“Definitely I want to improve in my games, but only the things that I can control ang kaya kong magawan ng paraan, like kailangan maganda ang condition ng katawan ko at ma-enhance ko pa ang skills ko sa paglalaro. And I’m very thankful sa basketball kasi ito ang naging way for me to earn and to survive.”
Growing up with his grandmother as a child made him a more independent young boy. As the eldest of six siblings, John Rodney Sanao Brondial started playing basketball since he was in elementary. In high school, he was already playing in barangay leagues and tournaments in the neighborhood. A half-French, half-Filipino, his skills in the hardcourt flourished after finishing his secondary years.
In a dinner arranged by his manager, Tito Ed Ponceja, somewhere in Eastwood where he lives, Rodney told us his journey to the professional league. “Nag stop kasi ako for two years after high school kasi mahirap lang naman kami,” relates the 6’5’’ forward. “Nag concentrate na lang ako sa basketball. Lagi ako sumasali sa mga liga at inter-barangay para kumita. Hanggang sa summer of 2009, nag champion kami sa inter-barangay sa may Philam Homes. At dun ako nakita ni coach Leo Austria, who was the head coach that time ng Adamson University. He invited me na mag try-out for the varsity team. At doon nagsimula lahat,” he said.
On the lighter side, Rodney also revealed that during high school, he tried to join the modeling world. With his mestizo handsome looks and mighty height, he could easily make it big in the modeling business and maybe in show business. “Nag try ako mag model, kaya lang ang dami kasi go-cees, siempre kailangan mo ng pera para sa pamasahe mo pag punta sa mga agencies. Nakakapagod din. Kaya mas nag concentrate ako sa basketball,” he recalled.
Although Rodney admitted that before he joined the Falcons team, he tried his luck with other schools. “Nag try-out din ako sa ibang schools, like FEU, UE, UST, but unfortunately hindi ako natanggap. Siguro hindi pa talaga ako handa that time. At malaki ang pasasalamat ko kay coach Leo dahil kong hindi sa kanya hindi ako nabigyan ng opportunity to be here,” he added. He honed his skills playing at the UAAP with the Adamson team under coach Leo Austria.
Indeed, a year short after finishing a degree in Hospital Management, Rodney decided to turn pro. In 2014 PBA Draft, he was the number 6 overall during the first round, and was picked by Barangay Ginebra team. A year after, he was traded to Barako Bull. And last year, he played with the Star Hotshots. He’s been playing professionally for four years and has been traded to other teams three times. How does he feel about this?
“For me, it’s just normal,” he replied. “At first, masasaktan ka kasi nagkaroon ka na ng bonding with other players, pero as a professional player dapat tanggapin mo. Yung negative vibes dapat gawin mong positive thoughts. Dapat isipin mo na may mas magandang pupuntahan ang career mo.” Nevertheless, he admitted that he was happy he was able to play with Barangay Ginebra. He also shared that even if he has transferred to other teams, he was able to keep his friendship with his former teammates. “Pag may time kami, we go out, nag bo-bonding kami. Nothing personal naman yun. What is important na maintain naming ang friendship at yan ang importante.”
After more than a month of rest, Rodney is now back to the gym to practice in preparation for the new PBA season will start next month (Dec. 17). “Nag start na ako mag exercise and do my regular work out. So far, wala naman ako nakikitang problema with my team. Masaya naman sila sa naging performance ko. Kahit limited lang ang playing time ko, I guess naibigay ko naman ang dapat kong gawin. But this season, I will be playing small forward. I need to improve my speed para mas gumanda ang laro ko. Sabi kasi ng coach namin, mas gaganda daw ang laro ko pag nag concentrate ako dun,” he said. With seven conferences in the PBA, Rodney said that he had several coached which somehow affect his game. “Siempre pa iba-iba ang coaches mo kaya nababago ang diskarte mo sa paglalaro and you need to adjust everytime you deal with a new coach. This time, I hope na tumagal ako ditto sa team ko.”
A product of a broken family, Rodney now lives on his own after their ancestral home in Quezon City was razed with a fire last year. His father is now in Australia with a new family of his own. As the eldest of six children (three boys and three girls), he supports his mom financially. And as the big brother, he sends his younger siblings to school.
Few days from now, November 20, Rodney will be turning 26 years old. Is he ready to settle down? “Bata pa naman ako,” he answered. “I will play as long as I am given the chance to play, and at the same time makapag ipon for my future. I want to be stable pag dumating na ang time na wala na ako sa PBA.”
What is he looking for in a woman to be an ideal partner? “Gusto ko mabait, magaling makisama at disente,” he stressed. “I have a girlfriend right now, she’s an optometrist. She just passed the board exam. Although hindi s’ya mahilig sa basketball,” he shared. Among his peers in the PBA, Rodney admired his co-Star player Mark Pingris. And if given the chance, he hoped to finish and earn his college diploma soon.