SAN DIEGO STANDOUT TO TRY LUCK IN PBA

LOS ANGELES, January 11, 2005 
(STAR) THE SCORE By Jannelle So  ó  Itís obvious that Nick Stephens can play the game; although itís not obvious that the San Diego basketball standout is half-Filipino.

The 20-year-old baller who was born and raised in Americaís Finest City was inducted to the Hall of Champions in San Diego. While playing for Bonita Vista High School, he also led San Diego in scoring during his senior year with 28 points per game. At a Paloma Christmas Classic championship game in Hawaii, he took his high school squad to victory by scoring 45 points.

"Weíre thrilled to have him on the team. It was definitely a steal," said Dennis Jones, head coach of Holy Names University (HNU) Hawks. Last year, the Hawks recruited Stephens out of Grossmont College in El Cajon, California where he finished his first two years of college. At HNU in Oakland, California, the junior is enjoying a full scholarship, taking computer studies.

The 6-5 guard/forward is pretty quick for his size. Being a shooter, he sinks shots effortlessly; corner shots are his favorite. In the 2003-2004 season of the Pacific Coast Conference, Stephens, who was then playing for the Grossmont Griffins, ranked fourth in scoring with an average of 17 points per game. He was also named "Athlete of the Week" for the week of Nov. 30 during the same season.

His moves on the court give him away. He has the skills and talents of a promising basketball player who can someday score a slot in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). But his physical appearance hides his Filipino roots. Aside from his towering height, Stephens has the look of an American ó fair skin, chiseled face, sharp nose ó a look he must have gotten from his father, Jim Stephens. His mother, however, has the enviable tan and exotic features of a Filipina.

Marita Alexis Redondoís grandparents were originally from Cebu. They had Redondoís mother after moving to Long Beach, California. Her father migrated to America from Bicol. She was born in San Diego.

Although both mother and son have never been to the Philippines, both have heard a lot of things about their ancestorsí birth country.

"I know itís really crowded. Thatís what my grandpa tells me. He says itís really crowded," said Stephens. He added that heís always wanted to see what it was like and compare the real thing to the stories he used to hear from his grandfather; but heís never had the chance. He has accomplished a lot through basketball and maybe, basketball can also help him fulfill his dream of experiencing life in the Philippines.

Stephens said he has seen two PBA games on television last summer and has thought about trying his luck there.

"Just because thereís no real chance for me to play here any further after college. But I think I have a chance playing over there. I just want to continue playing," Stephens said.

"That would be a great opportunity for him. Thatís his passion and I support it," said Redondo. Her son probably gets his drive from her. Redondo is also an accomplished athlete. For years, this tennis star played on the circuit. She was part of the Whiteman Cup team in the 70ís and has played back-to-back games with tennis greats Martina Navratilova, Virginia Wade, and Chris Evert. She wouldíve wanted Stephens to take up tennis. Her eldest son, John Francheau, is also serious about the sport.

"I didnít really have much time to play tennis because we didnít have a tennis court at my house, but we had a basketball court in the house that we moved into," explained Stephens who only started playing ball when he was 13. He added that even with basketball, he never expected to be competitive. "I just played for fun at first, and then 7th grade came and I just started playing."

According to him, the "involvement of the crowd during games" is what he likes the most about the sport. The young player who looks up to 2003-2004 NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Garnett as his role model said he also loves the intensity of the game. "There isnít too much I dislike about basketball. Thereís really none."

Even when heís not making his shots, Stephens remains composed and mature enough to put things in perspective, "You canít shoot every time when youíre not making your shots." On those times, he tries to focus on defense which he also does impressively.

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To reach this writer, log on to www.jannelleso.net.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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