The gooseneck hand gesture was held up high for an extra second as Joshua Munzon watched the ball fall into the hoop for his first basket of the game, a three-pointer, mere seconds after he missed a shot attempt.
Miss or make, everyone in the arena could feel the confidence and bravado in his follow through for every one of his shot releases.
Fast forward to the end of the third period, Munzon hits yet again.
This time, it was an off-balanced fadeaway three to give PEA a 10-point lead going into the final quarter over the heavy favorites and Thailand Basketball League (TBL) leading Mono Vampires. Most people did not give them a chance to win a single game, but don’t tell that to him.
“I THINK I’VE ESTABLISHED MYSELF AS ONE OF THE BEST FIL-AM’S IN SOUTHEAST ASIA.”
Aided by a solid backcourt of fellow Filipino imports Rudy Lingganay and Raffy Reyes, and bolstered by a towering frontcourt headed by Morakinyo Williams and 7-foot-5 Samuel Deguara, PEA took that victory in game one by 12 points.
Sure, they did fail to win another in the series, ultimately falling in three games to the juggernaut Mono team, but Munzon was one of those guys who did not want to go away without a fight.
He tried to will his team to another win by scoring a hard-earned 35 points in the final game, but the opposition was just too stacked.
“I think I’ve established myself as one of the best Fil-Am’s in Southeast Asia. I’m focused on getting better and learning more and more as time goes on,” said the 22-year old prodigy that has every basketball fan in the region doing double-takes.
Wearing the numbers 8 and 24 after his all-time favorite NBA player Kobe Bryant, he addresses critics who says he also gets a little trigger-happy with the ball: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take!” he laughed. “If I didn’t shoot the ball, players wouldn’t guard me and I could not make plays.”
After all, Munzon is capable of playmaking chores as well, shown while he played point guard in two of his four years at California State University-Los Angeles in the NCAA’s Division II.
“It was definitely an important chapter in my life, my first time being out on my own. I had a lot of support from family and friends but there wasn’t anybody there to hold my hand and walk me through it,” he says about the college experience.
Less than a year removed from college, he opened the next chapter of his journey halfway across the world in Vietnam, where everyone first took notice of his flashy moves playing as a heritage import for the Saigon Heat in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL).
Unfortunately, that stay was abruptly cut short when he was suddenly dropped midseason by the team. Needless to say, a lot of people were caught off guard by the move.
“I am thankful for them giving me an opportunity to show what I was capable of, but I definitely don’t understand why it happened. At the time, I was averaging 18 points with no plays being called for me and I was leading the league in steals. So I don’t think it was because of my production.”
It didn’t take long for Munzon to find a new home, this time with the Westports Malaysia Dragons.
Coach Chris Thomas immediately reached out after he was set free, telling him how he loved his game on both ends of the court and that he was welcome with open arms into their fold.
That opportunity gave Joshua a chance to play against his former team.
When asked if he had some extra motivation going back to beat the Heat in Saigon: “I feel as if I was the scapegoat for all the losses. It was easy for them to get rid off me.”
“I AM THANKFUL FOR THEM GIVING ME AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW WHAT I WAS CAPABLE OF, BUT I DEFINITELY DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY IT HAPPENED.”
“So yeah, I wanted to go and win that game. I definitely had a chip on my shoulder.” However, he adds that he still maintains a good friendship with his former teammates to this day.
Best known for his defense and athleticism while with the Heat, Munzon was able to showcase more of his offensive skills and shooting ability with the Dragons as ‘Coach CT’ gave him more free reins to create his shot and control the offense.
One of his other memorable games with the Dragons was playing as the visitors against Alab Pilipinas.
Munzon dueled with Ray Parks Jr. and held his own with 25 points and seven steals, all the while playing good defense on the local ABL MVP.
The home crowd was obviously rooting for Alab, but were well aware of his part-Filipino roots, showing him love after the game where he willed his team to a victory in an extra period.
For those curious, Joshua Eugene Munzon was born to a Filipino father and an American mother.
While he is not eligible to play for the Philippine national team, he can apply to play in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) soon.
Asked about his next step after the end to his season in Thailand, the young California native said he was unsure on whether he would apply for the PBA D-League draft—a requisite for Filipino-foreigners who want to play in the big league in the Philippines—or continue to play in the ABL and Thailand.
“The ABL and TBL is definitely more stable. More exposure, better basketball, and you get to travel to different countries. On the other hand, there isn’t much financial stability in the D-League.”
“Maybe the timetable changes, but nothing will stop me from going to the PBA” said Munzon, who also has an illogical option to continue strutting his wares in the ASEAN circuit until age 30, when he would become eligible to go straight to the pros in the Philippines.
Going back to finish the few remaining courses in college so he can graduate is also in his short-term agenda.
“THE ABL AND TBL IS DEFINITELY MORE STABLE. MORE EXPOSURE, BETTER BASKETBALL, AND YOU GET TO TRAVEL TO DIFFERENT COUNTRIES.”
“It would depend on what I will be offered. I would love to play in Malaysia again because chemistry-wise, we were all young and joked around a lot and it was a fun atmosphere. But I wouldn’t mind getting my D-League stint out of the way either.”
Everyone I have talked to also seems to agree that Joshua Munzon will cross the pond to Manila sooner rather than later, but wherever he decides to play next, I think we would all still be watching with marvel.
“I’m just thankful for all the support that everybody has shown me in my first year since going pro. The love is crazy and I’m very grateful to be chasing my dream.”