Convento: Student pursued dream of playing professional basketball

“He was always the smallest one on the court, but he always had the biggest heart,” said Erin Pulley, 25, sister of Cal State Fullerton senior kinesiology major and former international basketball player Lance Convento.

For 26-year-old Convento, being the smallest on the court meant nothing when it came to accomplishing a colossal dream.

“I have wanted to pursue basketball ever since I could remember. I was probably like a baby when I got a hold of my first basketball,” said Convento.

Pulley can recall when she would play basketball with her brother when they were kids.

“He (Convento) and my other brother were the ones that taught me how to play; we would be outside in the front … I was 5 years old, and he was probably 6 or 7, and (he) was the one that taught me how to dribble (and) shoot,” Pulley said.

Convento became familiar with teaching the skill of basketball to others at a young age, which played a major role in leading him to want to obtain a career in the athletic coaching field.

Convento also said that one of his motivations for wanting to coach was due to the opportunity of watching his father coach an Anaheim Methodist team, which he played for during his earlier years.

“It was always in my heart to want to do anything related to basketball; I especially knew that I wanted to coach after playing on a team that my dad coached when I was younger… It became one of my dreams then,” Convento said.

Another one of Convento’s ultimate dreams consisted of him going overseas to pursue his goal of playing professional basketball.

However, Convento had to learn how to crawl before he was able to walk out onto the basketball court to showcase his skills.

“I went to Cerritos High. I started playing basketball when I was in high school. I played on the freshman team for my first year, JV my sophomore year, then I moved up to varsity during my junior and senior year,” Convento said. “I played pretty good during my high school years … I was even co-MVP for my varsity year as well as getting first-team all-league during that year.”

After high school, Convento went on to play for Santa Ana Community College. Later on, Convento made the decision to transfer to Cypress Community College.

“The decision to transfer to Cypress was one of the biggest mistakes that I had made during that time. I feel this way because I don’t think I was really given the opportunity to … really shine I guess,” Convento said. “The coach at Santa Ana really put a lot of time into making me a better player … and he was just overall a really good coach. I feel like I would have (excelled) so much more if I would have stayed at Santa Ana.”

Convento also said that he had been going through a bit of a rough patch while playing for Cypress.

“I really wanted to be recruited during this time … but I wasn’t really being looked at while I was playing for Cypress,” he said.

Convento then decided that it was time for him to begin taking his educational career a little more seriously.

“I initially chose to go to Cal State Fullerton because all of my friends were going there, but by the time I had gotten there it really didn’t matter because they all were graduating … I chose to major in kinesiology so that I could learn everything that I needed to know when it comes to coaching.”

During his time at CSUF, Convento found that the educators were very impressive, and they had confirmed that his decision to attend the school was a good one.

JenniferMae Tandayu, 25, a graphic design major, has seen the passion Covento puts into his education.

“Me and Lance took a psych class together. He is a really dedicated student. He uses his time very wisely instead of memorizing things to just pass a class … He actually puts forth the efforts to learn the material. He was passionate about his subject matter and always excited to learn. He really utilized the professor’s teachings,” said Tandayu.

Though CSUF presented Convento with what he felt was a good education, he still could not let go of his love and passion for basketball.

“I had (begun) playing on a traveling team called L.A. Showtime. We would travel all over the Philippines and play against different colleges over there, and this is the time that I was scouted to play overseas,” Convento said.

In the Philippines, Convento had finally been given the chance to play basketball professionally.

Pulley and other family members expressed how they really missed Convento while he was away, but they knew that it was the opportunity of a lifetime. They supported him in his decision to take a leave of absence from school to pursue his dream.

“Seeing as how I am Filipino … I was so excited to go over to the Philippines to play … I had never been (there) and I was just really looking forward to play,” he said.

Upon his arrival to the Philippines, Convento says that he experienced a bit of a culture shock.

“Though I enjoyed myself playing on the court … and getting paid for something that I love … I couldn’t help but notice how the people in that culture were experiencing a lot of poverty,” Convento said.

For Convento, this was truly a disheartening sight to see. Even after his return to the United States, he recalls wishing he could have done something about it.

After fracturing his back in the Philippines, Convento returned home. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he placed his focus on his experience in the Philippines and what he could take away from that experience.

“I came back home because I had been playing on a fractured back … I remember feeling bad about what I saw, but I also felt (a sense of) independence because I had been on my own when I was out there,” he said.

He also says that he grew as a person from his experience overseas.

“I didn’t have my parents to make meals for me; I made my own meals and paid the bills for my apartment … and other things like that,” Covento said.

Along with the feeling of independence, he learned how to be more disciplined.

Now that Convento is back at CSUF, he has been focusing on his education. He also recently converted to Christianity and has taken a different direction with his life.

“As of right now, I am continuing my education … I learned so much from playing overseas, and it has made me the person that I am today. I used to idolize basketball and made it my priority, but after going to the Philippines, it humbled me,” said Covento. “I realize now that basketball isn’t everything, and that I’d rather put more of my time into God. However, if it is in God’s will for me to continue to pursue basketball, then that’s what I will do.”

ajai guyot