MANILA, Philippines – Raymond Townsend, the first player of Filipino heritage to make it to the NBA, wants other Filipino players to join his exclusive club.
Townsend played collegiate basketball in UCLA before being drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the 1978 NBA Draft. The first Filipino-American to make it to the NBA, he was honored by the Dubs during the Filipino Heritage Week last March 19.
"I had no idea that I was going to be put in that kind of stage, with that kind of arena," Townsend told TJ Manotoc of ABS-CBN News. "I'm very grateful, very, very grateful to the Warriors organization. I'm grateful to the NBA."
Townsend got the opportunity to catch up with some of his friends, including Martin Nievera, who sang the Star Spangled Banner ahead of the Warriors' game against the Milwaukee Bucks. He also got the chance to talk to Golden State coach Steve Kerr and the "Splash Brothers," Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
More than the chance to reunite with old friends and show how much Filipinos love basketball, however, the celebration of Filipino Heritage Week served to increase Townsend's desire to see a homegrown Filipino player in the NBA.
To this end, the 61-year-old former point guard expressed his intent to help up-and-coming Filipino basketball players, including two former UAAP MVPs that have already tried to break into the NBA.
"I know I am always looking for young Filipino players," Townsend said. "And I'm actually talking about training Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and Kiefer Ravena, and some of these guys."
Parks, of course, has played for the Texas Legends in the NBA D-League, and Ravena served as a practice player for the same team last year. Both suited up for Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League, and Ravena just got a call-up to the Gilas Pilipinas national team last week.
However, breaking through to the NBA has proven to be difficult for Filipino players. It took 38 years before another player of Filipino heritage made it to the NBA -- Jordan Clarkson of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Townsend considers it his mission to end that drought, and he is grateful to receive support from fellow Filipinos in "my journey in looking for the next kababayan who is Filipino-born to play in the NBA."
Townsend is also planning to return to the Philippines at some point to get a better look at the talent that he knows is blooming in the country.
"I'm going back to the Philippines, look at some players," he said. "I would love to be a big part of having a Filipino-born kababayan get here, and have a say on how to get here, because that's what I do."
Another one of Townsend's goals is to serve as an NBA ambassador of sorts to the Philippines.
"I know every foreign country has an ambassador, if you played in the NBA," he explained. "So I'm just waiting for the NBA to give me word. I would love to represent our country as part of the NBA."
In the meantime, Townsend will be busy celebrating the Warriors' triumph in the 2017 NBA Finals, where they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games for their second title in two seasons.
"I don't believe there is an NBA team that exists in this day right now that can get them," said Townsend of the Warriors.
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