It started when the Indonesian National Basketball Team went to Manila, Philippines to train in preparation for the 2011 Southeast Asian Games, in which their country was hosting. Timnas Basket, as they are also commonly known, were visiting to test their mettle by scrimmaging with several semi-professional PBA D-League teams.
One of the guys they played against was 6’0’’ guard Ebrahim ‘Biboy’ Enguio Lopez, fresh out of the University of the East. Timnas’ coaching staff took serious interest in him after they discovered his Indonesian lineage through some small talk in between games.
Biboy, as he is fondly called, grew up with his Filipina mother in Manila while his father was from Bali, Indonesia.
Little did he know, the friendly chat with some of the opposing team’s staff that day would open up a multitude of opportunities in a land foreign to him; doors otherwise not immediately open for him in the country where he was born and raised in. It took some time before his naturalization papers were cleared which resulted in him missing the SEA Games that year.
“Everything I was not able to experience back at home, I achieved in Indonesia.”
“Actually, before that, we already had past scrimmages with Aspac Jakarta, my mother club, who first showed interest. After the National Team processed my naturalization papers, I signed the offer sheet from Aspac.”
The then 22-year old Enguio found himself on a flight to the ‘Big Durian,’ the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta. The transition was nearly seamless, he said, noting how similar it is to the Philippine capital. Learning the local language Bahasa Indonesia also came easy for him, adding it is a little similar to his native tongue of Filipino.
Enguio immediately made an impact when he debuted for Aspac Jakarta in the Indonesian Basketball League (IBL) in 2013, then known as NBL Indonesia.
An instant fan favorite because of his high flying dunks and shifty moves, Enguio took home Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year honors, en route his team reaching the promise land that very year.
“Everything I was not able to experience back at home, I achieved in Indonesia. My very first year in the league, we won the championship and I also won those individual awards. Then in my second year, I was named to the IBL first-team, and also one of the candidates for the MVP award.”
“I am very happy to be able to jump start my career in this league. I was able to play in the FIBA Asia tournament and SEA Games all because of this opportunity and recognition. All I can say is, it has been one hell of an experience. I am very thankful and happy about my basketball career,” but adds he still has one mountain left to conquer.
“The PBA” he said, “Everything I was working on all these years I see as preparation for trying my luck at the PBA. It is my childhood dream, as much as I love Indonesia, I need to give it a shot. I’m entering the draft this year.”
“I’m not getting younger anymore, I need to try it out so I will not have any regrets. This might be one step backwards, but hopefully two steps forward.”
Enguio took a leave from the team after a sudden controversial ruling by the league against naturalized citizens (including half-Indonesian players like himself), barring them from playing as a local, but as an import.
“All I can say is, it has been one hell of an experience. I am very thankful and happy about my basketball career.”
His spot in the Indonesian National Team for the SEABA tournament was also taken by a fellow naturalized citizen, American Jamarr Johnson. He saw this as a window to try his luck again in his homeland, returning to the PBA D-League to try and boost his stock for the upcoming draft.
What could serve as another avenue for PBA scouts to notice him is the upcoming 2017 SEA Games, where serious contenders Timnas Indonesia called him back to help them challenge the defending champions and 17-time gold medal winners Gilas Pilipinas.
Developing a close friendship with ABL legend and National Team veteran Mario Wuysang, Enguio said having him as one of his mentors on the team definitely helped improve his maturity.
Enguio, who is currently training with the National Team in Lithuania, already has two silver medals with Indonesia: one from the 2014 SEABA Cup they won at home, and another at the 2015 SEA Games when they went up against the Philippines in the finale.
“I know I am not that skilled, but hard work and a little luck brought me here.”
He said their goal definitely remains the same, never mind that most people would scoff at that idea that they could topple the regional hoop giants.
Suggesting it might be the last playing year for himself, IBL reigning MVP Arki Wisnu, and team captain Wuysang: “Stealing the gold might be farfetched, but we really, really want to defy history. It would be a great story if Indonesia could defeat the best team in Southeast Asia. This is our best chance.”
“I know I am not that skilled, but hard work and a little luck brought me here. I hope the blessings continue and we’ll win the gold.”
“Hopefully enough to bring me to the PBA, too.”