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Aljun Melecio s never-ending quest to prove he belongs

Aljun Melecio has these hardware sitting pretty on his trophy case: UAAP 78 Jrs. MVP, UAAP 79 Rookie of the Year, UAAP 79 champion. Now heading into his fifth and final year in De La Salle University, he remains recognized as one of the best point guards in all of college. Well, recognized by just about everybody except himself. Asked if he feels worthy to stand alongside the likes of NCAA 95 Finals MVP Fran Yu or UAAP 82 Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy, he answered, modest as always, "Nope. I don't. Wala pa akong napapatunayan." Yes, the 5-foot-8 super scorer who was then head coach Aldin Ayo's "most-wanted recruit" feels he is yet to prove himself. Yes, the primetime playmaker who was once comforted by Tab Baldwin after the Green Archers had lost the championship despite his 16 points in Game 3 of the Finals feels he is yet to prove himself. That in itself is not necessarily surprising, though. And that's because all throughout his young career, Melecio has felt, again and again, that he has to prove himself. He had to prove himself even to La Salle, his home of nine years now. "Actually, 'di naman ako ni-recruit ng Zobel dati," he shared. "To be honest, my mindset at that time ay mag-Team B lang sa Zobel para pag may games, mas magagamit ako. Kaysa naman mag-Team A ako and nakaupo lang sa bench." BREAK IN Aljun Melecio, now a graduating guard, is La Salle's most recent homegrown product. Of the Green Archers' probable UAAP 83 roster, the now-22-year-old is the lone player to have come from the Taft-based school's Jrs. programs - and mind you, they have two in La Salle Zobel and La Salle Green Hills. In DLSZ, Melecio was a scoring dynamo who once dropped 42 points on archrival Ateneo de Manila High School. Did you know, though, that he wasn't even supposed to wear the green and white? "I was supposed to transfer sa UST nung high school," he recalled. "Pero napag-usapan naming family na since si kuya, nasa Zobel na nung time na yun, mas okay sigurong Zobel na lang din ako para magkasama kami." Aljun was referring to older brother Aleck who was also his teammate for three years with the Jr. Archers. If not for Aleck, however, Aljun would have suited up for University of Sto. Tomas High School where good friend Renzo Subido had already committed to play for college. After all, it was Subido, and dad Henry, who had convinced the Melecios to move to Manila from Bukidnon. "The reason talaga why we took the risk to come here was because of Coach Henry," Aljun shared, looking back at the time when all of them were repping Lourdes School of Mandaluyong. "They invited us to play basketball in Manila kaya malaki ang utang na loob namin sa Subido family." While Coach Henry and Renzo have been always there to lend a helping hand, that did not necessarily make the transition any easier - especially for a 10-year-old kid who was born and bred in Valencia City. "Grabe yung sacrifice na ginawa namin just for me to have more opportunities in life. That was a big adjustment not just for me, but also for my parents," Melecio said. He then continued, "Dumating yung time na ayoko nang bumalik sa Manila kasi na-homesick ako. Looking back now, normal lang naman siguro yun, lalong-lalo na bata pa ako." BREAKTHROUGH Make no mistake about it, looking back now, Aljun Melecio has no regrets. As he put it, "It was all worth it." Of course, he also had lady luck smile on him somewhat as, yet again following the footsteps of Subido, he transferred from Lourdes to DLSZ. And there, he found yet another mentor willing to believe in him. "Sina Coach Boris [Aldeguer], pagdating ko sa Zobel, they invited me to join yung practice ng Team A. Nagulat ako na kaya ko naman pala so doon na nag-start yung confidence ko," he said. Indeed, Melecio did not let Coach Boris down as in his first year, he proved to be a building block in their rebuild. While the boys from Alabang eventually ended outside the playoff picture, he had made more than enough noise to get the attention of the Philippine national youth team. There, DLSZ's top gun got his first taste of wearing the flag as part of the Batang Gilas training pool. "Masayang-masaya ako nun na makasama sa practice team dahil dream ko talaga maging part nun," he narrated. "May jersey lang and makasali lang ako sa practice, masayang-masaya ako." There, Melecio showcased his skills alongside other promising prospects such as Nieto twins Mike and Matt as well as Jolo Mendoza of Ateneo, Renzo Navarro of San Sebastian College-Recoletos, and Jollo Go of Hope Christian High School. And there, yet again, he knew full well he had to prove himself. During training itself, the new kid on the block believed he was doing so. At the same time, however, he had to come face-to-face with another beast altogether - how to get to practice in the first place. As it turned out, the then-13-year-old had to commute from south to north each and every time he participated in Batang Gilas training. How did his trips go? "From Alabang, mag-tricycle ako to [Alabang] Town [Center] then jeep going to Starmall [Alabang]. After nun, bus to Magallanes, MRT, then LRT, tapos jeep ulit," he shared. He then continued, "So papunta pa lang to Moro, pagod na ako. Then after practice, mag-commute na naman pauwi." Fortunately for him, there were also kind hearts like the Nieto twins who took him to the LRT station in Katipunan or Evan Nelle whom he rode with going back south. Still, around 33km and about an hour separated DLSZ in the south and Ateneo's Moro Lorenzo Sports Center in the north - indeed, that was some sort of workout already. BREAKDOWN In the long run, that was, unfortunately, much too much for young Aljun Melecio. While wearing the flag would have meant much, he also felt circumstances, such as that hell of a commute that cost him PHP 200 for a one-way trip, held him back from giving his all. Instead, Melecio felt he could do much more if he just rechanneled his energy to DLSZ. "After ilang weeks na ginagawa ko yung routine na yun, I started asking myself kung paano maayos yung priorities ko. Pinakiramdaman ko kung saan ako mag-iimprove so I talked to Coach Boris," he said. He the continued, "And I decided na mag-all in sa Zobel." All in for the Jr. Archers, he did, and boy, did it prove to be the right call. He was just getting started in UAAP 76, slowly but surely getting a grasp of both his capabilities and confidence as he helped the green and white barge back into the Final Four. Then in Season 77, it all clicked as he shot the green and white to the second rung of the stepladder all while putting up per game counts of 16.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 2.3 steals. Without a doubt, he willed his way into the Mythical Team that included the Nieto twins, his batchmates in Batang Gilas. The following year, with averages of 22.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.3 steals, he carried DLSZ all the way to the Finals where they stole one game from eventual champion Nazareth School of National University. And oh, he was the unanimous MVP of Season 78, besting the likes of future Gilas Pilipinas pool members Justine Baltazar and Gomez de Liano brothers Javi and Juan. Even then, though, he wouldn't call himself the best of the best. "I didn't think na I belonged kasi never kong gustong isipin na ganun ako," he said. He then continued, "Ang alam ko lang, I worked extra hard, I had extra motivation to play. Thankfully, coach Boris supported my decision and dahil dun, na-boost yung confidence ko." BREAK FREE From there, Aljun Melecio did nothing but go onto greater and greater heights in La Salle's Srs. squad. Never tell him he has accomplished anything, though, as he would be the first to tell you that you're wrong. Up until now, he feels that he is yet to prove himself. He hopes to prove that he has what it takes to be behind the wheel for the Green Archers' new era. He hopes to prove that he could bounce back following the worst statistical season for him. And he hopes to prove that he has every right to be mentioned in the same breath as his one-time teammates in the Batang Gilas pool and his batchmates who are now part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool. "Lahat naman, ginagawa kong motivation," he said. "May it be positive or negative, we all have our timing so I'm just being patient para sa kung anuman ang ibibigay na chance sa akin." If and when that next shot at wearing the flag comes along, Melecio only vows to do what he has never stopped doing. Asked about getting a golden opportunity at the Gilas pool, he answered, "That's still a dream for me. I know I still have a lot to prove." He then continued, "But I will give my all if given the chance to represent. I always do." If and when that time comes, there would be no more 33km distance, one-hour travel time, or PHP 200 cost. Still, Aljun Melecio would work just as hard - if not more - as he did when he once had to commute south to north just to get to practice. Don't forget, proving himself is already second nature to him. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnAug 29th, 2020

2020 king of recruiting crown remains on UP’s head

Who was our King of Recruiting in 2018? Find out here. Who was our King of Recruiting in 2019? Find out here. --- From 2007 to 2015, the University of the Philippines only had 13 wins to show in 126 games total. That time is self-deprecatingly called in Diliman as the dark days. Due to that disappointing standing, the Fighting Maroons had the toughest time bringing in recruits. And due to that lack of pieces to the puzzles, they lost even more. Safe to say, State U was stuck in a vicious cycle in the dark days. That’s not to say they didn’t have blue-chip recruits back then as in their time, all of Woody Co, Mark Juruena, Mike Gamboa, Kyles Lao, Jett Manuel, and Mikee Reyes were among the best high school players. Only, a blue-chip recruit or two does not make a team. Fast forward to now and oh, how things have changed. Last year, UP was hailed as ABS-CBN’s King of Recruiting alongside University of the East. “On the strength of the transfers of Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero, the Fighting Maroons… are worthy of the title,” it said then. And the season before that, the maroon and green was also up there with the best of them in terms of recruitment, having brought in the likes of eventual Season MVP Bright Akhuetie, Will Gozum, and Jaydee Tungcab. Indeed, there was nowhere to go but up. That has only continued this year as UP has left no doubt that it is now a force to reckon with in terms of recruitment. Early on, they already had a solid haul in Joel Cagulangan, once the best point guard in high school, and tireless workhorse Malick Diouf. And then, the shock of shocks. As it turned out, Nazareth School of National University stalwarts Carl Tamayo and Gerry Abadiano were going to be Fighting Maroons. Meaning, for the first time in recent history, the most promising prospect coming out of high school is headed to Diliman. Not only that, State U also answered its biggest question heading into next season – the question at point guard, filling in for Jun Manzo. But as it turned out, they weren’t done just yet - no, our friends, they weren’t done just yet. Tamayo and Abadiano’s departure from National U was shocking, without a doubt, but CJ Cansino’s exit from University of Sto. Tomas was even more so. Cansino, against his will, decided to move on from his alma mater since 2015 due to personal reasons. Fortunately for him, he landed on his feet. Now, the Fighting Maroons have ready-made replacement for Rivero as well as a leader in the shades of Paul Desiderio for UAAP 84. And that, our friends, is why we have no choice but to put the 2020 King of Recruiting crown on UP’s head once more. Tamayo and Abadiano are the bluest of blue-chip recruits this year and Cagulangan, Cansino, and Diouf are among the most talented transferees, but also joining them in the maroon and green will be scoring machine RC Calimag from La Salle Green Hills, burly big Miguel Tan from Xavier High School, Filipino-American playmaker Sam Dowd, Filipino-Australian tower Ethan Kirkness, physical forward Jancork Cabahug from University of Visayas, and versatile wing CJ Catapusan from Adamson University. The former Bullpups are guaranteed ato be contributors even as rookies while Calimag, Tan, and Dowd are going to shore up a bench that had just lost Gomez de Liano brothers Javi and Juan. Of course, Diouf, Kirkness, Cansino, Cabahug, and Cagulangan are still serving residency, but when they will be eligible, they will get a shot at a squad that will look brand new. All of Bright Akhuetie, J-Boy Gob, David Murrell, Noah Webb, and Rivero are graduating players while Paras is only guaranteed to play one more year. That means that after Season 83, the Fighting Maroons may very well have to fill six spots. That means that UP is not only beefing up for UAAP 83, it is also securing its future. If not for the shock of shocks, though, the crown would have been claimed by De La Salle University which sent a statement that it is back and better than ever. Justine Baltazar and Aljun Melecio may be playing their fifth and final years in college, but the green and white’s future has only brightened following this prolonged preseason. First and foremost, Kevin Quiambao, the third leg in that National U tripod of talent out of high school, has the capability and confidence to follow in the footsteps of Baltazar. Hopefully, he will be eligible for Season 83, but if not, what’s certain is he will be playing in UAAP 84. Alongside him as pieces for the future are super scorers CJ Austria and Emman Galman, all-around swingman Joshua Ramirez, and Filipino-Americans Jeromy Hughes, Kameron Vales, and Philips bros. Benjamin and Michael. Among all those, Jonnel Policarpio, likened to a young Arwind Santos, has the highest upside, but the Fil-Ams have much potential as well. And don’t forget that Evan Nelle, the primetime playmaker from San Beda University, is just getting primed and prepped to take the reins when Melecio leaves. Of course, the caveat here is that we are all in uncharted territory due to the continuing COVID-19 crisis. And in that light, the next season of the UAAP remains far away and a lot could still happen until then. While majority of the local blue-chip recruits have already committed, talents from abroad and transferees from other schools could still come and change the game. With that being said, there remains no doubt that UP and La Salle have made the biggest noise in the offseason. However, it’s not actually the Fighting Maroons or the Green Archers who got the lion’s share of the best graduating players in the 2020 NBTC 24. Yes, that honor belongs to Lyceum of the Philippines University which is finally reaping the rewards of its rising Jrs. program with NCAA 95 Jrs. MVP John Barba and Batang Gilas playmaker Mac Guadana being promoted as full-fledged Pirates. Guadana could do it all and looks like the next great guard in the Grand Old League while fearless slasher is Barba is a perfect complement to him. Add another fiery guard in John Bravo and sweet-shooting big man Carlo Abadeza and LPU has restocked its coffers after losing Marcelino twins Jaycee and Jayvee and Cameroonian powerhouse Mike Nzeusseu. In all though, the 2020 NBTC 24 was dominated by UP… and San Beda. Of the annual rankings’ 15 graduating players, four would be Fighting Maroons and another four would be Red Lions. Yes, San Beda’s grassroots program is back on track with its Jrs. championship core all remaining in red and white. Rhayyan Amsali, ranked no. 1 in the 2020 NBTC 24, is the most college-ready high school player while Justine Sanchez is a long-limbed forward who could turn out to be the next Calvin Oftana, you know, the NCAA 95 MVP. Yukien Andrada, meanwhile, is only continuing to develop his two-way game and Tony Ynot is a 3-and-D weapon who had even left an impression on Jalen Green. And hey, as somebody said, don’t sleep on the UAAP’s three-time defending champions. Ateneo may already be missing Isaac Go, Thirdy Ravena, Adrian Wong, and Nieto twins Mike and Matt and they may not be making noise as of late, but they are still welcoming Dave Ildefonso and Dwight Ramos with open arms. Ildefonso will only be good to go come UAAP 84, but Ramos is already being seen by head coach Tab Baldwin as a difference-maker for the Blue Eagles in Season 83. Eli, Dwight’s younger brother, is also in the mix to backstop SJ Belangel and Tyler Tio. Note also that former blue-chip recruit Inand Fornilos may very well finally get his shot while both Jolo Mendoza and Raffy Verano are also back. Ateneo’s foe in the Finals last year also reloaded quite a bit as for the third year in a row, UST will be sending the Tiger Cubs’ best player to the Srs. squad. Following in the footsteps of Cansino and Mark Nonoy, post player Bismarck Lina will be a Growling Tiger next season. Alongside him to fortify the frontcourt are Christian Manaytay, Bryan Samudio, and Bryan Santos while bolstering the backcourt are Joshua Fontanilla and Paul Manalang. Speaking of fortifying the frontcourt, Far Eastern University is the team that got the biggest boost in terms of size. With 6-foot-7 Nigerian Emman Ojoula’s residency over and done with, the go-go guards of the Tamaraws have yet another weapon to burn opponents with. CESAFI MVP Kevin Guibao and transferee Simone Sandagon are no slouches either while Cholo Anonuevo has a roster spot waiting for him if and when he decides to come home after trying his luck in the US. RJ Abarrientos no longer appears here as he was already in FEU’s list last year. These are the new faces to see for the other teams: CSB Blazers LETRAN Knights JRU Heavy Bombers MAPUA Cardinals ADAMSON Soaring Falcons UE Red Warriors --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 26th, 2020

Bandana Bros. have fans in Baser Amer, Jiovani Jalalon

While the "Bandana Bros." are no more, that doesn't mean James Canlas and Evan Nelle are no more as well. Instead, with Canlas remaining in San Beda University and Nelle relocating to De La Salle University, both of them actually have a golden opportunity to prove their worth even more. The Filipino-Canadian swingman will now be the undisputed lead guard for the Red Lions as they seek to reclaim their crown. And thus far, he has already won the approval of a certain school legend who won a total of six championships in red and white. Asked in The Prospects Pod which NCAA guard has impressed him the most, Baser Amer answered, "Si James Canlas." Amer led San Beda's Jrs. team to two titles before becoming a key cog in the Srs. squad's four-peat. Meanwhile, Nelle will become the ready-made replacement at point for the Green Archers once Aljun Melecio graduates. And another NCAA great has no doubt that his talent would only translate to the UAAP. Asked the same question as his former fierce foe from college, Jiovani Jalalon answered, "Si Nelle. Sobrang galing nung batang yun." Jalalon starred for Arellano University and was the unanimous best point guard in his last year in college. His playmaking prowess may very well be similar for brand new La Salle's long-limbed court general. Even though Nelle will no longer be wearing red and white, Amer says he has no problem with the decision to transfer. "Para sa akin, desisyon ng bata yun e. Siyempre, pag nagdesisyon, sasabihin niya sa family niya and yung family niya, sinuportahan yung bata," he said. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 15th, 2020

WHAT IF... Ben Mbala played his last year in La Salle

History lesson: Ben Mbala was one of the most dominant - if not the most dominant - forces the UAAP has ever seen. Winning a championship as well as back-to-back MVPs, Mbala was, hands down, the best player in all of college in his two years suiting up for De La Salle University. Technically, he had one more playing year, but decided against it to take back control of his career. This decision, coming right after the Green Archers got dethroned by archrival Ateneo de Manila University in a thrilling three-game Finals. That would just be the first of three championships in a row for the Blue Eagles who swept the University of the Philippines and the University of Sto. Tomas the following years. Meanwhile, without the Cameroonian powerhouse, the Taft-based team fell short of the playoffs the following years. Now, the green and white is trying to barge back into the playoff picture with a fourth coach in four years. It is far from a certainty that Louie Gonzalez, who replaced Aldin Ayo, would be able to hold off Gian Nazario - and active consultant Jermaine Byrd - and then Derrick Pumaren if he had led La Salle to the Final Four in UAAP 81. What is a certainty, however, is that with Mbala back in the fold, they are locks for the Final Four. And so, what if "Big Ben" played his last year in La Salle? Ateneo would remain the top-seed while Adamson University would fall to three and the University of the Philippines would fall to four. Mbala and company would then stake claim to the second-seed and the twice-to-beat advantage it entails before taking care of business yet again against the Soaring Falcons. In the other bracket, the Blue Eagles end the Cinderella story of the Fighting Maroons who would play in their first Final Four in 21 years, but would still be looking for their first Finals since 1986. With that, the rivalry trilogy would be set in motion - Ateneo-La Salle for all the glory for the third year in a row. And for the 6-foot-8 center, the rubber match would have been theirs. Asked in the inaugural episode of The Prospects Pod if they would have reclaimed the title if he had played his last year, he answered, "Yeah. I think so." Our own thought experiment, however, thinks otherwise and has the Blue Eagles getting the better of the Green Archers once more. The arrival of Rookie of the Year Ange Kouame is a brand new tall task to face for Season MVP Mbala. Of course, the now-three-time MVP still finds a way against the inexperienced Ivorian, but Ateneo's total team effort would still prove to be too much for La Salle. According to Mbala, if he had stayed, Ricci Rivero would have stayed as well and not taken his talents to UP. That means that Brent Paraiso would remain as well. A core of Mbala, Rivero, Paraiso, Andrei Caracut, Aljun Melecio, and Santi Santillan would be really nasty, but that also means Justine Baltazar would not get the room he needs to grow. They would fight with their all, for sure, but would also ultimately succumb to the Blue Eagles' otherworldly - and quite frankly, unfair - depth and balance. In the end, Ateneo still goes on to a three-peat, and counting, while La Salle just falls short for the second straight year. Mbala moves on to showcasing his skills overseas - and moves on to ribbing Kiefer Ravena that it's just a matter of time before the butt heads in the PBA. There would also be no more questions about how Kouame would have fared against the Green Archers' best foreign student-athlete. For his part, however, Mbala said that individual comparisons do not matter in basketball. "People tell me that I were there, it would (have been) a different story, but I don't do comparisons. It's not a one-on-one game, it's five-on-five," he said. He then continued, "It was not I will take the rebound and do everything I want. No, it's not that. It's not about the size, it's about the system." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 10th, 2020

Now they ve met, RK Ilagan knows he can t let down idol Jimmy Alapag

RK Ilagan is one of the best point guards in all of collegiate basketball. As San Sebastian College-Recoletos' lead guard in NCAA 95, he put up per game counts of 15.8 points, 4.0 assists, and 4.0 rebounds while also posting a total of 48 threes. When asked to be part of an online learning session with legendary Jimmy Alapag, however, he actually doubted if he deserved to be there. "Sobrang nahihiya po talaga ako. Nagsabi pa nga ako kay kuya Mikee [Reyes] na parang ayoko kasi po, siyempre, UAAP players kasama ko dun," he shared. Ilagan, alongside Ateneo de Manila University's SJ Belangel, De La Salle University's Aljun Melecio, and Mapua University's Laurenz Victoria were the four collegiate stars who got to talk with Alapag last Monday through a Zoom meeting initiated by GOAT Academy. The fledgling program has organized several online learning sessions that aim to connect pros with collegiate stars and let the former enrich the minds of the latter. Humble as always, however, the Golden Stags' primetime playmaker thought he was yet to be on that level. Once he was conversing with his idol, though, all his fears were allayed. "Sobrang nakaka-amaze kasi sobrang down-to-earth ni Coach Jimmy. Sobrang excited ko nun kasi alam kong marami akong matututunan sa kanya," he said of his first-ever meeting with Alapag. For Ilagan, the big heart is what defines the six-time champion and one-time MVP in the PBA. As he put it, "Idol ko po si Coach Jimmy kasi nakita ko sa kanya yung competitiveness every game. Kahit maliit siya, gusto niyang i-prove na kaya niyang gawin kung ano yung mga nagagawa ng mga mas matangkad sa kanya." Interestingly enough, big heart, big game could also be used to describe Baste's star. With that, Ilagan is only ready and raring to keep following the footsteps of Alapag. "Sobrang nakaka-inspire po kasi yung makakuha ka ng advice galing sa legend katulad niya. Sino ba naman ako para hindi sundan yung ginawa niya para maging successful din," he said. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 24th, 2020

San Francisco roars back into playoffs as NFC s top seed

By Arnie Stapleton, Associated Press For the first time since 1997, the San Francisco 49ers are the top seed in the NFC playoffs, a stunning turnaround for a team that owned the second overall pick in the NFL draft just nine months ago. After four straight losing campaigns, including only 10 wins in coach Kyle Shanahan's first two seasons, the 49ers went from 4-12 to 13-3 this season. They emerged as the top team in the NFC thanks a big-play offense and a vastly improved defense sparked by Nick Bosa, whom they chose with that No. 2 draft pick. They earned the top seed with a thrilling finale at Seattle when rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw made a stop inches from the goal line, earning his team a week off and up to two home games in the 49ers' quest to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in seven years. "It feels good to get where we're at," Shanahan said. "Our goal was to get in the playoffs, it feels much better with being the one seed. By now everyone knows there is only one team that is happy at the end of year." The Green Bay Packers secured the other first-round bye. The Seahawks visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and the Minnesota Vikings visit the New Orleans Saints in the other NFC wild-card game. 1. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (13-3). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 3. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 29, 49-26 over San Diego Chargers on Jan. 29, 1995. Last year: 4-12. First trip to NFC playoffs since 2013. YEA: The 49ers have won different ways with the defense dominating early and the offense playing better late. The returns of edge rusher Dee Ford and S Jaquiski Tartt should help the defense return to its early season form. If QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense can maintain its play from the second half when the team ranked second in plays of at least 20 yards, the Niners should be tough to beat. NAY: The Niners will still be missing at least one key defensive piece at the start of the playoffs in LB Kwon Alexander and several depth pass rushers also are out for the year. That could limit the improvement on defense and there is little playoff experience on offense with WR Emmanuel Sanders the only key skill position player who has been in the postseason. Garoppolo has improved the past few weeks but still has a propensity for turnovers, which could prove costly. SAY: "We knew going into the year we had a chance to be pretty good with what we had on paper and watching the guys throughout training camp. We knew that pretty well after the first five games, we could feel it. Then you go through a number of injuries and stuff and you never know how you're going to be able to fully handle that. That's what I have been impressed the most with the guys, no one has wavered." — Shanahan. 2. GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-3). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 5. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 45, 31-25 over Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 6, 2011. Last year: 6-9-1. First trip to NFC playoffs since 2016. YEA: RB Aaron Jones is the team MVP. The third-year pro is Green Bay's first 1,000-yard rusher since Eddie Lacy in 2014 and his 19 total touchdowns (16 rushing, three receiving) tied Carolina's Christian McCaffrey for the league high. In the Packers' three losses this season, Jones averaged fewer than 42 scrimmage yards. If first-year coach Matt LaFleur gets Jones the ball early and often and QB Aaron Rodgers can add in a splash of his old magic, Green Bay could find itself in Miami in February. NAY: Though Rodgers has had flashes of his old greatness, the 36-year-old two-time MVP has played far below his soaring standards. Rodgers had a passer rating of less than 80.0 in each of his last three starts and had a career-high 16 overthrows against Detroit in the regular-season finale. If the Packers are going to win another Super Bowl, they're going to need the Rodgers of old, not the old Rodgers. SAY: "We haven't always made it easy and we haven't always made it pretty, but for the most part, we've found a way to win every game. You have to say a lot about the resiliency of this team, because we've gotten ourselves into a lot of different scenarios, but we always believe we can go out there and put up a bunch of points in a hurry." -- WR Davante Adams 3. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (13-3). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 2. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 44, beat Indianapolis 31-17 on Feb. 7, 2010. Last year: No. 1 seed, beat Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 at home in divisional round, lost to Los Angeles Rams 26-23 (OT) in NFC championship at home. Third consecutive trip to NFC playoffs. YEA: QB Drew Brees, who'll turn 41 on Jan. 15, has been in vintage form lately with a big assist from the NFL's top WR Michael Thomas. Brees has passed for 1,188 yards and 15 TDs in the past four games, evidence of his strong comeback from a thumb surgery that sidelined him five games. Thomas racked up a single-season record 149 catches for 1,725 yards and nine TDs. The Saints' eight turnovers are an NFL record low for a season. New Orleans had 51 sacks, third most in the NFL and ranked fourth against the run. NAY: While the Saints don't have many weaknesses, they can be their own worst enemy. Their 120 penalties for 1,036 yards ranked sixth worst in the NFL in both categories and their minus-323 net penalty yards ranked second worst. New Orleans' secondary has been beset with late-season injuries. Both starting safeties and a starting cornerback did not play in Week 17. SAY: "Down the stretch here I think we've been an ascending team. We've been playing a little bit better each and every week, despite the fact that we have had some guys go down." — Brees 4. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-7). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 11. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 52, 41-33 over New England Patriots, Feb. 4, 2018. Last year: No. 6 seed, beat Chicago Bears 16-15 in wild-card game on road, lost to New Orleans Saints 20-14 in divisional round on road. Third consecutive trip to NFC playoffs. YEA: The Eagles are hungry and Carson Wentz is determined to do what Nick Foles did in his absence two years ago — win a Super Bowl. If Wentz continues playing at the MVP level he displayed in December, the Eagles are dangerous. They have a strong rushing attack that can control the clock and an experienced defense that shuts down the run and forces teams to be one-dimensional. NAY: Seattle beat the Eagles in Philadelphia 17-9 on Nov. 24. Russell Wilson is 4-0 against Philly. The Eagles have been riddled by injuries and finished the regular season without seven starters on offense. Three of those players could return to face the Seahawks but it's likely two will be game-time decisions. SAY: "In the last couple games, (Wentz) has really put this team on his back and said, 'Hey, follow me.' And I think that's a sign of growth, a sign of maturity. I spent eight years in Green Bay with Brett Favre, and that's what Brett did. Brett just put the team on his back when the chips were against us and just said, 'Follow me.' And that's what Carson can do." — Coach Doug Pederson. 5. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-5). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 6. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 48, 43-8 over Denver Broncos on Feb. 2, 2014. Last year: No. 5 seed, lost to Dallas Cowboys 24-22 in wild-card game on road. Second consecutive trip to NFC playoffs. YEA: Unlike years past, if the Seahawks are going to make a deep playoff run, it's going to be because of QB Russell Wilson. He's coming off the second-best season in terms of passing yards, completion percentage and a career-low five interceptions. Wilson's never been asked to carry Seattle in the playoffs but if he can rediscover the success from when he was in the MVP conversation with Lamar Jackson, Seattle has enough other parts to make some noise. NAY: Injuries have stacked up for Seattle. The Seahawks lost their top three running backs, a starting edge rusher, tight end and center to season-ending injuries. Jadeveon Clowney is playing through a painful core muscle injury. Bobby Wagner has a bad ankle as does safety Quandre Diggs. Left tackle Duane Brown underwent knee surgery after Week 16. Eventually the lack of some key stars is likely to catch up with Seattle. SAY: "We have everything we want in the locker room. We have everything that we could need. We have everything that it takes. So it's been a tremendous season. It's been a battle so far. It's been a long one, but it's been a great one so far. The good thing is it's a refresh button, you get to hit the refresh button, start over, 0-0, see how far we can go." — Wilson. 6. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-6). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 8. No Lombardis. Last year: 8-7-1. First trip to NFC playoffs since 2017. YEA: The Vikings have an experienced, accomplished defense that can pose problems for elite QBs and clever play-callers on the other side. The Vikings were sixth in the NFL with an average of 18.9 points allowed and fourth with 31 takeaways. Their play-action passing attack with Pro Bowl RB Dalvin Cook poses a dual threat and QB Kirk Cousins throwing deep to WR Stefon Diggs, can be awfully dangerous, too. NAY: The downside on defense is the erosion of the pass coverage. After ranking in the top three in passing yards allowed in the league in each of the past three years, the Vikings dropped to 15th in 2019. They also fell to 19th in the NFL in third down conversions allowed after leading the league in 2017 and 18. The offense carries its own reasons to doubt a playoff run, with Cousins never having won a postseason game in the NFL and a recent dud at home against division rival Green Bay. SAY: "I know it's been done before. Why not us?" — coach Mike Zimmer on the prospect of winning three road games to reach the Super Bowl. ___ AP Pro Football Writers Josh Dubow, Rob Maaddi and Dave Campbell and AP Sports Writers Tim Booth, Brett Martel and Keith Jenkins contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 2nd, 2020

Juan GDL takes fight out of La Salle for UP s fourth win in a row in UAAP 82

The University of the Philippines kept fighting and fighting, Wednesday at MOA Arena and ultimately forced its way to a 72-71 come-from-behind victory versus very game De La Salle University. Juan Gomez de Liano's triple with 7.8 ticks to go on the clock proved to be the difference as the Fighting Maroons battled back from a deficit of 13 points to book their fourth consecutive victory heading into a highly anticipated rematch of last year's Finals with Ateneo de Manila University now in the UAAP 82 Men's Basketball Tournament. "My team is just like leading a chariot with wild stallions - one goes to the right, one goes to the left, one goes to the middle," head coach Bo Perasol said post-game. "Come winning time, however, they get their acts together. State U was still staring at a four-point deficit following Aljun Melecio's triple and Justine Baltazar's split from the stripe inside the last two minutes. At the other end, Kobe Paras fished a foul and converted his couple of charities to pull the maroon and white within two. Jamie Malanzo wasn't able to do so at the other end and not long after, a mad scramble ensued with the ball ending up with Juan GDL. The third-year star wasted no time rising up and launching the long-range missile that would eventually end up as UP's fifth win in six games. "The biggest shot came from Juan. Juan is a winner, always a winner," head coach Bo Perasol said of his prized playmaker who wound up with a season-best 10 points to go along with five rebounds. Paras topped the scoring column for his side with 21 points while reigning and defending MVP Bright Akhuetie also added a 17-marker, 14-rebound double-double on top of three assists, two blocks, and two steals. For the Green Archers, Melecio and Andrei Caracut each scored 16 points while Baltazar pounded in 13 markers and nine rebounds. Unable to finish what they started, they fell to a share of fifth at 2-4. BOX SCORES UP 72 - Paras 21, Akhuetie 17, Gomez de Liano Ju 10, Rivero 9, Manzo 5, Tungcab 5, Webb 3, Jaboneta 2, Gob 0, Gomez de Liano Ja 0, Murrell 0, Prado 0, Spencer 0 LA SALLE 71 - Caracut 16, Melecio 16, Baltazar 13, Bartlett 8, Malonzo 7, Manuel 5, Serrano 4, Lojera 2, Bates 0, Cu 0 QUARTER SCORES: 14-18, 29-36, 52-59, 72-71 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 25th, 2019

UAAP 82: Melecio says La Salle ready to move on from Suerte heartbreak

After Rey Suerte put University of the East on top of De La Salle University, 85-83, last Saturday, Aljun Melecio took charge. The pint-sized playmaker called for a screen from Justine Baltazar, but opted not to use it And when 6-foot-8 Senegalese bruiser Alex Diakhite hesitated about closing out, Melecio rose and launched a triple try that would find the bottom of the net. "Coach Jermaine Byrd gave me the trust to take that shot and buo rin tiwala ko sa sarili kong papasok yun. Pina-practice ko talaga yun pag ako lang mag-isa sa court," he said of his big-time basket. Afterward, the fourth-year guard did not celebrate all that much, only letting out a scream as 10.8 seconds were still on the clock. And with that time, Suerte had his own big-time basket, a cold-blooded triple that ultimately won the game for the Red Warriors and lost the game for the Green Archers. While that dagger hurt, it didn't surprise Melecio at all. As he put it, "'Di na ako nagulat na pumasok yung shot niya. The whole game, kita mo yung kumpyansa niya e." He then continued, "Good defense, but better shot." Indeed, all the former Rookie of the Year and his teammates could do is to let go. "There's nothing we can do about it. Tapos na yung game and yung lesson na natutunan namin dito, we can just use it for our next games," he said. And what lesson is that? "We just have to want it more," Melecio said. La Salle is out to prove it has learned its lesson when it goes for a bounce back win against Far Eastern University on Wednesday. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 16th, 2019

All-Filipino La Salle all set to cut UAAP 82 rivals down to size

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 8-6, fifth, lost to FEU in battle for the fourth-seed YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Justine Baltazar, Brandon Bates, Andrei Caracut, Encho Serrano, Aljun Melecio WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Jordan Bartlett, Joel Cagulangan, Ralph Cu, Joshua David, Keyshawn Evans, Tyrus Hill, James Laput, Kurt Lojera, Jamie Orme, Gian Nazario (coach), Jermaine Byrd (consultant) GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Mark Dyke, Jollo Go, Kib Montalbo, Taane Samuel, Santi Santillan, Louie Gonzalez (coach) WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM LA SALLE? La Salle will be going all-Filipino in UAAP Season 82 – and that is nothing but a badge of honor for the green and white. Just two years removed from parading dominant Ben Mbala from Cameroon, the Green Archers will be lone team in the league without a foreign student-athlete. That doesn’t mean, however, that there will be no international experience coming into the Taft-based team as Jermaine Byrd, who made his name as an assistant in the NBA G-League, will now serve as active consultant to head coach Gian Nazario. Active consultant Byrd and coach Gian, himself a longtime assistant in DLS-Zobel, will lean on Mythical selection Justine Baltazar, team captain Andrei Caracut, scoring guard Aljun Melecio, and x-factor Encho Serrano to prove that for La Salle, height is not necessarily might. Even better, those three battle-tested veterans will be flanked by a trio of Filipino-American one-and-done players in 6-foot Keyshawn Evans, 6-foot-7 Jamie Orme, and 6-foot-9 James Laput as well as a trifecta of talented transferees in Jordan Bartlett, Tyrus Hill, and Kurt Lojera. WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM LA SALLE? Baltazar’s rise from rim protector in NU’s champion Jrs. teams to two-way force for La Salle has been nothing short of impressive, but this season will see him carry his heaviest load yet. With Brandon Bates as well as unproven Laput and Ralph Cu the only other big men on the roster, the 6-foot-7 pride of Pampanga will have a golden opportunity to prove he can put a team on his back – even if he is sure to be battered and bruised each and every game by the seven foreign reinforcements he will be matched up with. Fortunately for him, the perimeter remains fiery as ever with Caracut and Melecio ready and raring to raze the nets and Bartlett as well as Joel Cagulangan and Joshua David, prized recruits from LS-Green Hills, out to make an immediate impact. Also, eyes need to be trained on Fil-Am Orme, an athletic and all-around player who has all the potential to be the next big thing from abroad. WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR LA SALLE? La Salle is going against the current in not lining up any foreign student-athlete – intriguing considering it experienced one of the most dominant seasons in league history with Mbala patrolling the paint. That means that, game by game, the all-Filipino Green Archers will be David to the other teams’ Goliath – in terms of size, at the very least – and that is always a good story to tell. That also means that, unlike years past, the traditional powerhouse from Taft Ave. is actually some sort of underdog this time around – and that is always a good story to tell as well. WHERE WOULD LA SALLE BE AT THE END OF UAAP SEASON 82? La Salle will be in the thick of things in the playoff picture. It remains to be seen if all of their recruits, Fil-Am or full-blooded Filipino, live up to the hype, but with Baltazar, Caracut, Melecio, and Serrano, the Green Archers will always have a more than capable army to wage war with. WHEN IS LA SALLE’S FIRST GAME IN UAAP SEASON 82? All-Filipino La Salle starts the season by rekindling its rivalry with back-to-back champion Ateneo on September 8 at Araneta Coliseum. Of course, everybody goes All for More and, as always, all of the action will be on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166, LIGA SkyCable Channel 86, LIGA HD SkyCable Channel 183, iWant and livestream. HERE’S WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE SEVEN OTHER TEAMS IN UAAP SEASON 82: With its arsenal fully loaded, UE’s ambush good to go in UAAP 82 UAAP 82 one more chance for NU to piece the puzzle together Espana’s hope in UAAP 82? Cansino’s return to form, UST’s return to playoffs --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 30th, 2019

PVL: Flying Titans begin Open Conference quest

All eyes are on ChocoMucho when the much-hyped about newcomer charges into its first battle in the Premier Volleyball League Season 3 Open Conference against BaliPure on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. Game time is at 2:00 p.m. and will air live on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166, LIGA SkyCable Channel 86, LIGA HD SkyCable Channel 183, iWant and via livestream. The Flying Titans are considered to be one of the teams to watch in the season-ending conference after making noise with their composition. ChocoMucho parades a very competitive lineup with the trio of Bea De Leon, Kat Tolentino and Maddie Madayag but what made the Flying Titans more interesting is the inclusion of De La Salle University legend Manilla Santos-Ng. Santos-Ng is making a comeback since her last competitive volleyball stint 10 years ago when she led the Lady Spikers to the UAAP Season 71 throne during her swan song. Santos-Ng also won the Most Valuable Player award that season. But the Oliver Alamdro-mentored squad has yet to prove that they are as good as advertised. And the Water Defenders are no pushovers. Though BaliPure finished the Reinforced Conference winless, the Water Defenders gained the much-needed experience in the import-laden tournament. Back for BaliPure are power-hitters Grazielle Bombita, Sandra Delos Santos, Menchie Tubiera, setter Vira Guillema and Satrianni Espiritu.     ---    Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 13th, 2019

NCAA: Perfect CSB gets put to the test in must-see match-ups from August 13 to 16

These are the NCAA 95 Men's Basketball Tournament games from August 13 to 16 all of us just CAN NOT miss! TUESDAY, 12:00 p.m., Braves vs Jr. Blazers Don’t look now, but Arellano is right up there in the standings of the NCAA Jrs. Still, the Braves need a statement win to announce their arrival and what better way than to take down last year’s runner-up in LSGH. At the same time, though, the Greenies are nothing but determined to bounce back. Something’s gotta give. The Braves and the Jr. Blazers do battle and y'all can watch VIA LIVESTREAM. THURSDAY, 12:00 p.m., Jr. Altas vs Red Cubs Perpetual started the season with back-to-back wins against the NCAA Jrs.’s top two teams in recent history – Mapua and then LSGH. Since then, however, the Jr. Altas have struggled and it would be a tall task for them to get one more over another longtime powerhouse in San Beda. The Jr. Altas and the Red Cubs do battle and y'all can watch VIA LIVESTREAM. THURSDAY, 2:00 p.m., San Sebastian vs Letran Age-old rivals meet again when fully loaded Letran takes on high-octane San Sebastian. There is no doubt this would be a good game as the two teams are nothing but hungry for a convincing victory that would get them back on track. The stars will be out for this showdown as Jerrick Balanza and Bonbon Batiller get pitted against RK Ilagan and Allyn Bulanadi. The Golden Stags and the Knights do battle and y'all can watch on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166, LIGA SkyCable Channel 86, LIGA HD SkyCable Channel 183, and iWant as well as livestream. THURSDAY, 4:00 p.m., Perpetual vs San Beda Frankie Lim takes on San Beda. That will always be the storyline when daring Perpetual challenges the three-peat champion Red Lions. The Altas and the Red Lions do battle and y'all can watch on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166, LIGA SkyCable Channel 86, LIGA HD SkyCable Channel 183, and iWant as well as livestream. FRIDAY, 12:00 p.m., Jr. Blazers vs Jr. Pirates LPU seems poised to finally break through to its first Final Four in school history, but first, it has to proves it belongs. The Jr. Pirates’ latest opportunity to do that, however, would have to come against an LSGH side which is on a quest of its own to prove it remains a force to reckon with. The Jr. Blazers and the Jr. Pirates do battle and y'all can watch VIA LIVESTREAM. FRIDAY, 4:00 p.m., CSB vs LPU CSB has been on a roll in the earlygoing of the NCAA 95, but now standing in its way is an LPU crew which has gone smooth sailing as of late. Two of the top three teams in the tournament go at it in what is certain to be an entertaining matchup between the new-age powerhouse Pirates and the dangerous upstart Blazers. The Blazers and the Pirates do battle and y'all can watch on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166, LIGA SkyCable Channel 86, LIGA HD SkyCable Channel 183, and iWant as well as livestream......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 12th, 2019

Melecio excited, nervous for draft

It’s less than three weeks before the PBA draft on March 14 and rookie hopeful Aljun Melecio is anxiously waiting for D-Day. “I’m excited but nervous,” says Melecio......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsFeb 24th, 2021

Melecio swak sa PBA Draft

TULUYAN nang iniwan ni collegiate stalwart Aljun Melecio ang DLSU Green Archers upang umentrada sa 2021 PBA Rookie Draft sa darating na Marso. The post Melecio swak sa PBA Draft first appeared on Abante......»»

Category: newsSource:  abanteRelated NewsJan 27th, 2021

Google, CANVAS bring 'YOUTHink to help fight misinformation

Google and the Center for Art, New Ventures, and Sustainable Development (CANVAS) partnered to launch #YOUTHink, a local magazine that aims to help in the quest of ending misinformation through media literacy education. .....»»

Category: techSource:  thestandardRelated NewsJan 15th, 2021

UAAP stars can’t wait for season

UP’s Ricci Rivero, La Salle’s Aljun Melecio and Adamson’s Jerrick Ahanmisi are committed to play their last year of eligibility in the UAAP seniors even as there’s no clear signal when the next season will start......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsNov 16th, 2020

Always About the People

“Solid!” That was the only reaction, or lack thereof, that I could muster after that first breakaway slam of Kiefer Ravena’s UAAP collegiate basketball career over the outstretched arms of UST’s foreign center, Karim Abdul. Moments before, you could see Kiefer was going to go hard, as it was a one-on-one breakaway and he had the speed advantage over Abdul, who was hot on his heels. Little did I know that he was going to go for that highlight that would announce his entry into college basketball. That reaction, that loss for words, can pretty much sum up my past 10 years of covering college basketball for ABS-CBN Sports.  They first asked me to write about my most memorable UAAP game coverage; but I must confess, I was never really good at remembering exact details of games, unlike some of my fellow sportscasters, or even coaches I know, who remember almost detail for detail, or play by play. My memories come in highlights, or sometimes even just flashes of good or memorable plays.  I remember a 6’8”, 18-year old Ben Mbala, whom we first saw a glimpse of while Anton Roxas and I were covering the CESAFI league in the hot and humid Cebu Coliseum, sometime around 2012. He was playing for the Southwestern University Cobras, wasn’t as built and polished as when he was with DLSU, but you could already see the raw talent and athleticism. Fast forward a few years, I remember well how he took the UAAP by storm, with his monster dunks, and how he piloted La Salle to a championship while winning league MVP in Season 79.  I remember the heralded rookie season of Kiefer Ravena in the men’s division, after a storied juniors career. Kiefer won Rookie of the Year honors and helped lead Ateneo to two more titles to round up their 5-peat, before it was Jeron Teng’s turn to lead the Green Archers to a championship over his elder brother Jeric and the UST Growling Tigers.  I remember Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and his back-to-back MVP seasons. He was arguably the most complete college player during that time. It was painful to see his team fall short especially during his second MVP year. The Bulldogs made history the year after though, with Alfred Aroga, Troy Rosario, and Gelo Alolino now at the helm, winning the school’s first ever championship after more than forty years. I would argue that the past decade saw some of the brightest UAAP college basketball stars, both local and foreign, take to the hard court. It would almost be unfair to start naming them because I’ll surely end up leaving some names worthy enough to be mentioned. But we all remember Greg Slaughter, Ryan Buenafe, RR Garcia, Terence Romeo, Mac Belo, RR Pogoy, Roi Sumang, Charles Mamie, Alex Nuyles, Jericho Cruz, Papi Sarr, Jeron Teng, Jason Perkins, Aljun Melecio, Kiefer and Thirdy, Bobby Ray, Alfred Aroga, Kevin Ferrer, Karim Abul, Jeric Teng, Ange Kuoame, Matt and Mike Nieto, Paul Desiderio, Juan GDL, and the list goes on and on… all of them making their mark in the UAAP the past ten years. Aside from the highlights, there were the more mundane, behind-the-scenes memories, especially covering out-of-town games when we used to do the CESAFI and the PCCL. That was basketball coverage at its purest. There was a time we traveled to Lanao Del Sur to cover the Mindanao regional selection of the PCCL. Lanao was about another two to three hour drive from Cagayan de Oro along a dark highway with trees and mountains all around; and where there was only one mall in the entire town. Or when we traveled by van to La Union to cover the north regional selection of the PCCL… or even staying a whole week at the Cebu Grand Hotel, for the VisMin regional selection. Coverages then were bare bones: no real-time stats or live graphics, and I would even sometimes have to tally the points and rebounds of each player in-game on my notebook just so that I’d have some semblance of stats to mention on the coverage. Still, those games were so much fun because the players, getting their first shot at national TV coverage, would leave everything out on the floor.  In a year or so, both the UAAP and the NCAA will announce their respective new homes, and new broadcast teams will have the privilege of covering the best collegiate basketball players in the country. That’s how the ball bounces. I’m a firm believer that in life there are seasons, and a perfect time for everything. I’m just thankful for the opportunities thrown my way. If you were to ask me why the coverage of the UAAP helped build the league into what it is today, my answer would be simple: it was always about the people. At the end of the day, what makes the UAAP and its coverage great are the stories of the people that play, coach, officiate, cover, and run the games. It’s not really about the championships or the awards, but rather the challenges, hardships, and journeys of each of the individuals that brought them there.  And it is also about the directors, producers, cameramen, reporters and make-up artists that make sure that the audience sees what is supposed to be seen – the winning basket, a fan’s priceless reaction, the agony in defeat, and the glory of victory. It’s what Boom Gonzalez or Mico Halili would always say, that our job as anchors and analysts is to tell the people watching at home the story of what is happening in the game in the best way possible.  I just want to tip my hat to all the people that allowed us to do our jobs the best way possible. From our directors, producers, cameramen, floor directors, fellow panelists, courtside reporters, league officials, statisticians, make-up artists, and all those people behind the scenes whom we worked with, know that we were able to give our best because of you; and the UAAP coverage will not be what it is if not for all of your hard work and dedication.  It was, is, and will always be about the people. Marco Benitez was the team captain for the Ateneo Blue Eagles when they won the UAAP Season 65 men's seniors basketball title in 2002. Marco eventually covered collegiate basketball as analyst for ABS-CBN Sports starting in 2010. He is presently the President of the Philippine Women's University (PWU)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 23rd, 2020

The tug-of-war for Terrence Fortea is already underway

Three of Nazareth School of National University's core four have already taken the next steps in their young careers. Gerry Abadiano and Carl Tamayo have decided to take their talents to the University of the Philippines while Kevin Quiambao has relocated to De La Salle University. That leaves Terrence Fortea to lead the Bullpups as they try for the three-peat. After that, though? Who knows? Abadiano, Tamayo, and Quiambao have their own takes on it. The three were asked by sportswriter Randolph Leongson on The Prospects Pod, "Saang school niyo gusto pumunta si Terrence Fortea?" And the answers came as swift as the shots Fortea puts up. "UP, siyempre!" Tamayo said. "Ii-screenan ko siya nang ii-screenan." Fellow Fighting Maroon Abadiano seconded the statement. "Bibigyan ko lagi ng bola yan," he said. If the 5-foot-11 gunslinger decides Diliman is the way to go, he would join Abadiano in the backcourt as well as holdover James Spencer, transferee Joel Cagulangan, possible returnee Juan Gomez de Liano, and probable recruits Colin Dimaculangan, Jordi GDL, and Ray Allen Torres. However, Quiambao, of course, has other plans. As he put it, "Dito na lang sa La Salle. Ga-graduate na si Aljun." Indeed, Aljun Melecio is playing his fifth and final year and Fortea would stand alongside transferee Evan Nelle in the green and white backcourt. The final answer, of course, remains with the 18-year-old. And right now, he has none. "Support lang sa tatlong kuya ko," he commented while watching the vodcast. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 15th, 2020

WHAT IF... La Salle didn t lose to Ateneo to sweep UAAP 79

History lesson: De La Salle University's Ben Mbala and Jeron Teng-led team was one of the most dominant in the history of UAAP Men's Basketball. The Green Archers lost just one game en route to the championship. More impressive, though, was how they did it. La Salle posted a 17.2 average margin of victory throughout the tournament. They had the Season MVP leading their lineup as Mbala averaged a double-double of 20.6 points on 54 percent shooting from the field and 16.2 rebounds on top of 2.4 blocks, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 assists. Right there with him was Teng who put up per game counts of 16.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists for a spot on the Mythical Team. Flanking them were then Rookie of the Year Aljun Melecio, "Man of Steal" Kib Montalbo, Andrei Caracut, Jason Perkins, Thomas Torres, and Abu Tratter. And oh, future stars Justine Baltazar and Ricci Rivero were, more or less, benchwarmers for this team. At at the controls of this juggernaut? Youthful mentor Aldin Ayo who had just taken the collegiate ranks by storm as he guided Colegio de San Juan de Letran to a Cinderella championship at the expense of archrival San Beda University the year before. When all is said and done, could those Green Archers have been more impressive? Well, they could have swept the season. Only, their fiercest foes denied them that. Near the end of the elimination round, Ateneo de Manila University upended the Taft-based team, 83-71. That was the green and white's first loss of the season. And it would end up as their only loss of the season as they dispatched Adamson University in the Final Four and then ran roughshod over the very same Blue Eagles in the Finals. Yes, there was one and only one blemish on the face of La Salle in Season 79 - a blemish coming from an Ateneo side they had gotten the better of three times out of four. If those Green Archers didn't have that blemish, would that change anything? Wethinks, yes. If so, Mbala, Teng, and company would have been the first-ever team to sweep both the elimination and championship rounds. If so, they would be the ones to make history - and not the Blue Eagles of Isaac Go, Thirdy Ravena, and Nieto twins Mike and Matt. And if so, La Salle would have done something that would be next to impossible to replicate - a squad to sweep the season that has the Season MVP and the Rookie of the Year. Now tell us, would that turn the tides of the argument for the best team ever in their favor? History. 16-0. Championship. Season MVP. Rookie of the Year. Around 17 points of an average margin of victory. It would be tough to think about another team competing with that. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 12th, 2020

Four GDLs for UP in UAAP 84? Why not, says Javi

Joe Gomez de Liano is out to prove himself in the University of the Philippines come UAAP Season 83. With Fighting Maroons mainstays Javi and Juan deciding to sit out that season to focus full-time on being part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool and balling for Nueva Ecija in the MPBL, the eldest brother has a shot at being the one and only GDL in the Srs. squad. "It's really a big chance for me to prove myself kasi, siyempre you'll get minutes kasi it's a new team e," he said in The Prospects Pod last Friday. "I was so excited to get a chance to prove what I can do pero I still have hope." Joe GDL said he "was excited" as UAAP 83 has been pushed back from its usual season start of September to the next year. Nonetheless, that just means that the 6-foot-2 forward has much more time to prepare to prove he belongs in a State U side that would now be fronted by Bright Akhuetie, Kobe Paras, and Ricci Rivero. If he does, then another golden opportunity opens up not just for him, but for the GDL family. Asked about his years of eligibility, Joe answered, "I think I have two or three so kaya pa nga (maging teammates) with Jordi whenever he goes to UP." That means that Joe has two or three seasons to play for the Fighting Maroons, Javi has one more, and Juan has two of his own. With Jordi heading into his last year in the Jrs., there is a possibility that the four brothers could be teammates in UP Srs. for Season 84. "For me, actually it would mean the world to me," Juan said, talking about that possibility. "We haven't seen four brothers in one team. First time ata yun if ever." Actually, how about 4 GDLs as UP Fighting Maroons?@thejoewa + @javigdl22 + @juan_swish9 + @jordigdl6 as teammates in #UAAPSeason84? G? pic.twitter.com/cIC5uihCVD — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 6, 2020 Indeed, for the most part, collegiate basketball has seen two brothers, at most, playing together in one team - with the Ravenas in Ateneo de Manila University, the Riveros in De La Salle University, and the Marcelinos in Lyceum of the Philippines University coming to mind. And so, if all falls into place, the GDLs have a shot at making history - at the same time giving UP's jersey makers quite the problem. Without a doubt, having not one, not two, but three brothers stand with you as you wage war would be something special. "Why not?" Javi quipped. He also added, "Kahit kami ni Juan, mawawala muna kami, I hope you still support UP because Joe and Jordi are still there. Hopefully, soon, we get to play together again." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 25th, 2020

WHAT IF... Aldin Ayo stayed in Letran

History lesson: Aldin Ayo won back-to-back championships with two different teams in two different leagues. As a fresh-faced first-time head coach in the big leagues, he energized alma mater Colegio de San Juan de Letran all the way to the promised land in NCAA 91. Just months later, he then steered De La Salle University's Ben Mbala and Jeron Teng-led juggernaut to the UAAP 79 title. And so, Coach Aldin is one of the few coaches who could claim to have championships in the Philippines' top two collegiate leagues - and, most probably, the only one who could claim to have done it in succession. If there was one school and one squad where the youthful mentor would be a perfect fit, though, it could be argued that would be the Letran Knights. For one, Intramuros had been his home in his collegiate days. For another, the blue and red, despite having the second-most championships, actually enters each and every season as far from the favorite - that tag, more often than not, belongs to modern-day dynasty San Beda University. And what is Coach Aldin if not the ultimate underdog - a Sorsogon native who thrives on proving himself and proving doubters wrong. With that, let us try putting him still at the Letran bench for their title defense. Despite being the one sitting on the throne, they still would be far from the favorite as they would have lost Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal just as the Red Lions were getting Robert Bolick while Arellano University had Jiovani Jalalon and Kent Salado a year wiser. Still, "Mayhem" would remain in place - meaning they would not have to adjust to a new philosophy just like what had happened in the real world with new coach Jeff Napa. Even more, Coach Aldin would just unleash Rey Nambatac while also giving bigger burdens to Jerrick Balanza, Mcjour Luib, Bong Quinto, and Jom Sollano. Just as well, he would have had brought new recruits as determined as him to prove themselves. And with all of that, the Knights would have no problems whatsoever making it back to the Final Four - only this time as the third-seeded team following one-seed San Beda and two-seed Arellano. Matched up with the run-and gun Chiefs in the Final Four, they would be able to keep up and even triumph in Game 1. In the do-or-die Game 2, however, they bow to a side that, quite frankly, was the strongest on paper as it was led by, hands down, the best point guard in college in Jalalon and the most overqualified backup in Salado. The Finals then plays out just how it played out - with the Red Lions reclaiming the crown. In the end, Letran still falls short in its title defense even with Coach Aldin remaining at the helm. Nonetheless, there stayed order to all their "Mayhem." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 15th, 2020

Meet Onassis Parungao, the first Filipino to compete in the UFC

Most Filipino mixed martial arts fans know of Mark Muñoz and Brandon Vera, arguably the two most popular Pinoy-blooded fighters to compete in the UFC.  More avid fans will know of the likes of Dave Galera, Roldan Sangcha-an, and Mark Eddiva, a trio of Team Lakay standouts who all made it onto the Octagon.  More recently, local stars like Rolando Dy, Jenel Lausa, and CJ De Tomas all proudly wore the Philippines’ colors on their UFC kits.  The distinction of being the first-ever Filipino blooded fighter to compete in the UFC however, belongs to one Onassis Parungao.  Born in Spain to a father from Baliuag, Bulacan and a mother from Spain, Parungao grew up in the United States and competed at UFC 7 back in 1995, defeating Francesco Maturi by strikes in the first round.  Speaking on The Hitlist vodcast, Parungao shed some light on how he got on to the UFC during the early days of MMA.  Parungao, who was 24 years old at the time, studied Tung Kung Kalan or Arnis de Mano before taking up Judo, wrestling, and Kung Fu.  “I was watching it and you know back then, because of the rules and no weight classes, no gloves, I was doing- you know got in a lot of street fights being a Navy kid,” Parungao explained. “So I have that sill here (motions to chest), I wanna get out and I wanna do it, and then I realized ‘Hey maybe I can try that.’” Parungao also admitted that he was hoping that his heritage could somehow help him earn a spot in the tournament.  “To tell you the truth, I knew that there wasn’t a Filipino guy there so I was banking on that they would let me in there, and just all the stars aligned and they just worked. It wasn’t like I had all this fame, they didn’t just have one to apply, so I saw an opportunity, we wrote a letter and I took it.”  In his lone UFC appearance, Parungao took to the Octagon wearing a white shirt that had “Philippines” on the back.  Back then, when the UFC was still starting, one of the things that they did to hype up the competitors was to “exaggerate” their records and accomplishments, so to speak. Parungao was billed as a “Pintakasi champion”.  “I’m not a Pintakasi champion, my teacher was,” Parungao clarified. “But I think they said certain things to hype the fighters up. I wanna get that on record, that I never claimed to be that.”  Following his UFC win, Parungao went on to compete two more times, before retiring quite early in his career. Parungao explained that he had received offers to compete in Japan for the legendary Pancrase promotion, but the distractions outside of competition ultimately dissuaded him from doing so.  “I just got married and then there was this guy named Takeya Oitate, the guy was offering me contracts and money to come and fight in Pancrase and all that stuff, and I’m like I kinda wanna do it, but in Japan, you have bathhouses, there’s girls there and I’ll be fighting and stuff like that, and in my early 20s, all these testosterone, I just got married you know, you’re gonna put me around other fighters and girls and all this other stuff? Like, no way. I didn’t wanna do that.”  Parungao continued to compete in kickboxing tournaments, but admits to having regrets over calling it a career after just three professional MMA bouts.  “Yes, I have some regrets, I do,” he said. “I’m 50 now, but I still feel really strong, you know. I mean, put me in a match against another 50-year-old, that would be fair.” “But to answer your question, I’ve done all these Filipino martial arts, I’ve done all this fighting, I’ve done all this sparring, I was a fighter first and then my Sifu for Chinese martial arts turned me into a martial artist. I don’t wanna say that made me lesser, it just turned me into someone that didn’t need to prove it as much. But I do have some regrets like I feel like I could, you know I never stop training, I still will go to a gym and spar and roll with guys and just like MMA has evolved and improved, so have I,” Parungao added. Parungao remains a martial artist to this day, as he owns and operates the Cheng Yee Kung Fu School in Southeastern Connecticut......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 1st, 2020