The real Jay-Jay Helterbrand

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The real Jay-Jay Helterbrand

Post by Ginebra Tambayan on Sun Feb 05, 2012 10:51 pm

The real Jay-Jay Helterbrand
SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson The Philippine Star Updated February 05, 2012 12:00 AM

A month ago, Barangay Ginebra star guard Jay-Jay Helterbrand stood as one of the groomsmen at the wedding of Dr. Rico Estrella and Dr. Katrina (Katcee) Macalintal-Canlas in Alabang. During the reception that followed at the Marriott Hotel, Helterbrand spoke about his special friendship with Katcee and warmed the hearts of everyone. Those who didn’t know about his friendship with Katcee were surprised because it appeared that he was in the wedding entourage as Rico’s buddy.

“We met in Manila,” said Helterbrand. “I’ve known Katcee since I first got here. I met her through (former PBA player) Migs Noble. We’re all close friends.”

I asked Katcee about Helterbrand.

“Jay-Jay is my very best friend in the universe,” said Katcee, a dermatologist whose parents are allergologist Dr. Manny Canlas and neurologist Dr. Regina Macalintal-Canlas. “We met through Migs Noble, who was introduced to me by another good friend Bing Victoria, brother of Boybits. Migs was then a teammate of Bing in the PBL. Since Migs was from the US, we took him out to places in Manila and we became a barkada of two girls and three guys who were all basketball players. When Migs entered the PBA, he became close to Jay-Jay so Jay-Jay became a part of our group. We would eat out and watch movies during our free time or play video games. I’ve always been ‘boyish’ and extremely interested in sports, as a spectator.”

As time went by, Katcee became more attached to Helterbrand, not in a romantic sense but in a brother-sister sense. They were like two peas in a pod.

“Among all the boys in the group, I grew closest to Jay-Jay,” said Katcee. “I guess because we were both clowns and we joked around a lot. Despite my busy schedule, I would try to watch his important games and he would also visit me in the hospital. In his speech during my wedding, Jay-Jay said he knew Rico was the one for me when Rico didn’t get jealous of Jay-Jay since we have that special bond. Jay-Jay’s like my big brother.”

Katcee described Helterbrand as a very prayer and spiritual person. “He’s a good father to his kids (Gianna, 17, Jalen, 12) who are studying in the US,” said Katcee. “When he decided to continue playing, I literally wept with joy! I know he still has what it takes and I’m proud of him because I know he prayed for it and the answer was to keep on playing since he inspires a lot of people with his God-given talent.”

* * * *

Another positive thing that Katcee pointed out was Helterbrand’s appreciation for his fans. “I’m also proud of him for being down-to-earth,” she continued. “When we are out for lunch in the mall and fans would ask him for his autograph or picture, he would gladly accommodate them and would even take the time to chat with his fans. Up to now, he wonders why people would want his picture as he always says, he’s just a regular guy.”

Katcee revealed that when Helterbrand’s not in the gym or stadium, he’s busy taking care of business – outside of basketball. “His activities would be practice, going to his office as he recently put up his own business, printing mugs, shirts, baller bands, jackets with Bible verses or things that would spread the word of the Lord,” said Katcee. “His business is called The Good News. He goes to Bible study and church services. Other activities would be playing video games, watching movies and getting a haircut. I’m praying that this season will be a great one for him and the rest of the Ginebra team.”

Helterbrand, 35, seriously thought of ending his PBA career at the end of the recent Philippine Cup. Before the start of the season, he asked to sign only a one-conference contract. “I know I’m not as quick as I used to be,” he said. “My main concern is family. My family has sacrificed for me so much in my 11 years as a professional player. I’ve been blessed to play the game I love.”

Helterbrand said one of his unforgettable moments in the PBA was when his mother Melanie came to watch him play. “My mom was crying in the stands, watching me play on the court because she knew it was the fulfillment of my dream,” he said. “My first goal was to play in the NBA. When that didn’t happen, I was blessed just the same to become a professional player in the PBA. Making it to the PBA wasn’t easy. It took a lot of prayers, hard work and dedication to the job. You just don’t become a good player or a championship player. You’ve got to work hard at it. You’ve got to go out there and want to be the best in your position.”

At the end of the conference, Helterbrand announced he would come back to play. The decision was overwhelmingly received by fans on a positive note.

* * * *

Helterbrand was born at the Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila to parents Lamberto Heras Vicente and Melanie Jimenez Romero, both Filipinos, on Oct. 14, 1976. The name on Helterbrand’s birth certificate was Lamberto Romero Vicente Jr. But when his parents split up, his mother took him, his brother Francis and sister Rowena to the US. He was only six at the time. His mother later remarried a US serviceman Ronald Helterbrand. In 1986, his name was legally changed to Anthony Romero Helterbrand with authority from a district court in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Dreaming to become a basketball star, Helterbrand played at Henry Clark High School in Kentucky and battled future NBA cagers Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker in street pick-up games. As a prep senior in 1995-96, he averaged eight points and four rebounds. Helterbrand went on to play two seasons under coach Thomas (Fox) Snowden at Kentucky State, a three-time NAIA champion and Billy Ray Bates’ alma mater. As a Kentucky State freshman in 1996-97, he started in 18 of 20 games, averaging 8.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.7 steals and 28.6 minutes. He shot .467 from the floor, .320 from three-point range and .643 from the line. In his first 11 games the next season, Helterbrand averaged 13 points, four assists and 2.6 rebounds for the varsity. He started in 10 games, shooting .466 from the field and .867 from the stripe.

Helterbrand was brought to Manila by Rolando Hiso, a Filipino immigrant who spotted him playing in a 13-state Filipino Inter-City tournament in Chicago. He went on to play a game for the Batangas Blades in the MBA then was inked by Ginebra as a direct-hire in 2000. Helterbrand reached the pinnacle of his PBA career when he was named MVP in 2008-09. But it’s not over for Helterbrand as a PBA player – he’s got more games to play, more championships to win, more teammates to inspire and a multitude of fans to thank and give back to.

Source: The Philippine Star
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