By Waylon Galvez
Jeff Codera never played college ball for a big school, or much less in the big league – the PBA.
But his love and passion for the game led him to the biggest stage in basketball – the NBA.
Codera, 35, has been with the Golden State Warriors for two years now as part of the team’s training staff which helps players like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson when they conduct summer camps for kids during the off-season.
“Kasama ako sa mga naga-assist during training sa mga bata.” said Codera in an exclusive interview by the Manila Bulletin.
“Masaya kasi nakaka-tulong ako sa mga bata and at the same time, sa NBA pa. Malaking bagay din kasi nakarating ako sa NBA – hindi man as player – as part ng Warriors training team,” added Codera.
Codera’s job allows him to interact with Curry, Thompson, and other players of Golden State, which he considers a blessing considering that others are dreaming of meeting the ‘Splash Bothers’ of the NBA.
However, it’s not just the face-to-face with NBA players that truly excites this native of Mandaue City, Cebu. The chance to teach young aspiring basketball players, and train them is what he considers his biggest accomplishment.
“Iba kasi yung nakaka-tulong ka sa mga bata e, nakaka-taba ng puso na nai-inspire sila in a way, natututo sila ng mga basic moves,” said Codera.
His passion for teaching young athletes actually started when he was in college, training kids in a several outdoor basketball courts, and sometimes sneaking in as some of his neighbors question his abilities.
Though he played varsity basketball in high school, and college basketball at the Cebu Technological Sciences (CTS) — which is now under the University of Cebu, he failed to showcase his skills, as his former school was not allowed to compete in Cebu’s collegiate league, the Cebu Schools Athletic Federation Inc.
“Hindi kami nakalaro,” said Codera, who even tried his luck at other schools, but was too late as rosters were already filled.
That did not stop Codera from playing, and much more training kids. When he started working as a staff at Marriot in Cebu in 2006, he continued his passion to train even the basketball team of the hotel.
In 2012, Codera decided to join his wife Tessie, a house rental manager in Santa Cruz, California, and was hoping to land a job as a caregiver. While he was waiting for his proper documents, America Rob Cornett, a sports director at Watsonville High – a Division 1 school in the US NCAA – approached him and got interested in his training skills.
“Nag-training ako sa garage namin, and yung isang sports director ng school na asawa nya Filipina, sabi nya sa akin, ‘you have good skills’, tapos nag-video siya sa akin pero hindi ko alam,” said Codera.
“Yun pala pinadadala nya sa Warriors. Hindi ko nga alam yun, kaya nung sinabi sakin na, ‘Jeff wait for the Warriors training camp to reply… I tried to help you’ nagulat ako kasi hindi ko nga alam,” he added.
“Sa US kasi kapag may talent ka, ia-angat ka nila e. Sabi ko nung una hindi ako marunong, broken ang English ko. Pero sabi sa akin language can be learned,” added Codera.
Codera signed with the Warriors a year ago, earning him the name ‘Golden Jeff’ as his followers on social media jumped to thousands including PBA players Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood.
“Mga kaibigan ko sila, saka ibang PBA players,” said Codera, who idolizes former player Allan Caidic, Chan and James Yap, as well as Curry, and former NBA greats Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Chris Mullin.
While in the Philippines for a short vacation, he joined the training staff of the Centro Escolar University (CEU) with the help of Rain or Shine assistant coach Michael Buendia.
He is set to fly back to the US on May 2 to resume his work with the Warriors.
Aside from that, the Codera couple is expecting their second baby as the two have a four-year-old daughter Therrish.
Codera said that he hopes to inspire aspiring players, and for them not to give up just like him when he had trying times in Cebu, not giving up on his dreams that led him to the NBA.