BREMERTON — Mauricio Modestin Jr. traveled far to take the road less traveled. He has played basketball in nations including the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Panama, to name a few. The latter is where he will return for another stint in August.
Competing internationally was always his goal and basketball his passion. But despite his unhindered drive to play overseas, Modestin said he’s a different person now than when he wore the Olympic College uniform back in 2011, a time when he felt he was hard-headed and refused any sort of criticism.
“I wasn’t the leader I should have been,” he said. “I think about things now that I could have changed. I feel like back then, I was more about self and I should have been about team. We would have probably [gone] further.”
Currently, Modestin is preparing for another stint in Panama expected to begin in August. Until then, though, he’s helping to put on a free summer clinic for students in the Bremerton area because Modestin aspires to be the mentor he didn’t have growing up.
Modestin attended Lincoln High School and grew up on the east side of Tacoma. While he acknowledged the area is known for being a “bad place,” he felt comfortable there because of the encouragement he received just from walking to school, basketball in hand.
“The community got behind me,” Modestin said. “It wasn’t more of a tough neighborhood, it was more of like, ‘Oh, Mauricio, I see you. Keep on going!’ People say it was a bad neighborhood, but to me, it was safe because I had people around me who supported me.”
Growing up without his father, Modestin said he didn’t have the funds to play in AAU organizations, but would go to the park or play in recreation leagues instead. One evening, he attended a local YMCA for late night and decided to apply for a scholarship, knowing it wouldn’t hurt.
In fact, it helped.
He was awarded the scholarship and used the funds to go to college because he wanted to continue with basketball, he said. That’s when he found himself at Olympic College.
“[My teammates] looked at me as a leader, but back then, I wasn’t looking at myself as a leader,” he said. “It was more of a personal thing. My coach always used to tell me, ‘These kids really look up to you, and you need to realize that.’ ”
After earning all-star credentials, Modestin said he had a fallout with the team and decided to chase his dream of playing internationally. After the Admirals’ season finished, he asked for film to make his own highlight tape which he sent out, just hoping for the chance to show his skills.
He was contacted about a tour in the Dominican Republic and although Modestin needed to pay for his own flight and have a passport ready, that was no problem.
“All I needed was the opportunity,” he said. “So, I invested in myself and wound up going out to the Dominican Republic.”
That’s how Modestin got his first gig overseas, and he ran away with it. He then traveled to Salina Cruz, Mexico, for his second international stint, where he averaged 22 points per game.
From Mexico to Europe and Europe to Panama, Modestin said God has blessed him along the way. After the opportunities opened up, Modestin felt it was necessary to make training a daily ritual. Eventually, students of all ages began going to the gym to train with him.
“Monday through Friday, I’m here, working out,” he said. “There were a few guys that came to the gym and asked, ‘Hey, can I work out with you?’ It got so consistent that one day, I had 25 kids in here. I guess it was word of mouth so I was like, ‘Man, I might as well just do a camp.’”
Aiden Bradish, who is preparing for his first year at Olympic High School, is one of those students who began working out with Modestin over the summer.
“We train every day,” Bradish said. “I just like getting better because I love basketball.”
Japrea Pedesclaux, another student who has known Modestin for five to six years, said it got to a point where he felt like he absolutely needed to train with him every opportunity he got because Modestin always tries to help people with their basketball skills.
For someone who didn’t have that type of mentor growing up, Modestin said there was no way he could charge people for the training camp that he decided to put on.
“This is for me giving back, I don’t want to charge anybody,” he said. “We care about the players so much that it’s not all for the money, it’s about making sure they’re off the streets, making sure they consistently stay in the gym.”
London Edson, CEO of the BelieveInSelf AAU basketball organization, collided with Modestin and they partnered to bring the summer basketball clinic to students, free of charge.
“I was hard-headed,” Modestin said. “There were people that turned their backs on me, but I can’t do it to these kids … If I can get you to come into the gym to get over that bad day of school or your problems at home, if I can give you that positive smile, then I’ve done my job.”