-driving forward from Down Under, grew up getting a taste of the Philippine brand of basketball.

Now playing in his first professional league, Blankley of the Dragons once exploded for 47 points when his team blasted Rain or Shine to bits, 126-96 in the quarterfinal round on 9 December.

Despite his lack of experience, Blankley seemed cool, calm and collected, displaying the traits usually reserved for veteran players.

“I’m from Sydney, Australia and there’s a huge Filipino community (where I live),” Blankley told Daily Tribune in an exclusive interview.

“Growing up, playing basketball, I played with the Titos from the Filipino community. They played physical and I knew somewhat, that’s how the game is played in the PBA,” said the 6-7 gunner.

While honing his skills, he would often hear familiar names of top Filipino dribblers excelling in the PBA.

“They used to talk about Calvin Abueva and Scottie Thompson, then June Mar (Fajardo). I knew about the PBA,” Blankley said.

“In fact, one of my first coaches is a Filipino and now playing in the PBA is like coming in full circle.”

True enough, Blankley did have a wonderful experience playing against Abueva and Fajardo and their respective squads were beaten by the foreign invaders from Hong Kong.

In the ongoing best-of-seven finals, Blankley is also up against another name that he often heard about: Scottie Thompson.

Admittedly, Blankley’s exposure to PBA-style ball made him a better player.

Before playing in the PBA, the only other league Blankley used to play for was in college in the United States.

“But that was just Division 2,” added Blankley. “I played for high level Division 2 teams and we were successful, making deep playoff runs, national championship games.”

“But nothing compares to this, the PBA. I could say that this is definitely the start of my career. This is a good jumpstart.”

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