WHERE ARE THEY NOW, PRESENTED BY INTOUCH CREDIT UNION
You often hear players described as having a lot of tools. More commonly heard in baseball than in basketball, it still applies without error to the latter.
Allen Durham is one of those players. On the court, as he currently plays for the Meralco Bolts in the Philippine Basketball Association, but also off of it. In his down time, if you dare call it that, Durham operates the Grand Rapids Danger basketball team.
The Bolts are a powerhouse club in the PBA and Durham is one of their top performers. The PBA has three big tournaments a season, and the Bolts are currently competing in the last of the three, hoping to capture a championship that barely eluded them last season.
“We’re up 2-0 in the semifinals,” Durham and his team won game two of the series on Tuesday night. “One more win and we get back to the finals. We lost off a buzzer beater last year in game six. Everybody is focused to get there and finish it off this time.”
As Texas Legends fans may know, Filipino basketball is no joke. Frisco got a taste of the craze last season with Kiefer Ravena being a part of the team. Durham, who won the 2015-16 PBA Best Import award, echoes the sentiment. “This is my third time coming out here. It’s a short season but it’s really entertaining and they put a lot of resources into basketball. It’s actually their main sport. When you get outside of the U.S., most people think soccer but here in the Philippines people love basketball. The fans are crazy over here, that’s why I keep coming back.”
Meralco, the number one seed in the current Governor’s Cup, have played four games so far, winning three of them. In those contests, Durham has totaled an incredible 89 rebounds in just four games, for an average of 22.3 per. In game one of the semifinals, he finished with an equal 23 points and 23 rebounds. Meanwhile, he’s averaging 6.3 assists. Like I said, tools tools tools.
As they chase the title, the months to come will see Durham keep on hooping but also preparing his own basketball club for a new chapter in their burgeoning storyline.
Molded in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Danger have existed in the American Basketball Association for two seasons and will move to the North American Basketball League in 2018.
The NABL, which will be entering its third season of play next spring, grew from 10 to 22 teams in its first to second season and will now add Durham’s Danger to the mix.
“I started the team from the ground up,” says the 29-year old. “Two years ago I started from the bottom. The reason why I started it was because I played overseas and would come home and train a lot of guys from my city. In Grand Rapids, we have about six to seven small colleges right there in the city or on the outskirts. There’s a lot of basketball players and everyone’s not fortunate enough to go overseas or play in the G League. There is a Grand Rapids G League team in our city but if you look at that roster, none of those guys are from Grand Rapids.”
Giving local talent the chance to chase their basketball dreams was an idea that this team brings to reality. “I just wanted to get guys opportunities to keep playing and get them a platform to possibly go play somewhere else. And it’s worked. We had a guy go to Spain, a guy go play in Mexico and Australia. Slowly but surely it’s working.”
Grand Rapids is somewhat of a nucleus for basketball activity. There are high schools, colleges and gyms aplenty locally, all filled with an excessive amount of talent. Durham recognized this and saw the perfect fit for the city’s NABL inclusion.
“I really really wanted to focus on, there’s just so much basketball in my city, so many colleges from Division II to NIA to Division III to NCCAA. There’s just a lot of basketball players that I’m sure want to continue playing basketball after they graduate. It’s really hard at that level to get an opportunity so I just wanted to give these guys a chance.”
If Allen Durham’s name sounds oh so familiar to you, that’s because it is. Durham played with the Legends for 24 games in the 2015-16 season, averaging 8.8 points and 7.4 rebounds, starting seven contests for Nick Van Exel’s squad.
One of his Legends teammates from that season has also come back to his home country of the Philippines to play in the PBA, forming a Texas-sized reunion. “When I was with the Legends, the big name was Bobby Ray Parks, Jr., who got drafted by the team. Now he’s back here and I saw him a couple times, which is kind of crazy because we met in Texas and now we’re back here in the Philippines. It’s a small world.”
Durham made the team in one of the coolest ways possible: the tryout. “My agent was talking a lot to the Legends front office. They really liked what they saw when they saw me on film. They told me to just come on down so I came down and had a tryout, a workout. I actually drove down there, which is probably the craziest part of the story. I drove 16 hours for a tryout. I actually made the team and it was cool, it was a good experience.”
Making the G League team through tryouts, moving on to dominate international play and then starting his own semi-pro club, Durham is a success story from countless angles.
“Coming from Grace Bible College, it’s a really really small school so we don’t have guys at this level all the time. So for me to come down there and make an NBA G League team was a real big thing.” Then with a smile, he concludes, “they kind of blew it up a little bit back at my college.”