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Patience pays off: Francis Escandor’s basketball journey

Francis Escandor is a superb example of what patience, determination, and love can do for one’s sports journey.

Regarded as an afterthought in the early stages of his collegiate career with the DLSU Green Archers, the now 25-year-old hooper made the most of his final UAAP campaign in 2023 by earning a consistent role in the elimination round and contributing at the biggest stage during La Salle’s reclamation of UAAP basketball’s top prize.

Escandor was a starter for the Green Archers under the tutelage of head coach Topex Robinson with the responsibility of being a 3-and-D specialist. As one of the team’s veteran student-athletes, he was also viewed as a leader in the locker room who had the respect of his peers whenever he spoke to the squad.

“DLSU taught me a lot both on the court and off the court,” Escandor shared with All-Star Magazine in an exclusive interview.

“The biggest lesson that I can always carry with me that DLSU taught me is to always be patient and always put in the work day in and day out. I never really got to play my first few years in DLSU, but that’s what molded me to be the player that I am today. Perseverance and dedication. That’s what it takes.”

The Davao native was recruited in 2018 by Louie Gonzales, who succeeded Aldin Ayo as head coach of the Green Archers following two consecutive trips to the UAAP Finals. Escandor played sparingly as a rookie and didn’t get much run during next head coach Derrick Pumaren’s two seasons either. Everything changed following the hiring of Robinson, who valued the skills Escandor excelled in rather than worry about his limitations.

“Not everyone will have great opportunities from the get-go,” Escandor reflected on his challenging odyssey. “It’s always about believing in yourself and in the work that you put in. I truly believe that everyone could reach whatever they aspire for not just in basketball but in life.”

Photo: @pesimochristine (Instagram)

Escandor’s improvement was evident in DLSU’s offseason performances, notably when they made it to the finals of the Filoil tournament. He then scored 11 points on an efficient 80% shooting clip in La Salle’s UAAP season-opener against FEU. He reserved his career-best performance for game 2 of the finals against the UP Fighting Maroons: 14 points, including four triples.

Two of those long bombs provided DLSU the separation it needed from State U in the second quarter; the runway La Salle needed to secure the blowout victory. The Green Archers tied the series at 1-1 then ended a seven-year championship drought in the ensuing matchup, where Escandor was instrumental in setting the tone to start each half.

“Whatever you put your mind to and pour your heart and soul into it, it will surely take you places you have never imagined you would be in,” Escandor stated.

His next stint came with Strong Group Athletics when they flew to Dubai for an invitational tournament against international opponents. Along with reigning UAAP MVP Kevin Quiambao, Escandor learned the everyday process of being a professional athlete from the likes of Dwight Howard, Andre Roberson, Andray Blatche, and Jordan Heading, just to name a few.

His best performance manifested in a win against Syrian club Al Wahda when he knocked down five shots from beyond the three-point arc and registered 18 points. SGA made it to the finals before getting eliminated by a title-winning shot at the buzzer. Despite the disappointing finish, Escandor will continue his relationship with Strong Group as he is signed to play for the Manila Stars in the upcoming MPBL season.

“What made me decide to join Manila was because of my recent stint in Dubai with Strong Group,” he explained. “After the tournament Coach Charles Tiu and boss Jacob Lao asked me if I wanted to play for Manila and without hesitation I agreed to play.”

Tiu, who is also the head coach of the CSB Blazers in the NCAA, will serve the role of team consultant, while St. Benilde assistant coach Gabby Severino will be Manila’s head coach. Escandor said they haven’t discussed the specific role he will play for the Stars, but Severino wants him to perform with the aggressive mindset which allowed him to flourish in his final UAAP campaign.

Escandor continues to work on his fitness with Miguel Aytona, DLSU’s strength and conditioning coach, who holds training sessions with other premier athletes at Activate Sports Center in Mandaluyong. Francis currently stands at 6-foot-3, weighs 200 pounds, and has a body fat count of only 10%. He has the physical stature of a wide-shouldered two-guard who can also occasionally play the three in the Philippine pro level.

He continues to work with his long-time personal trainer in developing basketball skills. In addition to honing his 3-ball, Escandor hopes to strengthen his mid-range, penetration, and finishing abilities.

“I believe there are a lot of things I can still improve on as a player,” he added. “One of the things I’m also focusing on right now is my defense because I think it is such an important aspect that I need, especially when transitioning into the pro league.”

Ultimately, the former Green Archer’s goal is to enlist his name in the 2024 PBA Draft, where he is expected to be selected in the earlier rounds according to sports agents.

“Ever since I was a kid it was always my dream for my name to be called during the draft,” he admitted. “Hopefully soon I would have that opportunity.”

What’s interesting about Escandor is that unlike many basketball hopefuls who treat the game as an avenue to establish a livelihood, he doesn’t necessarily need it. They have a family business that is into security and real estate. He could depart the sport now and still be set for life. Not everyone has that luxury. Yet he chooses to make his own mark by putting a ball through a hoop. Why? It’s simple. Love.

“Basketball has always been my passion,” he declared. “I’ve always wanted to be the best basketball player I can be no matter what the circumstances are. I think that’s what fuels me in my journey. That’s what keeps the drive in me. Pursuing excellence in basketball.”

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