#EuroSteppin: Taylor Browne taking his three-point talents to the South Pacific to play in one of Asia’s top leagues.

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At first, Taylor Browne was just nervous.

He checked, then rechecked, the internet connectivity on his computer, where a zoom meeting was about to start with 50 of his friends and family. It started with no problem.

And then, Taylor Browne got anxious.

As pick after pick passed in the Philippine Basketball Association draft’s first round, his stomach tightened, his forehead beaded with sweat, and the Surrey native began to worry the calculated decision to work out for just a single team beforehand might backfire.

To anyone watching the PBA draft stream, or to his friends and family on the zoom call watching him in the hotel room in the middle of downtown Manila, he exuded a sense of calm and cool serenity.

The first round ended, and still he hadn’t been picked. He hadn’t expected to go in the first round, as he was a relatively unknown player out of the UBC Thunderbirds program, and the most recent game film anyone had of him was from a year ago, in the USports bronze-medal game.

But still …

“As soon as it hit nine, I was pretty nervous. And then as the picks went on, and went on, and went on. Right before (pick) 16, I got a call from one of the assistant coaches, who said ‘we’re going to take you at 16,” Browne said by phone from the Philippines this week.

“I just felt like my dream came true. It was just surreal. And when they actually said my name, I just had a breath of relief, to be honest.”

The Alaska Aces, one of the most storied and winningest teams in the PBA — owners of 14 championships — had taken Browne at 16. He’d done it. He’d achieved his goal of becoming a professional basketball player.

He was still nervous.

“They interviewed me real quick and I just wanted to make sure I didn’t mess up my words,” said the 24-year-old. “I just kept a real chill and easy. After that, I turned off my camera on the PBA (feed) and then I turned to all my family, everyone from back home, and we all started screaming and started celebrating.”


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His elation and euphoria wasn’t just solely from achieving his ultimate goal. His eruption of emotion was fuelled and amplified by the journey he had to take to get there.

Heading into the 2018 season with UBC, the point guard was scrimmaging on campus with teammates when he felt what he thought was a kick in the back of his leg. He fell to the floor, his foot numb.

“I looked around, I was like, ‘Yo, did someone kick me?’ I didn’t feel much at first, to be honest. I just couldn’t feel my foot, so I just knew something was wrong. And then it started to get hot, and then it started to hurt even more when I realized what happened,” he said.

Browne had ruptured his Achilles tendon. His season was over. He feared his career was, too.

HIs mother and brother from Surrey to the ER at UBC hospital, where he awaited his fate. He doctors told them to come back in 24 hours for a scan, and Browne spent most of it Googling what awaited him. The saga of Kobe Bryant’s recovery from the same injury four years before provided a little solace.

“It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I just thought of my whole career being done, and it hit me hard. I don’t think I even really slept,” he said.

Two weeks later, he had surgery. A hard cast for six weeks, a boot for another two months, and then months of rehab followed. It took more than a year for return to the court, and even longer to get back to the level of play he’d been before.

“It was definitely the hardest mental challenge I’ve ever had. That experience still haunts me,” said the 6-foot-2 guard.


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“I still think about how hard it was. I lost a lot of my character during that time. I wasn’t confident, I didn’t really know what was gonna happen to me. I thought all my dreams and goals were done. That stuff eats you up as a high-performance athlete. The next year I was honestly supposed to be a starter, so my dreams are crushed that way. I was, I was progressing every year and then … everything went down and I had to do it all over again.

“It definitely changed me, but may have helped me in the long run, but in the moment, during that time, it was hard to get motivated.”

Fast-forward three years and he’s the first UBC player to join the PBA since John Dumont — the father of Browne’s UBC teammate Jack Cruz-Dumont — played there in the late ’90s.

Vancouver’s Sean Anthony, who was drafted sixth overall in 2010 and continues to star in the league, and SFU’s Cid White might be the only other locals to have played in the Filipino league.

In the early 2000s, UBC coach Kevin Hanson took his team, led by 5-foot-1 Filipino point guard Karlo Villanueva, to a tournament in Manila. They played at Araneta Coliseum in the urban centre of Quezon City, where Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had battled in the legendary Thrilla in Manila a quarter-century before.

“It’s a really good league. For Taylor to crack that league, it’s outstanding,” said Hanson.

The UBC Thunderbirds and guard Taylor Browne took the No. 3-ranked team into the 2019 USports Final 8 tournament in Ottawa, where they won a bronze medal.
The UBC Thunderbirds and guard Taylor Browne took the No. 3-ranked team into the 2019 USports Final 8 tournament in Ottawa, where they won a bronze medal.

Browne’s mother, Pam, was born in the Philippines but moved to Vancouver as a teenager. It was where she eventually met Les Browne, Taylor’s father, who was born in Antigua. Browne’s mixed heritage became an asset when he realized he could get citizenship in the Philippines and be eligible to play in the PBA as a national and not as an import.


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The big-money import spots are extremely tough to land, and are usually taken by ex-NBA or G-League players. As a national, he doesn’t have to fight for their spots, instead sliding into a domestic spot. Rookies make a maximum  $5,000 per month their first season, but that jumps to more than $11,000 in their third year.

Just being a citizen didn’t mean making the league is easy. The 45-year-old PBA, the oldest play-for-pay league in Asia, is generally considered the second-best league in the region behind the Chinese juggernaut. Browne was going to have to earn his way in.

In 2019, UBC was invited to the Jones Cup in Taiwan, a tournament that features a mix of pro and Asian national teams. They only won a single game, but when they took on PBA side Mighty Sports — essentially the Philippines national team, plus former NBAers Renaldo Balkman, Hamady N’Diaye and Andray Blatche — Browne showed out.

He hit seven of 11 three-pointers for 25 points, along with two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes.

Hanson knew there were scouts from the PBA watching the game, and wanted to give Browne the opportunity to showcase himself.

“The absolute best was sitting there, watching him in the Jones Cup, playing against professionals. Taylor just got into the zone,” Hanson said. “He was hitting threes on professional guys — and he hit seven of them. As I sat there, I had a real proud moment that ‘it’ was finally here. He’s reached his potential. Anytime as a coach and you feel that moment, it’s a special. He stepped up in a pressure situation.


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“He never had that breakout moment (with us before) … but to have it against a bunch of professional players, it was a special moment.”

Some additional networking by Thunderbirds athletic trainer Miguel Olfato — who now represents Browne as his agent, via Orenda Talent — and Browne was suddenly on the PBA radar. And when COVID-19 scuttled the Thunderbirds season last year, he made the decision to declare for the draft. If he didn’t get taken, he would still be eligible to play for the ‘Birds.

But Hanson knew that wasn’t going to happen.

“This was going to be his breakout year with his. The chance to be The Man; The Guy,” he said of his team captain.

“As hard as it is for us to lose a player like that — deep down, you’re hoping he’ll come back and play his fifth year — he was playing his best basketball. It was a no-brainer. We talked about it, and told him he had to give it a shot. It was a big decision. We told him we wanted him back if it didn’t work out, but you have to go for it. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Karn Sharda, who has been Browne’s coach at Drive Basketball Academy since his U16 days, also knew this day was coming — even before he joined UBC.

“(I remember) he was playing great during the NCAA live period, was shooting it the best he ever had, and he got offered (a scholarship) by Montana State. I told him. ‘Hey — you’re  hot right now. If you want to go D1, you should take it,” he said of the Holy Cross star, who lost in the 2014 B.C. high school championship game to eventual UBC teammate Mindy Minhas and the Winston Churchill Bulldogs.


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“We were driving home after a tournament, and he said, ‘I know what I want to do. I want to go to UBC, have all my fam come watch me, then I want to go play in the Philippines. True to his word, that’s what he did.

“As good of a basketball player he is, I don’t think in 10 years I’ve had a nicer kid to coach, through and through.”

Browne had only been to the South Pacific archipelago once, about 10 years ago, and was blown away by the architecture and culture in Manila. Living in Makati, the financial district, he’s been struck by how the city feels like “New York, with L.A. temperatures.”

The country is currently in a lockdown state because of spiking COVID numbers, so he hasn’t had a chance to experience much, rueing the fact he can’t go to the beach or practice with his team. The April 9 start date to the season has been pushed back to an indeterminate date.

The PBA season is traditionally broken up into three mini-seasons, or conferences, which run consecutively with breaks of a few in between. In the Commissioner’s Conference, teams are allowed one import player of any height; in the Governors’ Conference, one import of 6-foot-5 or under. The most prestigious conference is the Philippine Cup, which is restricted to only Filipino nationals.

The PBA is considering switching to just two conferences for the 2021 season, it’s 46th — the Philippine Cup and Governors’ Cup.

When it does begin play, Browne is going to be looked at as a ‘3-and-D’ type guard, just as Aces head coach Jeff (The Jet) Cariaso did in his 15-year playing career, which saw him win eight PBA titles. The run-n-gun, Western-style game suits Browne’s skill set perfectly, having been counted on for his disruptive defence at UBC and shooting 43 per cent from three for his USports career.


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He’ll have to play his way past Aces guards like JVee Casio, Maverick Ahanmisi and Mike DiGregorio, to get into the rotation, but Browne is just hyped to be part of the second-most winningest organization in the PBA.

“I’m excited to be part of a very winning program. I almost won in high school, but came second, lost by three in the finals,” he said. “We came third (in 2019) at UBC, so I really want to win a championship. I know that I can learn, I’ll have a chance to try and win with Alaska Aces for sure.”



#EuroSteppin is a series of recurring profiles of B.C. Athletes playing professional basketball abroad. The NBA is not the only option for Canadian hoopers looking to fulfil their pro dreams. 


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