FINALS: Powerade Tigers 1 - 3 Talk N Text Tropang Texters
Published on September 28, 2010Now a few PBA fans looked baffled when the sixth overall pick was named in the 2009 PBA Draft last August 2.  Who is Mike Burtscher?  There were hardly any surprises in the Draft until his name was called.  Even the ones who knew of him were shocked to hear the Alaska Aces pick him over so many other up and coming ballers.

But Burtscher is out to prove his worth and live out his journey that is quickly taking him to the top, but has dragged him deep into the dark valleys.

This is Mike’s story -- a story which will make you understand why he’s got a lot of fight in him.  A story that will hopefully inspire you.
Michael Andre Morato Burtscher was born in Switzerland to his Filipina mother, Juliet.  He never met his biological father as he abandoned them before he was even born.  She left the Philippines with her eventual husband, Rainer Burtscher, and gave birth to Mike on March 8, 1985 in Baden, Switzerland.  

Mike always felt alienated by his step dad and step brother which made him a rebellious teen.  It didn’t help that he felt his mother was also being treated unfairly.  His life crumbled when he once came home from school and found that all of his mother’s belongings were gone and was told that he was not the real son of the only father he ever knew.  He then ran away from the house he never really felt was a home.  He was only 16 then.

Mike lived with friends and foster homes.  He worked odd jobs, and admittedly turned to the dark side.  

“I had no money, no home, no family” recalled Mike who was too embarrassed to enumerate the “bad things” he did just to survive.

His life changed when he was once invited by his Turkish friend Baris to a basketball game.  Mike, though already a towering 6-footer at that time, never played the sport but he was quickly captivated by it because it gave him an escape.

“Whenever I played ball, I forgot everything.  I escaped from reality,” he explained.

Mike enrolled in basketball clinics to compliment his natural athleticism.  That’s where he met his new circle of friends, including his best friend David Deady who currently plays college ball in the US.

Finding hope and direction on the basketball court also was the start of his salvation which delivered him to his Christian faith.

They say when the world pushes you down on your knees, you’re in a perfect position to pray. That’s what happened to Mike.  When life was at its darkest, he learned to turn to God.

He ended up staying with the family of his very close friend Steve Crayton.  They were an African- American family who migrated to Switzerland.  They instilled Christianity to Mike and gave him a chance to pursue higher studies at the Clear Water Christian College in Florida.  Unfortunately for Mike, the one year that he stayed there didn’t turn out as planned as he couldn’t afford to pay for his school, being just on a partial scholarship.  So he went back to Switzerland.

He kept playing basketball and even participated in some Filipino community leagues.  There he got close to the Negele family who became his way to come to the Philippines in the hopes of finding his mother whom he hadn’t seen or heard from in four years.  

When Mike arrived in the country, all he knew about his mother’s family was that they lived in a place called Bliss, near the floodway project in Pasig.  With that bit of information he set off to look for his mother.  With courage, determination and faith, he was reunited with his mom.

Soon after he was settled, Mike was invited by a friend to accompany him to watch a basketball game in the posh Greenmeadows subdivision.  Mike just thought it was an ordinary pick up game, and had the urge to join in.  By half time, Mike quickly grabbed a ball, just like all the other kids watching, and shot around and did a few dunks here and there.

“Some guy went up to me asking me who I was and what I was doing there”.  Mike found it odd when that man asked him to come back that Monday and practice with them.  Two days after that Friday night, he saw that same team he was watching at the scrimmage game on TV with thousands of adoring fans screaming “Ginebra, Ginebra”.  Yes, the man who discovered him was then Barangay Ginebra coach Siot Tanquincen.

He practiced with the team for a week, and it led Coach Siot to recommend the 19 year old to now-Talk ‘N Text assistant coach Nash Racela who was still with San Beda at that time.

“Coach Nash really took care of me” so it was really hard when San Beda changed coaches.  Somehow, he got help from coach Franz Pumaren and the DLSU community but he wasn’t able to enroll at La Salle.

By that time, his girlfriend from San Beda, Rita, was pregnant, and that motivated him to pursue a career in the PBL.  Coach Franz introduced him to coach Luigi Trillo who was then with the Cebuana L’Huillier.  There he met Kelvin Gregorio, Cris Viardo, and Don Dulay.  They became the godfathers of his son Darin.  

But after Cebuana disbanded, he was picked up by Pharex in the dispersal draft.  He moved to Noosa where he got injured, tearing his MCL and is ACL.  “People told me I could never play again.”  

“I had no money to pay for therapy, and neither did I have money for my family”.  So Mike worked at a call center and endured the pain of his knee surgery.  When he had enough, he went to see Dr. Raul Canlas who was baffled as to why Mike didn’t come sooner.  Mike shared his story with Doc Canlas who was kind enough to help the ailing athlete pro bono. Mike said “if it wasn’t for him…..”.  He didn’t need to say more.

After eight months, he was back on the basketball court, as determined as ever and played in Liga Pilipinas which gave him the confidence to apply for the PBA Draft.

“I told myself I’d give it my last shot or I had to think of other means to support my family.  If I didn’t make it, at least I tried,” he said.

So focused was Burtscher that he decided to stay with a friend and leave his family for a while during the Draft preparations.  He worked out everyday and did whatever he could to have a fair shot at the pros.

“When my name was called, I couldn’t believe it.  I was so wobbly.  I never expected it.  I was prepared to be a free agent and try out for teams.  I was so thankful to God,” Burtscher said of his Draft experience at the Market!Market!

Mike shares that coach Luigi probably had a lot to do with him being picked, and he was also told that they like his attitude and work ethic.

“A lot of people are satisfied being in the PBA.  For me, this is just the start.  People told me I couldn’t do it, but here I am.  Nothing is impossible,” said Burtscher, who is expected to play back-up to Sonny Thoss.

It has been said that tough times are there so you can have a good time later on-- and really appreciate it!

With the troubled life Mike led, and the enduring heart that he has, he truly is a survivor, and he’s relishing this chance to fulfill His promise.

“The Bible promises a lot.  God knows your heart’s desire.  Put Him first and He’ll take care of everything.  I want people to know what I have gone through.  He changed my life,” Burtscher said.

Indeed, nothing is impossible with the Lord, more so if you really work hard to make your dreams come true. (PBH)


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