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Trinity's Andrew Pabalan overcoming the odds

Posted: December 24, 2013 4:30 p.m.
Updated: December 24, 2013 4:30 p.m.

Trinity Classical Academy sophomore guard Andrew Pabalan, right, struggled with vision issues due to a disease. Still, he's an integral part of a Trinity team trying to build on its success from a year ago.


Meet Trinity Classical Academy sophomore Andrew Pabalan.

He’s 5 feet, 6 inches, weighs 125 pounds and suffers from a serious eye condition called stargardt disease.

Probably worthwhile to mention he’s a starting guard on his school’s varsity basketball team, too.

It’s an unlikely marriage, no doubt. Of all of the major sports, basketball is generally considered one of the more physically discriminant. Size often leads to success and hand-eye coordination is at a premium.

But when you have Pabalan’s confidence, everything else can be thrown out the window.

“I’ve always been small, so there hasn’t really been a struggle,” says Pabalan, who is starting for the first time on a regular basis. “I’d rather have what I have than be too big anyway. I’m quick so that’s how I have to get by people.”

Pabalan’s height issues are undoubtedly a strategic drawback in the game of basketball, but he’s also just a sophomore in high school.

There’s always the chance that he’ll grow into his body and be just fine.

But his prospects for the future are blurry when it comes to his vision.

“I have a form of what’s called juvenile macular degeneration. I found out about it when I was in seventh grade,” says Pabalan.

According to the Foundation for Fighting Blindness, those who suffer from stargardt disease may not notice vision loss until age 30 or even 40.

Long term, those with the disease can see their vision get as bad as 20/400.

To add perspective — according to the National Institute of Health, the large letter at the top of your optometrist’s Snellen chart is the lowest threshold for visual acuity.

Those who can’t see that letter are generally considered to have vision as bad as at least 20/200 — or legal blindness.

According to Pabalan, the “last time he checked” he was playing basketball with 20/100 vision.

When asked about whether or not Pabalan’s vision problem was an immediate issue, Trinity head coach John Brooks was candid.


But in what is probably the biggest testament to the calm, assured player Pabalan is viewed to be — none of that changes the way Brooks approaches coaching his sophomore point guard.

“As a coach it is my job to do whatever is best for the success of each player,” Brooks says. “With any player you have to accommodate certain things that affect their performance. With Andrew it just happens to be this.”

Brooks and Pabalan are in the middle of an interesting time for their basketball program right now.

After going 19-7 and making the CIF Division V state championship game last year, the Knights are playing up-and-down basketball to begin the 2013-14 season with almost the same exact cast of characters. Trinity is currently 5-4.

Given the fact that Trinity is coming off of an extended football season, and is already running into injury problems with standout sophomore Ian Caddow, that next step is proving hard to take.

Trinity’s usually reliable duo of Spencer Klehn and Ryan Brooks are playing well to start the year, but Pabalan knows that the type of success Trinity expects only happens when all of the wheels are greased.

“We have a lot of good parts to this team. It’s not just about one person,” Pabalan says. “We have some guys that stand out talent wise. It’s about the pieces like me coming together and blending in.”

Despite Pabalan’s size and his vision, Brooks believes the sophomore can provide that for Trinity.

Even if he’s a little short and the rim is blurry from half-court.

“He’s got a hard time seeing the ball emerge against dark backgrounds,” Brooks says. “If there’s something like a student section with a bunch of colorful shirts in the stands it can be a problem.”

Pabalan is the first to admit that he’s a bit of an enigma, but he’s used his reflections on last year’s success to validate his decision to keep with it.

“Last year was awesome,” Pabalan Says. “There was a real sense of looking forward to just going out there with my team this season, it’s been great.”

If Andrew Pabalan doesn’t let 5-foot-6 and the prospects of legal blindness get in the way of his basketball ambitions, it’s unlikely a human defender of any size can change his mind about what his limitations are.

For someone who exists against the odds the way Pabalan does, the ball is always in his court.

However restricted the structure may be.


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