“Should we smile or should we be serious for the game?” Gilas rookie Christian Standhardinger asked teammate Carl Bryan Cruz as they snapped a selfie moments before facing Chinese Taipei A.
“Smile! Relax!” Cruz replied.
There was pressure on Christian. Earlier in the day during the team viewing, Gilas coach Chot Reyes set out a challenge for him and Mike Myers. The two bigs combined to shoot 6-for-20 from the field versus Canada. Reyes wanted them to be more efficient and also hoped to see better offensive rebounding.
Standhardinger had been on Philippine basketball’s radar for several years now. It wasn’t until now that he got an opportunity to introduce himself to his countrymen and to the world. He couldn’t help but look back at the path he took to get here.
“I used to work at a bar in Germany,” he recalled. “I was the assistant to the bartender. I never saw the bar. You’d see me, six-foot-eight, squeezing oranges and running up and down the stairs to get drinks.”
This happened during a time when Christian was confused with what he wanted to do in life. He had just left Nebraska after having disputes with his coach. He needed a break so he went home to figure himself out. But even there, things didn’t exactly work out.
“There’s a fit for everybody. For me, working at the bar wasn’t the right thing,” he said. “My goal has always been to get to do my own thing. Drive my own bus and run my own company. That’s the standard I set for myself.”
This is the part where you expect me to say that basketball was what he was looking for. But there’s none of that in this story. Christian is not your typical hooper.
Among those who play the game at a high level, you usually get narratives of how they’ve held a basketball since the earliest of ages. They’ll tell you how much impact and influence the game has had on their lives, how it’s provided them with an easier existence.
Standhardinger did go back to basketball. He went to Hawaii, played there and earned himself a degree in business marketing. But for the Filipino-German slotman, the game is just one of the things he does.
“It has to be much more than that,” the Filipino-German slotman claimed. “As professionals, basketball is very important in our lives. But for me, personally, it’s important that there’s something else I do that also inspires me.”
“I’m very much into social media. This is my hobby. I’m actually starting a little bit with my basketball YouTube channel in Germany. I have two other projects that I’m working on right now.”
Standhardinger is behind the German YouTube channel Ballers Club. Whenever he’s with Gilas, he’s always running around with a pocket camera, documenting every new adventure this national team stint takes him.
This is where his passions intertwine.
Being a part of Gilas, Christian gets to serve his country by playing the game that he loves. At the same time, it assists him in setting up the empire that he plans to have in the future.
“Basketball has helped me in terms of financial stability. That’s what you always need when you’re building something,” he said.
For Christian, ball is not necessarily life. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean he’s not serious about playing for the country. It doesn’t mean he won’t go out there and leave everything on the floor. It doesn’t mean he won’t play with puso.
In fact, against the home team of Chinese Taipei, he showed a lot of it. Standhardinger took coach Chot’s challenge to heart and he responded by scoring 17 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in an 88-72 win over the host nation.
Christian Standhardinger’s dreams span beyond the borders the basketball court. The dream is to do his own thing, drive his own bus and run his own company. But he cannot deny the fact that he found his fit with Gilas Pilipinas.
“I love this team,” Christian shamelessly stated. “I’ll keep fighting for them. I’ll keep fighting for the country.”