From The Ground Up

With their heart on fire and genuine love for the game, 2015 Jr. WNBA All-Star Heart Donor Pagara and 2015 Jr. WNBA Coach of the Year Sunshine Echavez journey together towards a dream bigger than their own.

2015 Jr. WNBA All-Stars from all over Southeast Asia forming strong bonds during their 2015 NBA Experience in Dongguan, China.

Have you ever tried dribbling a basketball and running on mud? The ball would barely bounce back up. Your feet will sink on the mud and your movements will become limited. It’s not the ideal way to play basketball, but, for 2015 Jr. WNBA All-Star Heart Donor Pagara, it wasn’t something that could stop her from playing.

“I started playing basketball in barrios with my friends,” said Pagara in an exclusive interview with playPH. “I used to go with guys and join their basketball leagues.”

Most people have the impression that basketball is a sport for men. However, for the young Pagara, basketball is not something you play based on gender but on your passion for the game. Carrying her genuine love for the sport, Pagara made her way to the Jr. WNBA to develop her skills under the guidance of the program’s professional team of coaches and emerged as one of the program’s brightest young stars.

“I’m happy that I was named one of the Top 5 of the Jr. WNBA,” said Pagara. “When my name was mentioned, I was so stunned! I was ecstatic!”

It was also in the program where Pagara and 2015 Jr. WNBA Coach of the Year Sunshine Echavez crossed paths. Echavez who fell in love with basketball in her early college years ignited her passion to share her knowledge and skills through coaching.

“Being a coach is much like being a teacher,” shared Echavez with playPH. “If you don’t teach well, the children won’t learn. Everytime we play, I tell them ‘Just enjoy the game. Enjoy what you have today because you don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow.’”

As Pagara and Echavez share journeyed towards their dreams, Pagara was inspired from training under and watching Coach Echavez pour her energy, heart, and soul into coaching. This triggered Pagara to have a new dream – one that goes beyond her own.

“It’s my dream to become a coach like Coach Sunshine,” said Pagara. “I want to help other children. Whatever I’ve learned, I want to share with others. The Philippines will gain more recognition if there are great women playing.”

Sometimes, big dreams can come from humble beginnings, and, as we pursue them, we learn things and values that give us a better understanding of how the love of sport goes beyond the court. For Pagara and Echavez, their pursuit of their basketball dreams is more than just proving that girls can hold their own on the hardwood courts, or the sport being their source of pride and joy – it’s about how their passion and heart on fire can lift their feet out of the mud to soar.

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