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DID YOU KNOW? NU almost didn t have Aroga for UAAP 77 title run

Alfred Aroga was a perfect piece to the puzzle that was National University's historic championship in UAAP 77. "Malaking bagay talaga si Alfred nun kasi parang, he fits right into the puzzle nung team," head coach Eric Altamirano said in The Prospects Pod last Friday. "Doon sa identity namin which is defense, he fits right into it. You know, Alfred might say he's an offensive player, pero ang strength talaga niya is defense - blocking shots, his timing, his intimidation." The Cameroonian powerhouse was a ready-made replacement to impact foreign student-athlete Jean Mbe. And for the Bulldogs, Aroga wasted no time proving his worth. "Nung games namin, si Kiefer, makikita mong open na siya, nakalagpas na siya kay Pao [Javelona], pero pagdating niya doon, makikita niya yung kamay ni Alfred, makikita mong nagche-change yung shot niya e," coach Eric said. He then continued, "Minsan, wala na nga doon si Alfred, hindi na nga napalpal ni Alfred, pero sa mind ni Kiefer, parang nandun si Alfred." Apparently, however, the 6-foot-7 big man almost did not make the cut for the tournament. "I got told to play because I needed a 'red ribbon,'" he said. "Of course, they had to wait for a couple of months before the UAAP to tell us that." Less than a month before the season started, Aroga still lacked a requirement for eligibility. And so, National U moved heaven and earth to make something happen. "At least, (team management) got a ticket. It wasn't easy. I think, I had to take five to get to Nigeria," the gentle giant shared. Even worse, as fate would have it, there was a death in his family at that point in time as well. "That same period, my dad passed away so I had a choice to make to stay like a week with my family or bring my ass straight to the Philippines for practice," he shared. He then continued, "I did a deal that I was staying, but for 24 hours only. My mom was pissed, but I don't know, for some reason, man, I had to put my family aside and rush and go and meet the team for practice." With that, Aroga made sure to not let the Bulldogs down - and in the process, make sure that his family's hurt was not all for naught. "It was a painful experience, but it paid off, man. Thankfully," he said. Throughout the tournament, Alfred Aroga left his heart on the floor - for his father, for his family, for his school, for his squad - and it was even he who had the iconic moment in what turned out to be a special season for them. Aroga's resounding rejection of Ravena's layup in the UAAP 77 Final Four thrust National University to a historic championship and thwarted Ateneo de Manila University's grand plans of redemption. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJul 12th, 2020

DID YOU KNOW? NU almost didn t have Aroga for UAAP 77 title run

Alfred Aroga was a perfect piece to the puzzle that was National University's historic championship in UAAP 77. "Malaking bagay talaga si Alfred nun kasi parang, he fits right into the puzzle nung team," head coach Eric Altamirano said in The Prospects Pod last Friday. "Doon sa identity namin which is defense, he fits right into it. You know, Alfred might say he's an offensive player, pero ang strength talaga niya is defense - blocking shots, his timing, his intimidation." The Cameroonian powerhouse was a ready-made replacement to impact foreign student-athlete Jean Mbe. And for the Bulldogs, Aroga wasted no time proving his worth. "Nung games namin, si Kiefer, makikita mong open na siya, nakalagpas na siya kay Pao [Javelona], pero pagdating niya doon, makikita niya yung kamay ni Alfred, makikita mong nagche-change yung shot niya e," coach Eric said. He then continued, "Minsan, wala na nga doon si Alfred, hindi na nga napalpal ni Alfred, pero sa mind ni Kiefer, parang nandun si Alfred." Apparently, however, the 6-foot-7 big man almost did not make the cut for the tournament. "I got told to play because I needed a 'red ribbon,'" he said. "Of course, they had to wait for a couple of months before the UAAP to tell us that." Less than a month before the season started, Aroga still lacked a requirement for eligibility. And so, National U moved heaven and earth to make something happen. "At least, (team management) got a ticket. It wasn't easy. I think, I had to take five to get to Nigeria," the gentle giant shared. Even worse, as fate would have it, there was a death in his family at that point in time as well. "That same period, my dad passed away so I had a choice to make to stay like a week with my family or bring my ass straight to the Philippines for practice," he shared. He then continued, "I did a deal that I was staying, but for 24 hours only. My mom was pissed, but I don't know, for some reason, man, I had to put my family aside and rush and go and meet the team for practice." With that, Aroga made sure to not let the Bulldogs down - and in the process, make sure that his family's hurt was not all for naught. "It was a painful experience, but it paid off, man. Thankfully," he said. Throughout the tournament, Alfred Aroga left his heart on the floor - for his father, for his family, for his school, for his squad - and it was even he who had the iconic moment in what turned out to be a special season for them. Aroga's resounding rejection of Ravena's layup in the UAAP 77 Final Four thrust National University to a historic championship and thwarted Ateneo de Manila University's grand plans of redemption. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 12th, 2020

TY Tang didn t quit because Coach Franz didn t let him

TY Tang was a big piece in the puzzle that was coach Franz Pumaren’s last championship for De La Salle University. Together with Jvee Casio and Cholo Villanueva, Tang steered the Green Archets to a pleasant surprise of a title in 2007. As a graduating guard, the pint-sized playmaker was as much a streaky shooter as much as he was a steady playmaker. He then rode that last year all the way to the 12th overall pick in the 2008 PBA Draft and a solid eight-year career, all with Rain or Shine. As it turns out, though, Tang was all ready to give up his basketball dream after he did not have the strongest of starts as La Salle’s point guard. “What strikes me as yung talagang feeling niya he was ready to give up was TY Tang,” Coach Franz shared with fellow coaches Charles Tiu, Paolo Layug, and Anton Altamirano in his appearance on Coaches Unfiltered. He then continued, “We should remember he was playing behind legendary Mike Cortez so every time I pull out Mike, you could just imagine the pressure. A fresh (out of) high school kid and when he makes a mistake, fans can be brutal.” The 5-foot-7 guard was a blue-chip recruit from powerhouse Xavier High School, but of course, following “The Cool Cat” for the championship contender Green Archers was a thankless job. “We sat down, we had a heart-to-heart talk and I told him he can always turn back and just get a degree,” the multi-titled mentor narrated. “But there’s this opportunity also for you to at least prove yourself that you deserve to be in the UAAP.” Answering his mentor’s call, Tang went on to mature and live up to the legacy of Cortez. He was even named by Paul Lee, who played for University of the East during the same timeframe, in his Prospects Five. In the end, TY Tang is an excellent example of the difference a coach with full faith could make. “He’s not that tall and when he started, hindi naman ganun kagaling shumoot, pero nagtrabaho, nagtiwala lang,” Coach Franz said. He then continued, “‘Di ba? Who would ever think TY will make it to the PBA?” —— Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 29th, 2020

SEA GAMES: The silver that glittered like gold

When the editorial staff of ABS-CBN Sports was tasked to come up with our most memorable coverage, it didn’t take long for this writer to respond. The Philippine men’s volleyball team’s Southeast Asian Games semifinal match was the first thing that came to mind. Pesonally, that game against the highly-fancied Thailand squad topped all the countless volleyball matches that I’ve covered in my career. I’m at a loss for words on how to describe the emotions I felt that chilly night of December 8, 2019. Around 6,700 fans filled the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City not knowing that what they were about to witness was something historic. A magical night that would take away the frustrations they felt the day before when the more popular women’s team finished the preliminary round winless. For us sportswriters covering that assignment, we knew the Filipinos were up for a tough ride. Thailand ruled the last four editions of the event. On the other hand, the Philippines’ last significant outing in the biennial meet was a bronze medal finish back in 1991 – or when the current national team’s oldest member, setter Jessie Lopez was just five-years old.      Did we doubt our own team? Let’s just say we prayed to the high heavens to give us something positive to write about. But don’t get us wrong. Those who followed the formation and preparation of the squad knew it would yield results come the SEA Games. After all, in all three batches of the Nationals that participated in the regional sports meet since 2015, this particular team had the longest time to prepare – around eight months to be exact. The team’s composition itself looked really promising. For the first time, two of country’s best hitters in Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas, who both have experience playing in the Japan V. League,  donned the tricolors together. Espejo returned after skipping the 2017 edition so did his teammates in the 2015 squad Rex Intal and setter Ish Polvorosa. Bagunas was on his second tour of duty along with team captain John Vic De Guzman, Mark Alfafara, RanRan Abdilla and libero Jack Kalingking. Head coach Dante Alinsunurin, who was appointed to handle the team after Oliver Almadro and Sammy Acaylar in 2015 and 2017, respectively, tapped an old hand in Lopez and injected young bloods in playmaker Owa Retamar, Jau Umandal, Kim Malabunga, Ricky Marcos and Francis Saura. As part of their buildup the Nationals joined the Thailand Open Sealect Tuna Championship July last year.          The Filipinos achieved a great feat when they won bronze. Fans were able to witness the Nationals’ campaign via YouTube streaming while we volleyball writers, got to file our full stories through the help of De Guzman and Bagunas (God bless their beautiful hearts) who supplied us with game stats and granted postgame interviews. It’s just a shame I never got to cover the team’s training in Japan when the Nationals’ preparation went on full throttle. (Note: A little confusion in the training camp coverage assignments had me flying to Japan with the women’s squad and Lance Agcaoili of Spin.ph joining the men’s team. But it was a great experience, nonetheless, and I’m grateful for Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. for the opportunity.)     I was as confused as the other sportswriters present during the draw for the group stage a couple of months before the SEA Games when Alinsunurin chose to join the four-team bracket with Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Those three teams are considered contenders every SEA Games edition. And earning a semifinal spot would be harder compared to the other group composed of Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore. Fortunately, the gamble was worth it. Espejo and Bagunas were superb offensively, Malabunga and Retamar made their presence felt and the Nationals’ blocking shocked Cambodia and Vietnam as the Filipinos swept them both to secure a semis seat.   Then came the steamrolling Indonesians. Honestly, I thought the Nationals would sweep their way to the group’s top seeding. That way the PHI’s would've avoided a semis clash with Thailand. Forced to take on the defending champions, the Filipinos found themselves down in the first set. They got back in the second frame before yielding the third. And when the Thais came to match point, 24-21, in the fourth we all thought it was over. Fans were slowly emptying the bleachers not wanting to see the impending defeat. I was already waiting for the final score. Ready break the result. Then a miracle happened. The Nationals nibbled on the Thais' lead to force a deuce. After another deadlock, the Filipinos stole the set. The fifth frame was classic story of ‘who wants it more will win.’ An extended set made it even more dramatic. I vividly remember that sequence when Bagunas hammered the game-clinching kill off a lob from Lopez. After that all that I can recall was me pumping my fist up in the air and slapping the hardest high-fives I ever did with those inside the press room while howling like a madman.    The national team assured itself of a silver after 42 years. A silver after four freaking decades. They did it. Of course, the Indonesians bullied their way to winning the gold medal in a sweep of the inexperienced Filipinos. But who cares, the host team exceeded its podium expectations. That silver that glittered like gold made that coverage truly memorable. But it never crossed my mind that it would be the last important volleyball event that I will get to report. (Note: It would’ve been the UAAP if not for the health crisis that put all sporting events to a halt. Sad.) And that’s why I ended up writing these last few paragraphs. A farewell from this section. From my first article for this website back on December 1, 2014 – a post-mortem of Petron’s breakthrough title in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix – to my last published story, these were all written with only one thing in mind: in the service of the Filipino sports fan worldwide. Our run may have not been perfect, of course, we had our flaws. We had our fair share of criticisms from fans, athletes, sports personalities and sometimes even from our partner leagues and properties. We accepted our shortcomings. We tried to be better. But we are proud of what we did. We take pride with how we delivered sports stories through various digital executions that showcased sports beyond the confines of competition. On midnight of September 1 while most of you lay sound asleep, deep in slumber, hopefully, having a good dream and hours away from waking up looking forward to a better day, this website will be snapped out of existence.  More than half a decade of sharing stories to the Filipino sports fan will be seeing its last presence online on Monday – a holiday to celebrate the nation’s heroes. This website will then hear its final buzzer, its final whistle. Thousands of articles – written with passion, dedication and love – will be taken down as this website goes offline together with majority of ABS-CBN Sports’ social media accounts. But soon, hopefully, it will once again see the light of day.    We do hope that you will remember us, for we will remember all of you who made us your Kapamilya.   -- 30 --   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles Mark Escarlote has served as a sub-section editor for ABS-CBN Sports' website since 2014. He is among thousands of ABS-CBN employees who will be retrenched on August 31, 2020.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 29th, 2020

SEA GAMES: The silver that glittered like gold

When the editorial staff of ABS-CBN Sports was tasked to come up with our most memorable coverage, it didn’t take long for this writer to respond. The Philippine men’s volleyball team’s Southeast Asian Games semifinal match was the first thing that came to mind. Pesonally, that game against the highly-fancied Thailand squad topped all the countless volleyball matches that I’ve covered in my career. I’m at a loss for words on how to describe the emotions I felt that chilly night of December 8, 2019. Around 6,700 fans filled the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City not knowing that what they were about to witness was something historic. A magical night that would take away the frustrations they felt the day before when the more popular women’s team finished the preliminary round winless. For us sportswriters covering that assignment, we knew the Filipinos were up for a tough ride. Thailand ruled the last four editions of the event. On the other hand, the Philippines’ last significant outing in the biennial meet was a bronze medal finish back in 1991 – or when the current national team’s oldest member, setter Jessie Lopez was just five-years old.      Did we doubt our own team? Let’s just say we prayed to the high heavens to give us something positive to write about. But don’t get us wrong. Those who followed the formation and preparation of the squad knew it would yield results come the SEA Games. After all, in all three batches of the Nationals that participated in the regional sports meet since 2015, this particular team had the longest time to prepare – around eight months to be exact. The team’s composition itself looked really promising. For the first time, two of country’s best hitters in Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas, who both have experience playing in the Japan V. League,  donned the tricolors together. Espejo returned after skipping the 2017 edition so did his teammates in the 2015 squad Rex Intal and setter Ish Polvorosa. Bagunas was on his second tour of duty along with team captain John Vic De Guzman, Mark Alfafara, RanRan Abdilla and libero Jack Kalingking. Head coach Dante Alinsunurin, who was appointed to handle the team after Oliver Almadro and Sammy Acaylar in 2015 and 2017, respectively, tapped an old hand in Lopez and injected young bloods in playmaker Owa Retamar, Jau Umandal, Kim Malabunga, Ricky Marcos and Francis Saura. As part of their buildup the Nationals joined the Thailand Open Sealect Tuna Championship July last year.          The Filipinos achieved a great feat when they won bronze. Fans were able to witness the Nationals’ campaign via YouTube streaming while we volleyball writers, got to file our full stories through the help of De Guzman and Bagunas (God bless their beautiful hearts) who supplied us with game stats and granted postgame interviews. It’s just a shame I never got to cover the team’s training in Japan when the Nationals’ preparation went on full throttle. (Note: A little confusion in the training camp coverage assignments had me flying to Japan with the women’s squad and Lance Agcaoili of Spin.ph joining the men’s team. But it was a great experience, nonetheless, and I’m grateful for Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. for the opportunity.)     I was as confused as the other sportswriters present during the draw for the group stage a couple of months before the SEA Games when Alinsunurin chose to join the four-team bracket with Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Those three teams are considered contenders every SEA Games edition. And earning a semifinal spot would be harder compared to the other group composed of Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore. Fortunately, the gamble was worth it. Espejo and Bagunas were superb offensively, Malabunga and Retamar made their presence felt and the Nationals’ blocking shocked Cambodia and Vietnam as the Filipinos swept them both to secure a semis seat.   Then came the steamrolling Indonesians. Honestly, I thought the Nationals would sweep their way to the group’s top seeding. That way the PHI’s would've avoided a semis clash with Thailand. Forced to take on the defending champions, the Filipinos found themselves down in the first set. They got back in the second frame before yielding the third. And when the Thais came to match point, 24-21, in the fourth we all thought it was over. Fans were slowly emptying the bleachers not wanting to see the impending defeat. I was already waiting for the final score. Ready break the result. Then a miracle happened. The Nationals nibbled on the Thais' lead to force a deuce. After another deadlock, the Filipinos stole the set. The fifth frame was classic story of ‘who wants it more will win.’ An extended set made it even more dramatic. I vividly remember that sequence when Bagunas hammered the game-clinching kill off a lob from Lopez. After that all that I can recall was me pumping my fist up in the air and slapping the hardest high-fives I ever did with those inside the press room while howling like a madman.    The national team assured itself of a silver after 42 years. A silver after four freaking decades. They did it. Of course, the Indonesians bullied their way to winning the gold medal in a sweep of the inexperienced Filipinos. But who cares, the host team exceeded its podium expectations. That silver that glittered like gold made that coverage truly memorable. But it never crossed my mind that it would be the last important volleyball event that I will get to report. (Note: It would’ve been the UAAP if not for the health crisis that put all sporting events to a halt. Sad.) And that’s why I ended up writing these last few paragraphs. A farewell from this section. From my first article for this website back on December 1, 2014 – a post-mortem of Petron’s breakthrough title in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix – to my last published story, these were all written with only one thing in mind: in the service of the Filipino sports fan worldwide. Our run may have not been perfect, of course, we had our flaws. We had our fair share of criticisms from fans, athletes, sports personalities and sometimes even from our partner leagues and properties. We accepted our shortcomings. We tried to be better. But we are proud of what we did. We take pride with how we delivered sports stories through various digital executions that showcased sports beyond the confines of competition. On midnight of September 1 while most of you lay sound asleep, deep in slumber, hopefully, having a good dream and hours away from waking up looking forward to a better day, this website will be snapped out of existence.  More than half a decade of sharing stories to the Filipino sports fan will be seeing its last presence online on Monday – a holiday to celebrate the nation’s heroes. This website will then hear its final buzzer, its final whistle. Thousands of articles – written with passion, dedication and love – will be taken down as this website goes offline together with majority of ABS-CBN Sports’ social media accounts. But soon, hopefully, it will once again see the light of day.    We do hope that you will remember us, for we will remember all of you who made us your Kapamilya.   -- 30 --   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles Mark Escarlote has served as a sub-section editor for ABS-CBN Sports' website since 2014. He is among thousands of ABS-CBN employees who will be retrenched on August 31, 2020.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 28th, 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

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

WHAT IF Marck Espejo played for DLSU?

We all know what Marck Espejo brought to Ateneo when he donned the Blue Eagles jersey in the UAAP. He led the blue and white to three straight titles in five consecutive Finals appearances in indoor volleyball and captured Ateneo’s first and so far lone championship in beach volleyball. As a player, Espejo achieved a feat difficult to surpass if not replicate. A Rookie of the Year award, five straight Most Valuable Player honors aside from other individual accolades. The Marikina pride even registered the league’s most points in a game with 55 during his last tour of duty with the Blue Eagles in Season 80. Espejo’s impact left a lasting imprint not only to the Blue Eagles but also to the entire league. Arguably, his persona could even also be attributed to the renewed popularity of men’s volleyball in the country which for years failed to bask in the same limelight enjoyed by women’s play. Indeed, Ateneo found a precious gem in Espejo. But what if Espejo decided to take his talents to a different school? Let’s say, De La Salle University. After all the green and white was actually one of Espejo’s options heading into college. [Related story: DID YOU KNOW? Marck Espejo almost played for DLSU] If Espejo played for the Green Spikers, he would definitely be a game changer. The Ateneo-National University championship rivalry wouldn’t have happened. Instead, it would’ve been the Bulldogs and Green Spikers duking it out for the crown during Espejo’s UAAP stint.      “Kung sa amin siya naglaro panigurado malaki ‘yung impact sa team namin kasi alam naman natin si Marck malakas talaga siya kahit buong team kaya niyang dalhin,” former DLSU setter and now assistant coach Geuel Asia told ABS-CBN Sports. Asia, who played for the Green Spikers from Season 75 to Season 79, added that he’s very familiar with Espejo's game as they were teammates when the National Capital Region ruled the 2012 Palarong Pambansa in Lingayen, Pangasinan.       “So malakas ang impact niya sa DLSU kung sakali. Power and mind maglaro si Marck so malaki ang matutulong niya sa DLSU,” said the former national team playmaker and Espejo's Cignal HD Spikers teammate. "Fit din siya sa system. Kahit na anong sistema aayon sa kanya, magiging comfortable siya."  In fact, with him on board DLSU in Season 76, the Green Spikers might have even gotten a trip to the Final Four. The Green Spikers, who finished third n Season 75, were eliminated by Adamson University in the playoff for no. 4 spot the following season.  Imagine Espejo adding more firepower to DLSU, which already had Season 75 MVP Red Christensen, Raymark Woo, Aaron Calderon, Ralph Calasin and Philip Cerveza. “Sobrang lakas talaga kung nangyari ‘yung ganun. Kasi yun din time na yun malakas si Woo eh,” said Asia. With Espejo, who was second in scoring in his rookie year and was in the top 10 in spiking, blocking, service and digs, DLSU might not even need to go to the playoff for a semis spot. Heck, the Green Spikers might even land at no. 2 - just like how Espejo led Ateneo into the Finals in Season 76 to face NU – considering that Christensen, Woo and Cerveza that year were consistently producing big numbers and contributing well on defense.      Of course, that team would still find it difficult to surpass the powerhouse Peter Torres-led Bulldogs in the championship. But at least that would’ve given DLSU the much-needed championship experience. Let’s say Woo didn’t suffer a knee injury during the pre-season while playing in a ligang labas that forced him to sit out  year, then DLSU would have remained a solid contender in Season 77. There might even have been the possibility that the Green Spikers ended a decade-long title-drought that year as they would have been parading an experienced and solid lineup composed of Espejo, Woo, setters Brendon Santos and Asia, libero Jopet Movido, Calderon, Christensen, Mike Frey, Arjay Onia, Cris Dumago and Calasin. The possibility of DLSU winning another title or two in the next three seasons with Espejo at the helm might not be far from reality.    But then of course Season 80 would be a different story. That year the Green Spikers would’ve parted ways with most of its veterans leaving Espejo, Onia, Dumago and Frey leading a young team piloted by third year setter Wayne Marco.    Even if DLSU did manage to crawl its way back into the Finals in Espejo’s last year, it would be extremely difficult to hurdle the Bulldogs parading a tall and very talented crew led by ace hitter Bryan Bagunas, Kim Malabunga, Madzlan Gampong, James Natividad, Francis Saura, setter Kim Dayandante and libero Ricky Marcos.    But then again, a DLSU squad bannered by Espejo in the UAAP would have definitely been a sight to behold. Too bad we could only imagine the what ifs.   ---    Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 19th, 2020

Wong feels responsible for Ateneo s failure to advance to the UAAP S80 Finals

Deanna Wong felt that Ateneo de Manila University's failure to advance to the UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball Finals was on her. Given the huge responsibility to lead the Lady Eagles as starting setter after veteran Jia Morado decided to forego her final year, Wong admitted that she faced heavy pressure and self-doubt. “I think it was me thinking of kung kaya ko ba ‘to?” shared Wong on Volleyball DNA. Ateneo was coming off six straight championship appearances, including winning back-to-back titles, heading into Season 80. Expectations were high for the Lady Eagles that year despite Morado calling it quits after Ateneo’s runner-up finish the season before. The Lady Eagles had veterans Maddie Madayag, Bea De Leon, Kat Tolentino and Jho Maraguinot under coach Tai Bundit. Ateneo was one of the favorites to advance to the Finals. Fulfilling the role left by Ateneo ace setters before her, according to the Cebuana playmaker, was too big of a responsibility especially for a third year player who saw limited action the year before. It didn’t help that during her sophomore year, Wong played as a reliever in both libero and setter positions.  “Sina Ate Jem (Ferrer), sina Ate Jia they are really great setters and for me it’s just, I came from the province I don’t know anything. Ganito, ganyan. Hindi ako medyo ginagamit ni Coach Tai dati. Pressured? Yeah, I think it was a little pressure,” said Wong. Ateneo had a disappointing start, losing their first two games, and the Lady Eagles were obviously still adjusting to a different setter going through the elimination round. That was when Wong felt the pressure the most. “Pero sa isip ko lang kung kaya ko bang dalhin ang team? Kung kaya ko bang gawin ang ginawa nina Ate Jia na umabot sa Finals? I think that was the point na kaya di kami umabot ng Finals kasi ganoon ang inisip ko,” said Wong. Ateneo managed to advance to the Final Four, but for the first time in three years, the Lady Eagles were at a disadvantage after landing in third spot for a collision course with twice-to-beat Far Eastern University. The Katipunan-based squad ended its season early.      “Disappointed din sa self ko kasi I wasn’t able to lead the team as I should have kasi ang dami kong iniisip eh,” said Wong, who won tghe Best Setter honors that season. “Iniisip ko kung ano ang sinasabi ng mga tao, ng alumni, ng mga fans.” A good talk with Morado, according to Wong, made her realize that she needed not to compare herself to other Ateneo setters. She had to play her game. “As what ate Jia keep on telling me talaga iba kami eh. We’re different people. Like don’t compare myself to her daw. Kasi iba ang kakayanan ko and iba ang kaya kong gawin. Just be myself daw most especially talaga be confident. Kasi I really lack confidence on myself,” she said. Wong redeemed herself the following season. “Nu’ng fourth year it was more of the team na pino-focus ko. I just did what I was supposed to do lang nu’ng fourth year. So di ko na masyado pinapansin ang mga sinasasabi ng ibang tao,” said Wong. Playing with confidence, Wong steered Ateneo back into the Finals and eventually back into throne as the Lady Eagles defeated University of Sto. Tomas in three games to claim the Season 81 title and the team’s third overall championship. Wong skipped the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic-cancelled Season 82. She remains undecided for a last tour of duty for Ateneo next year. But if ever Wong decides to return, the Lady Eagles could be looking at a bright future ahead.   ---    Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 11th, 2020

DID YOU KNOW? Manilla Santos-Ng almost played for Letran

Manilla Santos-Ng holds legendary status at De La Salle University. Despite her 5-foot-4 frame, Santos-Ng stood tall among her peers in a volleyball program known for the might of its players’ height as she led the Lady Spikers to its historic first UAAP three-peat. In her swan song in 2009, Santos-Ng left a winning legacy by powering DLSU to another title. The school honored the current ChocoMucho Flying Titan’s contribution to DLSU volleyball by retiring her no. 14 jersey, further cementing her status as one of the Lady Spikers’ greats. But her donning of the green and white almost didn’t happen. She got an earlier offer to play for another school across Taft Avenue. “Before nun kasi ang CSB, ‘yung coach kumausap sa akin ng diretso pero di ko masyado binigyan ng attention because it was too early for me to decide,” Santos-Ng shared on Volleyball DNA. “Parang maaga yata niya akong natanong eh. So parang nakalimutan ko siya eventually.” The Hope Christian School product then tried out for Letran, which was handled by the late Nes Pamilar. “And then after nun I tried out in Letran under Coach Nes,” she said. “The players were really nice, they’re so friendly, malalakas din sila.” Just when Santos-Ng was feeling comfortable with the Lady Knights an offer too hard to resist came her way. “Hindi ako aware na merong nanonood sa akin. Pero naalala ko somebody asked coach Jerry (Yee) to invite me in one of their trainings. ‘Yun ‘yung sa La Salle,” said Santos-Ng. She immediately grabbed the huge opportunity given to her. “When I found out na may invitation sa La Salle siyempre hindi na ako nagdalawang-isip,” said Santos-Ng. It was love at first sight according to Santos-Ng the moment she stepped inside the school’s gym. She felt the Animo spirit. “Pagpunta ko doon na-love at first sight talaga ako roon sa school kasi compared doon sa high school gym talagang na-amaze ako, napa-wow ako. Sabi ko, ‘Gusto ko maging part ng team na ito,’ she recalled. “So ‘yung confidence level ko medyo parang mataas pero ‘di pa talaga ako sure kung makakapasok ako dun.” “Nu’ng pagdating ko doon nakita ko ang mga players sina ate Anne Remulla, sila Des Hernandez, sina Ate Em Penetrante and na-intimidate ako. You know why? Obviously they are tall players talaga,” Santos-Ng continued. “Di ako familiar sa kanila, even the school ‘yung background nila I don’t know pa pero I saw some familiar faces na I played against back in high school.” She admitted that she didn’t make much of an impact during her first year but continued to work on her game. When head coach Ramil De Jesus gave her the much-awaited break the following year, Santos-Ng did not disappoint. She built her reputation from there as DLSU won three straight championships. A suspension from the league denied the Lady Spikers a chance to shoot for a four-peat. Santos-Ng skipped Season 70 before returning the following year to lead DLSU back to the throne in her farewell tour of duty. Looking back, Santos-Ng knew that her heart beats for DLSU the moment she was informed of the school’s invitation.   “In my heart I decided already na gusto ko talaga sa La Salle,” she said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 27th, 2020

National U s historic championship was an Altamirano family affair

National University's 60-year title drought came to a close in 2014.  And according to head coach Eric Altamirano, it was already predetermined even before the season started. "Ang totoo nyan, nung offseason nun, puro kami talo, hindi talaga kami nananalo sa mga liga. One day, kasama ko si Luigi, kinukwento ko sa kanya na nag-struggle nga ang team," he shared in The Prospects Pod, referring to his second son.  He then continued, "Pero sabi ni Luigi, 'Dad magcha-champion tayo ngayon.' As I look back now, I remember that day na sinabi nga ni Luigi yun and nagkatotoo nga."  At the end of UAAP 77, Luigi proved prophetic, witnessing his dad guide the Bulldogs to a long-awaited and much-desired title.  Of course, the dominant defense, the difference-making presence of Alfred Aroga, and the total team effort of the blue and gold contributed to that.  At the same time, very much key was the all-out support of coach Eric's wife, children, and entire household.  "Tinuring nila kami na parang sarili nilang mga anak," pesky guard Pao Javelona shared. "Sobrang grateful ko kanila tita Marissa pati sa wives ng iba pang coaches kasi iba yung turing nila sa amin. Sobrang laking bagay ng mga Altamirano sa amin."  In the brilliant tactician's six-season stint in Sampaloc, wife Marissa, sons Anton and Luigi, daughter Aby, and several other members of the household were fixtures behind the scenes.  While coach Eric was, well, coaching, the other Altamiranos were also right there as much-welcome helping hands - on or off the court.  "Ako, tumira ako sa bahay nila, parang anak na talaga ang turing nila sa akin kasi sa iisang bubong lang kami nakatira," now-Gilas Pilipinas forward Troy Rosario said. "Pagpupunta kami ng practice, si coach Eric na nga gumigising sa akin. Si tita Marissa, lahat ng mga kailangan, kumpleto."  Indeed, in the same way that coach Eric changed the culture of basketball in National U, so did he and his family change the lives of his players. "Siguro, nung first three years ko sa NU, sobrang pasaway ako sa kanya. Talagang hindi ako sumusunod kasi may sarili akong mundo nun na parang sobrang bilib siguro ako sa sarili ko," versatile wing Glenn Khobuntin said.  He then continued, "Pero kung pinabayaan lang niya ako nun, hindi ko alam kung anong mangyayari sa life ko. Nadiretso buhay ko nung palagi pa rin niya akong kinakausap after practice."  Now, Khobuntin has the Altamiranos as the template for what he wants his own family to become. "When I had my own family na, doon ko na-realize kung bakit niya ginagawa yun. Parang gusto ko ngang magmura kapag naiisip ko e," he said.  He then continued, "Grabe. Sobrang thankful akong nakilala ko sila kasi hindi lang sa basketball yung impact nila sa akin e. Kung paano i-handle ni coach E yung family niya, ganun din gusto ko."  In the end, the team captain of the Bulldogs' UAAP 77 champion team could do nothing but express how much he loved his mentor.  "I love you, coach," Khobuntin said. "Thank you."  Without a doubt, his teammates only share the same sentiments.  ---  Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 26th, 2020

Former Lady Spiker Esperanza finishes med school

Former De La Salle University women’s volleyball team standout Mika Esperanza obtained her medical degree on Tuesday. The four-time UAAP champion announced her milestone on her Twitter and Instagram accounts. Hi, I officially got my medical degree today. ???????????? We'll have our (virtual) graduation on July 29!!! ? Congrats Batch 2020!!! ???????? — mika esperanza (@mikaaa01) July 14, 2020 Esperanza, the UAAP Season 73 Rookie of the Year, finished med school at the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center (UERM). Her virtual graduation is scheduled on July 29.         View this post on Instagram                   when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it." - Paulo Coelho Indeed, the universe has its ways. ? I knew what I wanted to be since grade 1. The goal didn't change even if I became an athlete along the way. ???? First I want to thank Tito Perry and Tito Bomboy for helping me out when they knew I was looking for a scholarship for med school. They made calls, talked to people and made sure my story was heard. I cannot thank you enough for helping me realize my dream. ? To Sir Fred, thank you. You didn't know me and you just knew I needed financial support. You have helped countless students like me without asking anything in return except to study well. Words will not be enough to truly express my gratitude to you. 4 years walang binayaran magulang ko because of you. I wish people knew more about you and your kind heart. ? To UERM as a whole. Thank you for the education. You made me a better student and a grounded individual after 4 years. I will always look back to the journey that shaped me. ? To my groupmates, professors, residents, nurses, PGIs and staff, thank you. ? You made each day bearable. I learned alot through our time together may it be for a short while or for a whole year. To my friends outside med school, thank you. Sorry for the missed dinners and get together. You stayed with me and cheered me on for 4 years. ? To the Moreno family, thank you. Especially during my clerkship where I didn't have time to go home. You all made me feel welcome all the time. I will be forever grateful. ? To my Lasallian education, thank you. ? Through La Salle, so many doors opened for me. I was a scholar in college and I met wonderful alumni that still helps me to this day. I cannot emphasize enough how lucky I was that I was given the opportunity to play and study for and in La Salle. ? Lastly, to my family. Mama and Papa may doktor na kayo. ? Ate Anna, Ate Lexa and MJ, thank you for the unwavering support while I was in med school. All I have done and I have achieved is for my family. I hope I made you all proud. ? MARIA MIKAELA S. ESPERANZA Doctor of Medicine Batch 2020 A post shared by Mika Esperanza (@mikaesperanza) on Jul 14, 2020 at 3:25am PDT A consistent Dean’s Lister, Esperanza took up Biology in DLSU as her pre-med course before shifting to Psychology. As a student-athlete, Esperanza was a vital cog for the Ramil De Jesus-mentored Lady Spikers, winning a three-peat from Season 73 to 75 before closing her collegiate career with another title in Season 78. She last played for Cocolife in the Philippine Superliga back in 2017.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 14th, 2020

Instagram DM paved the way for Animam s upcoming Taiwan stint

Jack Animam will soon carry the banner of the NU Lady Bulldogs and Gilas Pilipinas women when she suits up for Shih Hsin University.  Animam has been tapped as import and will play in Taiwan's University Basketball Association. "August 2019 they came here for training camp," Animam said about Shih Hsin University on the So She Did podcast, recalling how the foundation for her upcoming Taiwan stint was established. "Then, yung girl coach nila nagka-chat kami sa Instagram and sabi niya 'We would like you to join us for next season,'" Animam added. At the time, Jack didn't play much attention to the offer. After all, Animam had her schedule packed as her Lady Bulldogs were on track for a sixth straight UAAP title. On top of that, Gilas Pilipinas women had a number of tournaments lined up, including the 2019 SEA Games in December where Animam won two gold medals in 3x3 and 5x5 basktetball. Once the dust settled on a busy 2019, Animam got around to the offer in Taiwan and ended up being officially on board. "But then, meron pa ako UAAP and SEA Games so parang di ko pa siya priority that time. Wala pa naman official that time," she said. "Ito lang, after SEA Games, dun na ako tinanong kung gusto ko ba mag-laro sa Taiwan. Sabi ko, gusto ko," Animam added. With the development, Animam becomes the third UAAP standout to serve as import abroad after FEU's Ken Tuffin in New Zealand and Ateneo's Thirdy Ravena in Japan. [Related: Animam takes talents to Taiwan as college import] "Nag-decide akong maglaro para sa Shin Hsin para sa experience," Animam said. "Yung mga pwede kong matutunan dun, bago lahat kaya alam kong in the future, malaki ang maitutulong nito sa akin," she added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 13th, 2020

PBA: RR Pogoy on former coach Nash Racela: 'Parang papa ko na siya'

Sure, RR Pogoy is a PBA star now and is a Gilas Pilipinas mainstay but life wasn't so easy for him as recently as the earlier parts of this decade. Pogoy struggled with his transition from Cebu to Manila. Things got so bad that he wanted to quit the FEU Tamaraws to go home. [Related: RR Pogoy almost quit FEU to go home to Cebu] Of course, that didn't happen and he ended up having a final championship season with the Tamaraws, which ended up being the catalyst to his eventual PBA Rookie of the Year win with TNT KaTropa and numerous tours of duties with Gilas Pilipinas, including a FIBA World Cup appearance last year. For Pogoy, one man greatly turned things around for him and that's Nash Racela. Racela took over the Tamaraws during Pogoy's later seasons and was the mastermind behind FEU's consecutive UAAP Finals appearances and eventual Season 78 title. "Actually, si coach Nash parang papa ko na talaga siya," Pogoy said of Racela on 2OT. "Tinulungan niya ako hindi lang sa basketball. Kasi nung una, pagdating ko sa Manila yung laro ko talaga barumbado eh, puro away lang ganun. Ngayon hindi na," he added. The Pogoy-Racela partnership extended beyond FEU and beyond the basketball court. Coach Nash was a longtime assistant for TNT and Pogoy's rookie season coincided with Racela's first year as KaTropa head coach. In the 2017 season, the flagship MVP franchise went to three straight semifinals and had one Finals stint. For Pogoy, he had the perfect coach as he made his jump from the UAAP to the PBA. "Hindi lang sa basketball, pati yung buhay talaga. Malaking tulong [presence of coach Nash] sa transition ko papuntang PBA," Pogoy said. "Dati nga hindi ko alam yung mga staggered screen, yung mga tawag-tawag na ganyan. Nung dumating na si coach Nash, ayun parang madali na lang yung basketball," he added.     — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 12th, 2020

Indeed, defense won NU s first championship since 1954

National University won its first championship since 1954 at the expense of Far Eastern University. The iconic moment in that special season, however, was Alfred Aroga's big-time block on Kiefer Ravena. Aroga's rejection of Ravena's layup in the UAAP 77 Final Four thrust National University to a historic championship and thwarted Ateneo de Manila University's grand plans of redemption. That resounding rejection thrust the Bulldogs to a historic championship while also thwarting Ateneo de Manila University's grand plans of redemption. That wasn't the only defensive highlight the blue and gold had throughout that title run, though. In fact, their Season 77 was just one big defensive highlight. "Nung offseason, kasi nga, umalis si Ray, hindi namin alam identity namin tapos lahat, gustong mag-score kasi siyempre, gusto magpakita," pesky guard Pao Javelona said in last Friday's The Prospects Pod. "Pero nung patapos na yung preseason, doon namin nalaman na yung strength namin is yung defense. Kahit hindi kami maka-score, basta yung kalaban, hindi rin maka-score." That year, National U played without top gun Ray Parks Jr. for the first time in four seasons. Of course, the offense would take a step back. With that, head coach Eric Altamirano turned their full focus at the other end. "Tamang-tama yung sinabi ni Pao e. When the team started to embrace yung identity na mananalo kami sa depensa at hindi sa offense, doon nagsimula e," he said. One of the keys to do just that was making Troy Rosario and Glenn Khobuntin their starters at forward instead of substitutes for each other. "Sa akin, as a coach, ang pinaka-pivotal na ginawa kong decision was to put Glenn at 3 since when he started with us, lagi siyang 4. Nung ginawa na namin siyang 3, lumaki kami, naging defensive team kami, we can switch-all," the always amiable mentor said. From there, both Rosario and Khobuntin emerged as end-to-end players with Alfred Aroga protecting the rim and Javelona placing himself right at the grill of opposing guards. Steady Gelo Alolino completed the first five and, without a doubt, that first five was dominant on defense. Even Ravena himself could only acknowledge that fact. As he put it, "Kay Pao naman talaga ako hirap na hirap, pero what's harder is pag maiwan ko na si Pao, ang sasalubong sa akin, si Troy, si Glenn, tsaka si Alfred. Ang hirap talaga and minsan nga, nung mga panahong yun, tinitignan ko na lang sina (NU assistant) coach Joey [Guano] tsaka coach Vic [Ycasiano], sabi ko, 'Pashoot-in niyo naman ako, coach.'" He then continued, "Ang hirap talaga e. Parang nakikipagbiruan na lang ako sa kanila and that's a testament to how they really prepare." Indeed, so stout was that Bulldog defense that they won all four of their matchups that year opposite the Phenom-led Blue Eagles. And indeed, so stout was that Bulldog defense that up until now, Aroga is tattooed on the mind of Ravena. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 12th, 2020

NU s marching orders in UAAP 77 title run: Kapalan ang mukha

National University transformed into a legitimate contender with the arrival of Ray Parks Jr. After two MVPs and two Final Four berths, Parks Jr. decided to move on from the Bulldogs in UAAP 77. And so, the blue and gold legitimate contender was, all of a sudden, without a main man. That was very much evident from their very first practice sans the Filipino-American guard. "First practice namin before nung season, hindi namin alam yung identity namin. Hindi namin alam kung sino yung i-score e," Troy Rosario recalled on last Friday's The Prospects Pod. He then continued, "Minsan, napuputukan na kami ng 24-second shot clock sa practice, wala pa ring tumitira. Hindi kami sanay eh." Make no mistake, even without Parks Jr., National U remained loaded with Rosario, Gelo Alolino, Glenn Khobuntin, Cameroonian powerhouse Alfred Aroga, and up-and-comers J-Jay Alejandro and Pao Javelona. Without a doubt, all of them had the capability to step up. Only, none of them had the confidence to do so. Slowly, but surely, though, that all changed. "Yung mga players, out to prove something. Lahat yan, lahat sila, eager sila to prove themselves na, you know, this is not a Bobby Ray Parks team, this is NU," head coach Eric Altamirano said. He then continued, "Ang maganda naman sa team na yun, lahat ng naiwan, talagang capable of really helping the team get the championship." Indeed, throughout the tournament, Coach Eric just kept getting the best out of his players - each and every one of them who had to come through for them to continue their contention. "Si Coach Eric, laging sinasabi sa amin na yung mga naiwan, kailangan nang kapalan yung mukha. Wala eh, wala nang ibang aasahan kundi yung mga beterano," Rosario recalled. He then continued, "Sinasabi ni coach Eric na kung ikaw, parang mediocre lang nung mga nakaraang season, ngayon, kailangan mo nang kapalan yung mukha mo. Doon ako nagising eh." And on the back of a dominant defense anchored by versatile Rosario and Cameroonian powerhouse Alfred Aroga, the Bulldogs just made enough on offense to will their way into a historic championship. As it turned out, Sampaloc did not have a ready-made replacement for Parks Jr. For that, it had to take total team effort. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 11th, 2020

10 things that make Alyssa Valdez phenomenal

Alyssa Valdez has arguably made the biggest impact in Philippine volleyball.   Her skills, passion and charisma endeared her to volleyball supporters, purists or casual fans, from all walks of life. She brings energy and leadership to every team that she’s joined. Valdez draws a huge crowd every time she plays. Valdez is the poster girl of the sport that for years struggled to draw mainstream attention in a nation which considers basketball as its biggest sporting event. The 27-year old pride of San Juan, Batangas is the face of local volleyball. So on her birthday today, let’s look at some of the things that makes the Phenom really phenomenal.   Two-time UAAP women’s champion Valdez is Ateneo de Manila University’s undisputed Queen Eagle. Talks about the Lady Eagles’ breakthrough championship will not be complete without the mention of her name. After two years of bridesmaid finishes, Ateneo bagged its first-ever UAAP title in 2014 after beating the thrice-to-beat De La Salle University in four games in the Finals despite leading a young band of Lady Eagles playing under the new system of Thai coach Tai Bundit. The following year, Ateneo, with Valdez at the helm, retained its crown in a tournament-sweeping fashion.      Three-time UAAP Most Valuable Player Her skills during her collegiate career stood out among her peers. Valdez’s effort was rewarded with three Most Valuable Player awards in Season 76, Season 77 and in her last playing year in Season 78 in 2016. She also pocketed the Season 76 Finals MVP award.   Young phenom Valdez didn’t build her reputation overnight. It was her hard work and effort that brought her where she is right now. She was still a diamond in the rough when she was recruited by University of Sto. Tomas in a regional meet. But the Espana-based squad polished Valdez into a real gem of a player. Valdez, backed by a powerful lineup that featured the likes of Kim Fajardo and Jaja Santiago, won three straight UAAP girls’ titles and in the process collected three season MVPs. She was also named UAAP high school athlete of the year twice.        National team mainstay With her talents, dedication and good work ethics, Valdez has been a mainstay with the national team. Her first tour of duty was in 2008 when she represented the country in the Asian Youth Championship held in Pasig City. She joined the PHI Team in the 2014 FIVB Southeast Asian Zone qualifier in Vietnam. In 2015, she donned the tricolors for the Asian U-23 Championship and on the same year saw action in the country’s return in the Southeast Asian Games in Singapore after a decade of absence. Since then Valdez participated in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur and 2019 Manila SEA Games. She also took part in the 2017 Asian Senior Women’s Championship and the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games.     2015 SEA Games flagbearer Valdez also carries the honor as being the first-ever volleyball player to become the PHI flag-bearer in the SEA Games. She marched holding the national color in front of Team Philippines during the traditional parade of nations inside the OCBC Arena in the 2015 Singapore SEA Games.   Accomplished commercial league star She has been collecting commercial league titles since high school starting from the Shakey’s Girls Volleyball League. Valdez was also successful in the different conferences of the defunct V-League, racking up championships and individual accolades. In the Premier Volleyball League, she powered Creamline to three titles including a sweep of the Season 2 Reinforced and Open Conferences in 2018. She won three conference MVP awards.      Import abroad International leagues took notice of Valdez’s talents and charm so it’s not surprising that she landed offers to play abroad. Valdez played as an import in Thailand for 3BB Nakornnont from 2016 to 2017. After her stint in Thailand, Valdez flew to Taiwan to play for Attack Line.   Host, Actress, TV personality Valdez is a regular fixture in different sports shows in ABS-CBN S+A. She’s a host, courtside reporter and a game analyst.   Valdez also had a few showbiz stints. She appeared in some Kapamilya teleserye including a cameo in ‘And I Love You So’ in 2016 alongside Julia Barretto and Miles Ocampo and in the movie ‘My Letters to Happy’ with by TJ Trinidad and Glaiza De Castro.    Aside from her TV and movie career, Valdez is also one of the most recognizable athlete product endorsers.   Social media influencer She is also one of the most popular Filipino athlete on social media. As of posting, Valdez has 1.9 million Twitter followers, 1.3 million followers on Instagram and her YouTube channel has more than 76,000 subscribers.   Featured in the Olympics Channel website While the likes of Sisi Rondina, Jaja Santiago and Bryan Bagunas were featured in the FIVB website, Valdez’s impact on Philippine Volleyball was highlighted in a feature article in no less than the Olympic Channel website. The article touched about her humble beginnings to her meteoric rise and why she is regarded as the nation’s brightest star in the sport. These are just some of the things take make Valdez a true pride of our nation in the sport Happy birthday, Alyssa!.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 29th, 2020

Kat Tolentino: How she ended up as a Lady Eagle

Suffering an injury is a dreadful experience for any athlete. What more if it’s a career-threatening one? Kat Tolentino went through three harrowing knee injuries in a span of three years – two of those she suffered while in Canada. But those misfortunes played a big role in convincing Tolentino to fly to the Philippines and eventually become one of the most recognized names in collegiate volleyball. The Ateneo de Manila University volleyball star in an interview on So She Did podcast shared how she ended up in the Lady Eagles' nest.   “It was actually a long story but basically, when I was in Grade 11, my brother was out there in the Philippines already, he was playing basketball for Ateneo and I was just visiting him for vacation,” said Kat, sister of former Blue Eagle Vince. The Ateneo volleyball management that time already knew who the 6-foot-2 spiker was and she was invited to train with the then Roger Gorayeb-mentored Lady Eagles. “I actually don’t even have the shoes at that time or any like knee pads,” she recalled. “So I have to borrow from my cousin and then I borrowed knee pads from the men’s team.” She played with the team but it didn’t convince her to follow the footsteps of her brother, living alone in a tropical country that is thousand of miles away from home. “For me I was in Grade 11 at that time and I didn’t really think like, ‘Oh I want to go to the Philippines’. In fact, I was kind of confused why my brother moved there,” said Tolentino, who is currently back in Canada after the cancellation of the UAAP Season 82 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “I think, it’s just crazy because at that time, I was getting mad at my mom because I was like, ‘Why are you making me move to the Philippines?’ I was only like Grade 11,” she added. Tolentino that time wasn’t ready to get out of her comfort zone. Naturally, she chose to stay in the Great White North. Tolentino was in University of Canada when she suffered her second left anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2014, a year after her first.    “I went to University in Canada for one year and I don’t know if you know that I had three ACL injuries. So the second ACL injury, I was in University in Canada but I just decided after I got the second one in Canada, I needed change and I wanted to experience something different,” she said. Tolentino thought a new environment might change her fortune. Luckily, the Lady Eagles’ door remained open. “Ateneo contacted me when they heard I got injured again,” she said. “They said that they’re still willing to help me and wanted to help me with my rehab and therapy and they had a very good surgeon. So yeah, they just called up and I ended up there.” The hype was high for the Fil-Canadian when she finally got the chance to don the blue and white when the then two-time UAAP champion Ateneo joined the now defunct Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference in July 2015. But the injury bug followed her to the Philippines and once again bit Tolentino hard. The hitter suffered a right ACL injury while warming up and had to undergo another operation and months of rehabilitation. She was forced to miss UAAP Season 78 and watched helplessly from the sidelines as archrival De La Salle University dethroned the Lady Eagles. After months of therapy, Tolentino finally made her official debut in the UAAP in Season 79 in 2017 – a victorious welcome over University of Sto. Tomas. Ateneo fell short in the Finals that year. The following season, the Lady Eagles missed the championship entirely for the first time in six years. In Season 81, Tolentino helped Ateneo capture its third title. She announced after winning the crown that she’s leaving the team but decided to make a return for a swan song this year. Unfortunately, the league cancelled the tournament after just four playdates. Asked if she’ll be back for another tour of duty if given the chance, Tolentino admitted that she’s still thinking about it. “I think for me it’s not something I can decide now,” she said. “I would be thankful if they would allow me to go back but I can’t say anything right now.” Looking back, Tolentino would like to think that her second ACL injury brought her to Ateneo. It wasn’t the best of situation to be in to make a life-changing decision but it in the end it turned out just fine.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 22nd, 2020

Volleyball community to benefit from unified tournament

Alyssa Valdez and Denden Lazaro-Revilla believe that the players and fans will benefit the most when the proposed unified tournament featuring teams from the two major volleyball leagues in the country pushes through soon. Speaking on the Crossover podcast, the two volleyball standouts agree that the talks between the two biggest stockholders of the sport – the Premier Volleyball League and the Philippine Superliga - for a collaboration is a monumental move toward elevating the level of play as well as uniting the community. “Well, I think it will really help the community to improve kasi syempre playing with other competitive teams, mas marami ka ring matututunan,” said the Creamline spiker Valdez, the PVL’s crowd-drawer and most dominant hitter. Teams from the two rival leagues have been competing to land marquee players. The PSL follows a one-league policy for players except for some special cases like those in the military and collegiate volleybelles who are allowed to cross leagues. Players from popular collegiate team Ateneo de Manila University are mostly signed with clubs from the PVL while stars from its UAAP rival De La Salle University usually land on squads in the PSL. A unified tourney – tentatively named Unity Cup – will give fans a chance to see their favorite college players reunite.       “I think volleyball in general will benefit on that aspect but at the same time, it’s really exciting. Kasi nakita lang nila na nagkakalaban-laban kami was when we played in college in the UAAP so I think it’s interesting also for the fans if mangyayari yon,” said Valdez, who won three titles for the Cool Smashers. ChocoMucho’s newest libero Lazaro-Revilla, who saw action in the PSL with Cocolife and Petron before transferring to the PVL early this year, thinks that the Unity Cup will bring out the best in each of the participating teams.   “Same as Alyssa, there’s a bigger pool of players na you can watch out for, competing against each other,” said Lazaro, who won a title for Petron last year. “Imagine F2 (Logistics) in the PSL competing against Creamline in the PVL, we’re all in just one league. And I think mas mau-unite yung mga fans as well and as players, we’re all looking forward to playing against each other again,” added the multi-awarded libero. “Kasi like what Alyssa said, the last time we all play against each other was in college and a lot of the players now in the pro leagues didn’t even come from the UAAP, some came from the NCAA or even the provinces. So, a lot of good players to look out if that ever happens.” Initial talks for the Unity Cup were made early this year but was stalled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that also affected both the PSL and the PVL’s calendar of events. PVL’s organizer Sports Vision chief Ricky Palou said that certain issues with the format and number of participating teams were discussed with PSL chairman Philip Juico during their initial meetings. Palou remains optimistic that the Unity Cup will push through next year once they get a chance to once again sit down on the matter.     “We’re hoping this thing will work out. Minor problems and we just have to work these things out and if we’re able to do this, we should get going. But we’re very hopeful,” he said.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 18th, 2020

MICHELE GUMABAO: It’s not just swag, it’s a statement

Before her queenly poise and grace, Michele Gumabao was known for one particular characteristic – her swag. Back in her days with De La Salle University, she would always get under the skin of her rivals with her on-court antics. Gumabao had a deep arsenal to tick off her opponents: staredowns, shrugs, head shakes and her maddening grin.   It was what the Lady Spikers' fans loved about her. For the supporters of other teams, it was what they loved to hate about Gumabao. But what she did inside the court during her four-year stay with the Ramil De Jesus-mentored squad was not just about playing psywar, for Gumabao she needed every ounce of that swag to build her confidence. She wanted to prove her doubters and non-believers wrong and give them something extra. A statement.           “I wasn’t recruited. I wasn’t scouted by anybody,” said Gumabao during her Kamustahan session on Creamline’s Facebook page. “I tried out in La Salle because I wanted to go to La Salle. I wanted to study in La Salle but I never dreamt of becoming a volleyball player,” added the School of the Holy Spirit-QC product. Gumabao, whose sister Kat also played for the Lady Spikers in the mid-2000s, debuted in the UAAP in Season 72. The then defending champion Lady Spikers were stacked with veteran stars in Jacq Alarca, Paneng Mercado, Cha Cruz and Mel Gohing along with prized rookies Aby Marano and Joanne Siy. Gumabao’s rookie season wasn’t as impressive as her batchmates. She didn’t get much playing time while Siy and Marano joined the starting line-up. Gumabao knew she wasn’t as good as them that time skills-wise. “I knew back then ‘yung skills ko (di mataas ang level). 'Yung skills ko back then noong nag-uumpisa ako it isn’t how it is now,” said the Cool Smashers stalwart. “Kumbaga lahat ng natutunan ko sa La Salle, lahat ng itinuro sa akin nina coach, nang mga seniors ko at that time, mga teammates ko, that made who I am as a volleyball player.” “’Yun talaga ang nagbigay sa akin ng lakas ng loob para maglaro.” Season 73 was Gumabao’s breakout year. Consistently included in the starting rotation, Gumabao would rack up points to back Alarca, Mercado, Cruz and Marano. Aside from contributing points and wreaking havoc with her solid net defense, Gumabao provided energy and swag to DLSU. With her improved game, Gumabao helped the Lady Spikers reclaim the title they lost the season before and also bagged the Best Blocker award. She would win it again the following season while powering DLSU to a back-to-back reign. In Season 75, Gumabao won the Finals Most Valuable Player award as the Lady Spikers completed a three-peat. She decided to forego her last playing year.    Looking back, she knew she went through a lot. “Naaalala ko nung first time akong maglaro, my debut game in the UAAP. Sobrang dami kong bashers and to think wala pa masyado o hindi pa sikat ng social media nun pero ang dami ko nang bashers,” recalled Gumabao. “Kesyo saan daw ako nanggaling o di raw ako magaling. I look weird playing volleyball or bakit ako starter. So many questions, so many doubters, so many haters.” “Kaya siguro I had so much to prove when I started playing volleyball noong college kaya siguro ako ganoon maglaro. Very passionate, very mayabang, maangaas. Kasi ang dami mong paghuhugutan,” she continued. Gumabao admitted that she has mellowed down since then. “Natuto akong mag-slowdown ng kaunti sa mga celebration but of course same effort, same level of play. It’s not all physical, it’s now more on mental ngayon as you get older,” she said. But most of the time people would still tell her that they want to see the college Michele Gumabao brand of play. “Ang daming nagsasabi sa akin nito na they miss the swag, they miss the angas sa loob ng court. I do admit I was different nu’ng college days ko. Medyo may pinapatunayan si ate nu’ng college eh,” said Gumabao.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 10th, 2020

DID YOU KNOW? Ben Mbala wanted to go to Ateneo

Ben Mbala spent three years of his life undergoing residency for De La Salle University. Once he was eligible, however, he left no doubt that he was worth the wait, teaming up with Jeron Teng to lead the Green Archers to a dominant 16-1 title run in UAAP 79. At the same time, the 6-foot-8 center was the league's undisputed top individual player - posting per game counts of 20.6 points in 54 percent shooting, 16.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 assists. He wound up more than 20 statistical points ahead of his closest competitor. A year later, he won his second straight MVP and carried the Taft-based team to just a win shy of back-to-back championships. For sure, Mbala is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, La Salle Green Archers. Way back when, though, if only he had his way, he wouldn't even have been clad in green and white. "Ateneo was my first choice. I am going to be honest," he said, with a laugh, in the inaugural episode of The Prospects Pod last Friday. Yes, La Salle wasn't "Big Ben's" first choice - and even worse for their faithful, he wanted to go with the enemy. Asked why that was so, he answered, "A lot of their bigs were graduating and I was looking for a team where I can have a lot of stability and get playing time." He then continued, "Going to La Salle, they had [Arnold] Van Opstal, Norbert Torres, Yutien Andrada, [Jason] Perkins. I gotta go over them and compete to have playing time so I was like, I'm gonna go to Ateneo." By that point, all of Greg Slaughter, Poy Erram, and Justin Chua were no longer in blue and white. Already a two-way force in Southwestern University, Mbala opened eyes of the big leagues and the big programs in Metro Manila and just about everybody had interest in him. Ultimately, it came down to two choices - the Green Archers and the Blue Eagles. Apparently, he even got to visit an Ateneo practice. "I remember seeing you in one of our practices, actually," then-King Eagle Kiefer Ravena recalled. "After 5 to 10 minutes in the office across that library, I went to the gym. They told me to dunk and I didn't stretch yet so I just made a two-handed dunk and they were like, 'Woah. Yeah,'" the Cameroonian replied. Imagine a team with Ravena and Mbala. Just imagine that. History had other plans, however, and the now 25-year-old wound up with the Green Archers. "Coach Yayoy, one day, he called me to go to La Salle and I was like, 'What do you mean? I want to go to Ateneo,'" he shared, talking about SWU head coach Yayoy Alcoseba. "But he was like, 'You go to La Salle. It's going to be better for you because I know people there." Fast forward to now and, of course, Mbala has no regrets - the Animo spirit lives in him through and through. As he put it, "At the end of the day, I feel like going over there and competing with all those bigs made me improve. When you et there, you can't just lay down and say I'm going to wait for my turn." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 6th, 2020