News Article

Ex-PBA cager sets stage for future


MANILA, Philippines - Former PBA player and now City Club general manager Nic Belasco said the other day he plans to create a program for retired athletes to live a productive life, taking off from his own experience of hitting near rock bottom before finding a secure job using his collegiate degree.

Belasco, 43, left a corporate job with Visa in San Francisco to try his luck in the PBA in 1997, a year after graduating with a psychology degree at Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont, California. He played for eight teams in 16 PBA seasons and won eight championships under coaches Jong Uichico, Tim Cone and Luigi Trillo. His PBA career had its ups and downs. After 14 years in the PBA, Belasco moved back to the US with his family. Two years later, he played seven months for coach Ariel Vanguardia with the Westports Malaysia Dragons in the ABL. That led to a return to the PBA for two more seasons.

Belasco was picked by Kia in the 2014 dispersal draft but couldn’t land a contract so he looked for other options. Today, Belasco is general manager of City Club, a Makati business and leisure members-only organization that covers three hectares in three floors of eight restaurants and sports facilities, including basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, tennis, badminton and squash. Over 100 employees report to Belasco. Aside from that, he is an assistant coach with Phoenix in the PBA and operates BUSA (Belasco Unlimited Skills Academy).

“I could’ve saved a lot during my PBA career if only I knew what to do with my money,” said Belasco. “When I left the PBA with a knee injury in 2010, I took my family to the US. I tried law enforcement and applied to become a sheriff’s deputy. Luckily, I wasn’t taken, otherwise I’d be dodging bullets today. I cleaned house, cooked and took the kids to school. I ended up working at a mental health home, a very depressing but challenging job. My wife (former Miss World Binibining Pilipinas Mafae Yunon) had a bartender’s license and took a course in skin care so she held on to several jobs. Meanwhile, I got back to the gym and started working out. At 38, I could still shoot, defend and rebound. So when coach Ariel called to invite me to join the Dragons as an Asian import, I went. It was difficult living away from my family for seven months although Mafae visited me twice in K. L.”

Belasco said the ABL stint led to an invitation from Alex Compton to return to the PBA with Powerade under coach Bo Perasol in 2012. “I played with Powerade for just one conference then coach Alex brought me to Alaska when he moved,” he said. “I won one more title with coach Luigi at Alaska. It’s not often that PBA players get to win championships with different coaches but I was fortunate to win with three.”

When Belasco didn’t come to terms with Kia, he ventured into teaching the game. A friend introduced him to City Club where he set up BUSA camps for basketball which he supervised and tennis which his wife, a former junior circuit player in Australia, ran. Belasco was later appointed City Club sports director then assistant general manager and last December, was promoted to general manager. “It’s a dream come true,” said Belasco. “I’m able to use my psychology degree and my background in basketball in my job. I’m putting people in a position to be successful. I’m applying motivational techniques. At City Club, I’ve introduced a lot of things that not only cut expenses but also generated revenues. During the day, it’s a place for business meetings and sports activities. At night, it’s a magnet for great entertainment with four bands performing during the week – Highway 54, Spellbound, Sabor Latino and Mulato. The traffic we’ve created is phenomenal. Our restaurants are full and we’re adding a ninth, a Greek place called Mikonos. Our membership is rising and the value of a share is appreciating. I’m grateful to our chairman RVO (Roberto Velayo Ongpin) for making things happen.”

Belasco said from his life’s lessons, he wants to teach retired athletes not to make the same mistakes he did. “I’ve asked (business consultant) Jay Bernardo and his wife Dina to help in creating a foundation where we can channel funds to retired athletes, particularly former PBA players and Olympians,” he said. “We want to establish pension plans, teach retired athletes how to run businesses, how to live their lives productively after retiring from playing. We want to open their eyes to sports management. We could also reach out to current athletes, even those in the collegiate level so they begin to think long-term. When my wife and I started BUSA, we were doing things on our own, bringing equipment from one place to another by ourselves. It was a lot of hard work, perseverance and determination. If you set a goal in your life, put your mind, heart and soul into it and you can’t go wrong.”