Last month I was asked to deliver a speech I was not prepared for but truly honoured to share some of my families thoughts on how Raphael touched our lives. This is my version of the Coach’s Tribune
Thank you for being here tonight. I’d like to thank the Alcoreza family for giving me this opportunity to speak about a special young man. I’d also like to thank this loving community who have given this family the love and support during their time of grief.
This is a first for me and definitely one of the toughest document I’ve ever hard to put together. So please bear with me.
First time I saw Raphael was of course on a basketball court, Spring/Summer of 2012 to be exact. My eldest son Cameron, 12 yrs old at the time, was playing for a club team on the West End of Vancouver and was scheduled to play another boys team from Burnaby. Our family was new to the youth boys competitive basketball scene so it was an exciting time. My wife and I were Uber parents back then which meant we drove and took our boy to local games and got to watch from the sidelines. I recall seeing Raph and his Burnaby Eagles team just run my sons team out of the gym and telling my wife, I don’t think we have a very good chance against these guys 🙂 Back then … he already had the advanced skills for a boy his age and I also noticed one thing, he was always surrounded by fun-loving teammates, his brother Ian ( who I would always see shooting around during halftime or post games), his mom and his dad being there and cheering him on. Come to think of it nothing has changed since then.
A year went by, the family and I we’re at the stop light on 64th and 132nd in Surrey and there was this boy walking across our car, we all looked at each other and said, “Is that the kid from Burnaby Eagles?” we thought that was odd, what would he be doing all the way here, maybe he’s lost or something, nevertheless we didn’t get a chance to say hello. .… A few weeks after we bumped into him again at a Grade 7 Confirmation ceremony at StBernadettes. I had the guts to ask him then, “hey kid, how are you doing? Just curious are you planning to play club basketball after Grade7?” … his response “I don’t know, I have to ask my mom” don’t worry Nelson that’s what they all say! For all I know he’s probably thinking stranger danger! Again I felt, an opportunity lost.
Another year went by with my son and I enjoying first taste of high school basketball at Seaquam Secondary. We had an OK season of learning but unfortunately didn’t get invited to the big dance of the Surrey playoffs. So we decided to check out this Panorama Ridge vs Tweedsmuir Grade 8 Boys Finals and guess who we saw? Raph and his band of Thunder brothers! I’m not sure if Nelson remembers this but he was that proud Filipino dad in the stands that night, so I decided to approach him and give him a business card and said hey I’m looking to put a team together for local tournaments I’d love for your son to run with us, maybe stop by at StBernadettes at so and so time and see what you think. I’m a risk taker in case you haven’t noticed and wasn’t going to give up … but they showed up at the first practice and I was stoked! That summer our son transferred from Seaquam to Panorama Ridge and the rest was history.
To me our families were destined to cross paths. Let me correct that, our families were destined to cross paths and connect many other families. The Alcoreza’s has introduced us to many of the families that we’ve become close to over the years such as the Burnaby South families, Panorama Ridge, Vancouver College, Seaquam, Delview, Johnston Heights, QE, Tamanawis, Holy Cross, StBernadettes, the 204 Families and ultimately any basketball family in and around this province. Thank you for this blessing!
There is a saying, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
He was good on both!
He was always truthful, humble, polite, never disrespectful, empathetic towards others, and fair in his character. His abilities, competitive spirit, basketball IQ, drive and calm demeanor built his reputation as a special athlete that was admired by most.
Raph would often ask me:
– Coach, what do you think about this NBA player? We would talk about the pros and cons.
– Coach, what do you think of this high school player? I would then flip the script and ask him, do you think you could play with him on the same team? … we would talk about pros and cons.
– Coach, is the St.Bernadette Gym open tomorrow? I would respond with if you’re there on time …. I figured his house is literally 400 metres away from the gym, so he can’t mess this up.
– Coach, can I run this play instead of this play? … I would respond with, show me!
– Coach, will you be at my game? …… sometimes the disappointment in his eyes when I say no ….. And for some reason the same disappointment in his eyes when I also say yes, maybe I yell too much during games or something and they get embarrassed! But honestly, Raph thank you for always inviting me ….. Even in your last game, it means a lot!
Raph, I wish I could have coached you forever but I feel like you already know and ready to start your own basketball academy in the Baby Jesus League. I want you to know that I appreciate all the times we shared … the countless road trips, hotel stays, tournaments, team huddles, practices, games, camps, wins, losses, wacky teammates, team dinners and gatherings, open gym runs and monday night mens league jokes. I want to thank you for the connections you enabled and the many players you have inspired. You have been an inspiration to my sons and I’m so happy that they have a friend like no other.
To Marie, Nelson, Ian, Justin and Nipsy … we thank you for trusting us and taking a chance all these years. We are forever grateful that you shared his beautiful life with us and we will forever share this bond! Your strength gives US strength and hope, your pain is a constant reminder to all of us that we are all living on borrowed times and that we must approach each day as a gift. Basketball is just like anything in life. Sometimes it’s not fair. So you still have to find a way, even when it’s not fair. This is the perfect lesson at the wrong time.
Raph has taught us all that it’s not about how tall, how fast or how strong you are, it’s the size of your heart! Raph, we know you’re needed elsewhere, make us proud. Rest easy youngblood and we’ll see you on the other side!
Thank you and God Bless!