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Home-grown Filipino in the NBA is 'just a matter of time' says Pacers Bill Bayno

Basketball is a world game now, but unfortunately, there’s no home-grown Filipino to make it to the NBA. At least not yet. Still, there are quite a few brilliant basketball minds that believe a full-grown Filipino playing in the NBA is just a matter of time. One of them is Bill Bayno, the former head coach that took the Talk ‘N Text Phone Pals to the 2002 Commissioner’s Cup Finals and current Indiana Pacers assistant coach. Coach Bill has established a sort of link to Kai Sotto, the 7’2” teen phenom and the latest Filipino to attempt to make it in the NBA. Kai is currently playing for Atlanta’s The Skills Factory. “I actually have a connection to Kai Sotto because [Mark] Dickel called me about him last year and said, ‘Hey, he maybe coming to the States, keep an eye on him,’” Bayno said during a video conference with Blackwater’s Ariel Vanguardia for Hoops Coaches International. “And then he [Kai] comes to the States and ironically, one of the coaches that’s helping develop him was the high school teammate of Nick Nurse. And Nick Nurse and I are very close friends because we were assistants with the Raptors for two years,” Bayno added. Assessing Kai, Bayno acknowledged his potential but he also went in and what Sotto can do to make it to the big leagues. “The scouting report I get from Kai is that he’s still young, he needs to get tougher. He needs to be a little more aggressive, which is normal for any kid that age,” Bayno said. “But he has the skill set already, he has an NBA skill set in that he can shoot and pass for a 7-foot kid. Hopefully, he’s training on the other stuff and how physical the NBA game is," he added. There are some full-grown Filipino players that have at least tried to make it to the NBA, big-name prospects like Kiefer Ravena, Ray Parks Jr., and Kobe Paras all recently made their respective attempts but didn’t make the cut. Kai could be the one. “Kai may be the first Filipino [in the NBA],” Bayno added. “I can remember saying that back in 2001, that eventually, there’s gonna be an NBA player coming from the Philippines. It’s just a matter of time,” he added. Out of all the active PBA players now, Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar probably got the closest to the NBA and Bayno worked with him too when he was coming out of Ateneo. Aguilar transferred to the US and played for Western Kentucky and eventually in the NBA D-League but he too never actually made it to the NBA. “If he were born and raised in the US, playing against the best players every summer in high school, it might have sped up his development,” Bayno said of Japeth. “I know he’s had a good career [in the PBA] but he was the first kid that I saw [with potential to make the NBA]. If there’s some more Japeths coming down the line… and Kai Sotto is similar to Japeth, he’s just bigger. They’re both big guys that play in the perimeter that can shoot. I don’t know Kai personally but I do somewhat of a connection. I’d love to help him out if he ever needed any advice, I’d love to talk to him. I’m not allowed to work with him because he’s a prospect and I’m an NBA coach, but let’s hope he’s the first one,” Coach Bill added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8 .....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnApr 26th, 2020

FIBA: Mighty Jimmy and the shot that introduced Gilas to the World

This story was originally published on Feb. 24, 2019 It’s Saturday night at Mall of Asia and the arena is absolutely rocking. Eternal basketball rivals in the Philippines and South Korea are delivering another classic. Gilas Pilipinas is down to the final minute of regulation against its longtime tormentor in the second of two semifinal games. The national team is up by two, 81-79. The Philippines is hosting the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships where three tickets to the 2014 World Cup are at stake and the winner of this particular game gets one of those tickets. Given the rich history of both teams and what it would mean to the winner, this pivotal game has gone down the wire as everyone pretty much expected. Also knowing the history of both teams in international play, Gilas’ precarious two-point lead was not safe at all. A ghost was lurking in the background and a dreaded curse felt almost inevitable. Down to the final minute of the crucial grudge match between the Philippines and South Korea, guard Jimmy Alapag has the ball and a two-point lead. What he will do will help define not only his career but the legacy of the Gilas name as a national team.   WAKE-UP CALL Even before the Philippines-Korea game, Gilas Pilipinas already had to go through one emotional game early in its homestand for the Asian Championships. In a preliminary round showdown against Chinese Taipei, the Filipinos collapsed in the fourth quarter, allowing the Taiwanese to steal a morale-boosting 84-79 win. In 2013, the relationship between the two countries hit a rough patch over the death of one Taiwanese fisherman. In an updated May 17 report by CNN’s Jethro Mullen, “Taiwan has reacted angrily after one of its fishermen was killed by a Philippine coast guard vessel.” Taiwan had frozen applications from OFWs seeking jobs in its territory and the government of then President Ma Ying-jeou demanded an apology, among other things, from the Philippines. While the national basketball teams of both countries never really had any prior animosity with each other, tension was naturally present as both teams squared off in Group A action. Gilas Pilipinas and Chinese-Taipei both entered the showdown with identical 2-0 records and the winner would take control of solo Group A lead heading into round 2. Taking a good lead into the fourth quarter, the Philippines was outscored by 18 in the last 10 minutes and the national team took its worst home loss in quite some time. “At the time, it was a huge game for us. We understood what was happening in Taipei during that particular time. We really wanted to win for what our kababayans were going through at that time,” guard Jimmy Alapag said on that first home loss in the 2013 Asian Championships. “We didn’t get the job done, and it was tough especially to lose a game like that, it was a very emotional and it was a game that we knew we needed,” he added. The crushing loss meant that the Philippines had little room for error in round 2. While Gilas didn’t have any world beaters lined up in the second round, anything less than a perfect run would have meant an early clash with Asia’s established powerhouse teams in the knockout stages. On the other side of the bracket, defending champion China, Iran, and South Korea were battling for position and were expected to finish in the top-3. That means if Gilas Pilipinas failed to finish no. 1 in its group, the national team would have faced one of those teams in the quarterfinals. Gilas picked up a crucial win over Qatar in the 6th of August and the day after, the Philippines got some help from those same Qataris as they beat Taipei in a close decision. At the end of round 2, all teams finished with identical win-loss records but Gilas Pilipinas would take over first place after all tiebreaks were considered, barely edging out Taipei. The Philippines ended up avoiding defending champion China, Iran, and South Korea and instead got Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals. No. 2 Taipei drew China and the third-running Qataris were matched up with the South Koreans. “I think that was the moment we grew up and grew closer. I think that was the lowest of the lows, just because of the atmosphere and what was going on between both countries. It kind of felt that we let our end of the bargain down, you know what I mean? We’re on our home soil and we didn’t take care of business. I think that was one of those moments where we had to really check ourselves and find a way to make it right,” forward Gabe Norwood said of the Taipei loss. “But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In tournaments like FIBA-Asia it’s important that you have short-term memory whether it was a win or a loss. We needed to let go of that game and continue to stay the course, keep our focus in the tournament,” Alapag added. On August 7, four days after Gilas lost to Taipei, the rift between the Philippines and Taiwan would reach a resolution and the latter country lifted its freeze hiring and other sanctions on the former. The Philippines also did issue on official apology over the death of the Taiwanese fisherman a couple of months prior and the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila recommended the pressing of homicide charges to erring members of the Philippine Coast Guard.   DARK HISTORY If the word “rival” is to be defined as a, “person or group that tries to defeat or be more successful than another person or group” then sure, the Philippines and South Korea are rivals. Both countries are rivals in the Asian basketball scene and they have been going at it for a very long time. But if the word rival can also mean “equal” or “peer,” is the Philippines really a worthy basketball rival to South Korea? The Philippines’ history with South Korea in terms of basketball is dark. Very dark. Consider the most high-profile matches between the two countries and you’ll see that the Philippine national team is just not at the level of South Korea. Or at the very least, Koreans always seem to reach 120 percent when the play Filipinos and we barely bring out 80 percent of our abilities when matched up against our East Asian neighbors. The 1998 PBA Centennial team, arguably the greatest Philippine team ever assembled, was demolished by South Korea in the Asian Games. A national team set up for gold only settled for bronze. Speaking of a bronze medal game, the original Gilas Pilipinas team lost to South Korea in the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championships. That team squandered a double-digit lead and collapsed late. Of course, who can forget the semifinals of the 2002 Asian Games in Busan when Olsen Racela had the chance to put the Philippines up four but missed two free throws. South Korea would win with a booming triple at the buzzer off a broken play and would later take down China to capture the gold medal. South Korea is the Philippines’ basketball nemesis for all intents and purposes. A worthy adversary that always seem to emerge victorious at our expense. Still, all that previous disappointment didn’t seem to bother Gilas Pilipinas six years ago. The team was not scared and instead, they were excited even. One factor to greatly consider was that fact that the game was in Manila. It makes all the difference to play at home. “We understood the bad history that we had with Korea. We haven’t been very successful with them in quite some time but we knew from Day 1 that if ever we got an opportunity to play them at home, then we have a great chance,” Alapag said. “Man, pre-game, it was just the focus. Everybody was up for the challenge, I don’t think anybody was really nervous, I think it was just the anxiety... we wanted to get out there and do it already,” Norwood added. Playing at home had its perks for sure but it also had its drawbacks. For all the painful losses the Philippines suffered at the hands of South Korea, it would have been devastating if Gilas actually took a beating in Manila. Stakes were extra high in this particular chapter of this long, ongoing saga. “There was always pressure, it was something that we acknowledged early. Playing at home, it’s great having that support but at the same time, there is some added pressure because you wanna make sure that you make our home crowd proud of the team that they watch and ultimately, win games,” Alapag said, making sure to note that the national team knew of the disadvantages of playing at home even before the Korea game. “It was there but it was something that we acknowledged and we wanted to make sure that we took advantage of the opportunity playing at home,” he added.   ALL FILIPINO, ALL HEART Once it was go time, the Philippines-South Korea game went about pretty normal, as you would expect any game from these two national teams. But even before halftime, an injury to Gilas center Marcus Douthit changed the complexion of the semifinals showdown. All of a sudden, the Philippines was without its anchor, without its best player. Sure, there were players on the Gilas bench that can come in and replace Douthit’s size but there was simply no one on the Gilas bench that can come in and replace his talent, production, and just overall presence. June Mar Fajardo was in that Gilas bench but it 2013, the would-be five-time PBA Most Valuable Player was just not at that level yet. It would have been easy for Gilas Pilipinas to fold like cheap furniture and succumb to the overwhelming pressure of trying to overcome South Korea to reach a stage very few Filipinos have reached before. Gilas didn’t fold and instead, the Douthit injury rallied the team even further. “Alam mo sa totoo lang, puso na lang yun eh. Nung nawala si Marcus talaga, sabi ni coach kailangan doble kayod tayo. Dahil sobrang dehado tayo kumbaga, wala na tayong import, wala tayong malaki,” forward Marc Pingris said. With Douthit gone, Ping ate up all of his minutes and worked by committee with guys like Ranidel De Ocampo and Japeth Aguilar to fill in the gaps. “As a player naman, kami nagusap-usap kami na kahit anong mangyari, lalaban kami. Yung time na yun, talagang patay kung patay,” Ping added. Despite losing its best player to an untimely injury, Gilas Pilipinas’ confidence in winning never wavered. With their collective backs against the wall, the Philippine national team played even better. Unlike the later iterations of Gilas Pilipinas, the 2013 team, aptly called Gilas 2.0, had the luxury of having actual preparation before the FIBA-Asia Championships. The amount of work that came before the tournament and the Korea game, the bond built over countless hours of training, all of that helped the national team avoid a monumental meltdown in front of a rabid Manila crowd. “We were such a close-knit team in terms of our chemistry, in terms of the talent that we had, so we felt confident even when Marcus went down early in the game. If you looked at our huddle, you had 11 more very confident guys, not just in themselves but more importantly, in each other,” Alapag said. “That just boiled down to the chemistry that we had. I don’t think any of us panicked, we were all confident in each other. We’ve all been into that situation with our PBA teams, having the ball in our hands and making a play. Knowing that we had five weapons on the floor that could make the winning play, I think it made us very confident and we were able to sustain our composure,” the former Gilas captain added.   THE GHOST AND ITS CURSE Shin Dong Pa, Hur Jae, Lee Sang-min, Oh Se-Keun, TJ Moon, and Cho Sung-min are just some players from the South Korean national team that inflicted incredible damage to the Philippines over the course of decades. The dreaded Ghost of South Korea takes form in these players and its curse is to give Filipinos the most heart-crushing loss possible. In 2013, the Ghost was Kim Min-goo and his curse was to beat Gilas Pilipinas in Manila. Despite losing Marcus Douthit and trailing by three points at the break, the Philippines started to turn the tables in the second half. Gilas Pilipinas unleashed Jayson Castro and the Blur led a blazing offense in the third quarter, finding a way to take a 10-point lead over South Korea, the Philippines’ largest of the night. But as the dust settled and Gilas holding a 65-56 lead entering the final period, an ominous figure would make his presence felt. The Korean Ghost has arrived and his name was Kim Min-goo. His curse? Beat Gilas Pilipinas in Manila. Kim was 22 and a senior in college when he made the South Korean national basketball team as a backup shooter in 2013. In nine games in Manila, Kim would play well enough to make the tournament’s All-Star team, averaging 12.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He led Asian Championships with 25 three-point field goals, 10 came in the last two games and five came against Gilas Pilipinas. Kim drilled back-to-back triples to open the fourth quarter against the Philippines. Later, his fifth triple — a four-point play at that — pushed the Koreans to within a point, 72-73. South Korea would take over soon after as Lee Seung-jun dunked the basketball on a fastbreak. The Ghost has arrived and his curse is in effect. “Ako pumasok sa isip ko yun nung lumamang Korea, na putek ito na naman,” Pingris said. “Pero ang sabi ko, sayang yung opportunity, kaya naman eh. So sabi ni Jimmy samin, no matter what happens wag kami gi-give up. Pinaghirapan natin to at may goal tayo, this year aalis tayo,” he added, noting the team’s goal to get into Spain and compete with the world’s best national teams. Faced with the possibility of dealing with a devastating defeat, Gilas had enough mental fortitude to keep things going. Trust your system, trust your preparation, trust your crowd, trust your teammates, and more importantly, trust yourselves. “You’re never out of the game if you’re playing at home,” Norwood said as they stared a deficit late against their destined rivals. “I think that was our mindset, keep it close and just find a way,” he added. Jimmy Alapag found a way.   BORN READY Down 73-75, Jimmy Alapag was under heavy duress when he let go of a three-pointer from the left wing just in front of his bench. It was good to go. The Philippines was back on top by one as Alapag somehow managed to get his team to snap out of an initial shock following Korea’s strong fourth-quarter rally. The stage is now set for a wild finish and Jimmy will star in the final act of what has been an incredible show by Gilas and South Korea. “In situations like that, as an athlete and as a pro, that’s the situations that you dream about,” Alapag said.  “Those are shots that you practice when you were a kid. When the shot clock is winding down, to have an opportunity to knock down a shot. It’s a shot that I practiced thousands of times,” he added. After the Philippines and South Korea traded baskets for the lead, Alapag made perhaps the most underrated play in this crazy and emotional encounter between two basketball rivals. Tasked with inbounding the ball just near underneath his own basket, Alapag found his Talk ‘N Text teammate Ranidel De Ocampo for an open look at three. Swish. Gilas leads, 81-77, with 91 seconds to go. “Ranidel was my favorite target for a very, very long time in my career,” Alapag said on the play that most people probably don’t even remember. “Once I saw that he got open, I wanted to make sure that I gave him as great a pass as possible and Ranidel has been known for a long time to take care of the rest,” he added.   THE EXORCIST “Yeah, I was right under the basket,” Gabe Norwood says with a laugh when asked if he remembers the shot that changed the course of Gilas Pilipinas as a national team. Late in the fourth quarter of what was essentially a heavyweight bout, the Philippines just landed two strong haymakers but South Korea would refuse to go down without a fight, beating the count of 10 each time. Down to the final minute of a crucial grudge match with a World Cup berth on the line, Jimmy Alapag had his hands on the basketball as Gilas would go to its halfcourt set. Jimmy will never let go of said basketball. Up two, Jimmy did what Olsen wished he could 11 years prior. Up two against South Korea in a pivotal semifinal game, Alapag received a screen from Marc Pingris, which was enough to momentarily shake off Kim Tae-sul. With some room, Alapag drifted to his left and let a three-point shot fly. Boom. Gilas leads, 84-79, with 54 seconds to go. The shot would later be remembered as the one that ended the Korean Curse, the one that finally exorcised the Ghost. “The first thought that came to my mind was don’t miss,” Jimmy said of the clutch jumper. “That last one, Ping sets a good screen and I got a clean look. It’s a shot that myself, and Jayson [Castro], and Larry [Fonacier], and Gary [David], and Jeff [Chan], all of us, we practice that shot time and time again after practice. So you know, it was a shot that I was confident in but in that moment, all you’re thinking about was don’t miss,” he added. It’s one thing to be confident in yourself and to be confidednt in your preparation. It’s a different thing to actually perform under such pressure. As soon as Alapag managed to shoot his shot, Gabe Norwood did what any other good teammate would do and got in position to get the offensive rebound. You know, just in case. Gabe got the ball alright, but he got it after it swished through the rim. “When he put the shot up, I tried to crash for the rebound but I basically knew that it was going in,” he said. “I had probably the best view, I was right under the basket. I think caught it after it went through too,” Norwood added. Alapag checked out moments later as the Philippines went to its defensive lineup in order to stop another Korean comeback. South Korea turned to its most effective shooter in Kim and as he rose up to try and answer Alapag’s triple, Norwood met him at the apex for the game’s most dramatic stop. Gabe blocked Kim and Gilas would finish things off with a final Marc Pingris basket on the other end. A historic 86-79 win was complete. “I still get chills thinking about it, to look up and see grown men just breaking down. My wife was trying to hold my kids and she was holding back tears. It was just an awesome moment, the bond that we had on that team, the stuff that we did to get prepare, I think we poured it all out in that game,” Norwood said on the monumental victory. “I think it probably didn’t hit me until the final buzzer sounded. Not just for me but for the entire team, when that final buzzer sounded, it was such a special group of guys and the fact that we could share that moment with not just with each other but the entire country, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Alapag added, savoring the moment of a Philippine win over Korea 28 years in the making.   THE INTRODUCTION Gilas Pilipinas would lose to Iran the next day in the Finals of the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships. The Philippines put up a fight but Hamed Haddadi would prove to be too powerful to stop. It would take another two years for Gilas to beat Iran but that didn’t really matter in the moment. The Philippines is headed to the World Championships for the first time in three decades. The Philippines has beaten South Korea and one singular shot has allowed the Gilas name to be known around the world. Jimmy wouldn’t say that though. At least not directly in that way. “For me, that shot was the biggest for my career. But really, it was our entire team. We’ve gone through so much and that was just one particular play that really culminated the entire game and all the contributions from other guys from Gabe’s defense, to Ping’s rebounding, to Japeth’s rim protecting, to Jayson and LA doing a lot of the legwork,” Alapag said. “Everybody had their part in contribution to the game. After the shot, after the buzzer sounded, it was just a very special moment for us as a team and for Philippine basketball to show that all of the sacrifices, all of the hard work, now it’s given an opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to the world,” he added. Jimmy wouldn’t say it, but his teammates would. That shot of his that beat South Korea in the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships introduced the Gilas name to the world. It announced that the Philippines has finally arrived. Gilas’ breakthrough overtime win a year later in Spain against Senegal — a game Jimmy pretty much decided late as well — made it known that Filipinos are here to stay on the World stage. “I would say so, it got us to where we wanted to be in the World Cup. I think we shocked some people there as well. But just the work that went in, I think it showed the country that we can get back to where we want to be as long as you work together,” Norwood said. “Yung puso ni Jimmy, grabe naman. Makikita mo maliit pero gusto lang niya talaga manalo. Ang liit pero parang lion pag nagalit eh, nandoon yung tiwala namin sa kanya. Ano pa ba masasabi mo, Jimmy is Jimmy Alapag,” Pingris would add.   [NOTES: At the time of original publishing, Gilas Pilipinas was fighting to make a return trip to the FIBA World Cup, this time in China in 2019. To secure its slot, the the Philippine national team needed to beat Kazakhstan in Astana plus a loss from Japan, Jordan, and/or Lebanon. One of the teams that can help Gilas is South Korea... ironically. Jimmy Alapag retired from national team play in 2014 and retired playing for good in 2016. He has since made himself a champion basketball coach in the ABL. Marc Pingris suffered an ACL injury in 2018 and is in the process of returning for his PBA team in the current 2019 season. Gabe Norwood is still in Gilas. He’s still an effective two-way weapon. He can still dunk and will stop your best player too.]   [Updated Notes: The Philippines beat Kazakhstan to make the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. Gilas got help from... South Korea. The Koreans beat Lebanon on the road, allowing Gilas to advance to the World Championships outright with a victory over Kazakhstan.]   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2020

FIBA: Mighty Jimmy and the shot that introduced Gilas to the World

This story was originally published on Feb. 24, 2019 It’s Saturday night at Mall of Asia and the arena is absolutely rocking. Eternal basketball rivals in the Philippines and South Korea are delivering another classic. Gilas Pilipinas is down to the final minute of regulation against its longtime tormentor in the second of two semifinal games. The national team is up by two, 81-79. The Philippines is hosting the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships where three tickets to the 2014 World Cup are at stake and the winner of this particular game gets one of those tickets. Given the rich history of both teams and what it would mean to the winner, this pivotal game has gone down the wire as everyone pretty much expected. Also knowing the history of both teams in international play, Gilas’ precarious two-point lead was not safe at all. A ghost was lurking in the background and a dreaded curse felt almost inevitable. Down to the final minute of the crucial grudge match between the Philippines and South Korea, guard Jimmy Alapag has the ball and a two-point lead. What he will do will help define not only his career but the legacy of the Gilas name as a national team.   WAKE-UP CALL Even before the Philippines-Korea game, Gilas Pilipinas already had to go through one emotional game early in its homestand for the Asian Championships. In a preliminary round showdown against Chinese Taipei, the Filipinos collapsed in the fourth quarter, allowing the Taiwanese to steal a morale-boosting 84-79 win. In 2013, the relationship between the two countries hit a rough patch over the death of one Taiwanese fisherman. In an updated May 17 report by CNN’s Jethro Mullen, “Taiwan has reacted angrily after one of its fishermen was killed by a Philippine coast guard vessel.” Taiwan had frozen applications from OFWs seeking jobs in its territory and the government of then President Ma Ying-jeou demanded an apology, among other things, from the Philippines. While the national basketball teams of both countries never really had any prior animosity with each other, tension was naturally present as both teams squared off in Group A action. Gilas Pilipinas and Chinese-Taipei both entered the showdown with identical 2-0 records and the winner would take control of solo Group A lead heading into round 2. Taking a good lead into the fourth quarter, the Philippines was outscored by 18 in the last 10 minutes and the national team took its worst home loss in quite some time. “At the time, it was a huge game for us. We understood what was happening in Taipei during that particular time. We really wanted to win for what our kababayans were going through at that time,” guard Jimmy Alapag said on that first home loss in the 2013 Asian Championships. “We didn’t get the job done, and it was tough especially to lose a game like that, it was a very emotional and it was a game that we knew we needed,” he added. The crushing loss meant that the Philippines had little room for error in round 2. While Gilas didn’t have any world beaters lined up in the second round, anything less than a perfect run would have meant an early clash with Asia’s established powerhouse teams in the knockout stages. On the other side of the bracket, defending champion China, Iran, and South Korea were battling for position and were expected to finish in the top-3. That means if Gilas Pilipinas failed to finish no. 1 in its group, the national team would have faced one of those teams in the quarterfinals. Gilas picked up a crucial win over Qatar in the 6th of August and the day after, the Philippines got some help from those same Qataris as they beat Taipei in a close decision. At the end of round 2, all teams finished with identical win-loss records but Gilas Pilipinas would take over first place after all tiebreaks were considered, barely edging out Taipei. The Philippines ended up avoiding defending champion China, Iran, and South Korea and instead got Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals. No. 2 Taipei drew China and the third-running Qataris were matched up with the South Koreans. “I think that was the moment we grew up and grew closer. I think that was the lowest of the lows, just because of the atmosphere and what was going on between both countries. It kind of felt that we let our end of the bargain down, you know what I mean? We’re on our home soil and we didn’t take care of business. I think that was one of those moments where we had to really check ourselves and find a way to make it right,” forward Gabe Norwood said of the Taipei loss. “But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In tournaments like FIBA-Asia it’s important that you have short-term memory whether it was a win or a loss. We needed to let go of that game and continue to stay the course, keep our focus in the tournament,” Alapag added. On August 7, four days after Gilas lost to Taipei, the rift between the Philippines and Taiwan would reach a resolution and the latter country lifted its freeze hiring and other sanctions on the former. The Philippines also did issue on official apology over the death of the Taiwanese fisherman a couple of months prior and the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila recommended the pressing of homicide charges to erring members of the Philippine Coast Guard.   DARK HISTORY If the word “rival” is to be defined as a, “person or group that tries to defeat or be more successful than another person or group” then sure, the Philippines and South Korea are rivals. Both countries are rivals in the Asian basketball scene and they have been going at it for a very long time. But if the word rival can also mean “equal” or “peer,” is the Philippines really a worthy basketball rival to South Korea? The Philippines’ history with South Korea in terms of basketball is dark. Very dark. Consider the most high-profile matches between the two countries and you’ll see that the Philippine national team is just not at the level of South Korea. Or at the very least, Koreans always seem to reach 120 percent when the play Filipinos and we barely bring out 80 percent of our abilities when matched up against our East Asian neighbors. The 1998 PBA Centennial team, arguably the greatest Philippine team ever assembled, was demolished by South Korea in the Asian Games. A national team set up for gold only settled for bronze. Speaking of a bronze medal game, the original Gilas Pilipinas team lost to South Korea in the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championships. That team squandered a double-digit lead and collapsed late. Of course, who can forget the semifinals of the 2002 Asian Games in Busan when Olsen Racela had the chance to put the Philippines up four but missed two free throws. South Korea would win with a booming triple at the buzzer off a broken play and would later take down China to capture the gold medal. South Korea is the Philippines’ basketball nemesis for all intents and purposes. A worthy adversary that always seem to emerge victorious at our expense. Still, all that previous disappointment didn’t seem to bother Gilas Pilipinas six years ago. The team was not scared and instead, they were excited even. One factor to greatly consider was that fact that the game was in Manila. It makes all the difference to play at home. “We understood the bad history that we had with Korea. We haven’t been very successful with them in quite some time but we knew from Day 1 that if ever we got an opportunity to play them at home, then we have a great chance,” Alapag said. “Man, pre-game, it was just the focus. Everybody was up for the challenge, I don’t think anybody was really nervous, I think it was just the anxiety... we wanted to get out there and do it already,” Norwood added. Playing at home had its perks for sure but it also had its drawbacks. For all the painful losses the Philippines suffered at the hands of South Korea, it would have been devastating if Gilas actually took a beating in Manila. Stakes were extra high in this particular chapter of this long, ongoing saga. “There was always pressure, it was something that we acknowledged early. Playing at home, it’s great having that support but at the same time, there is some added pressure because you wanna make sure that you make our home crowd proud of the team that they watch and ultimately, win games,” Alapag said, making sure to note that the national team knew of the disadvantages of playing at home even before the Korea game. “It was there but it was something that we acknowledged and we wanted to make sure that we took advantage of the opportunity playing at home,” he added.   ALL FILIPINO, ALL HEART Once it was go time, the Philippines-South Korea game went about pretty normal, as you would expect any game from these two national teams. But even before halftime, an injury to Gilas center Marcus Douthit changed the complexion of the semifinals showdown. All of a sudden, the Philippines was without its anchor, without its best player. Sure, there were players on the Gilas bench that can come in and replace Douthit’s size but there was simply no one on the Gilas bench that can come in and replace his talent, production, and just overall presence. June Mar Fajardo was in that Gilas bench but it 2013, the would-be five-time PBA Most Valuable Player was just not at that level yet. It would have been easy for Gilas Pilipinas to fold like cheap furniture and succumb to the overwhelming pressure of trying to overcome South Korea to reach a stage very few Filipinos have reached before. Gilas didn’t fold and instead, the Douthit injury rallied the team even further. “Alam mo sa totoo lang, puso na lang yun eh. Nung nawala si Marcus talaga, sabi ni coach kailangan doble kayod tayo. Dahil sobrang dehado tayo kumbaga, wala na tayong import, wala tayong malaki,” forward Marc Pingris said. With Douthit gone, Ping ate up all of his minutes and worked by committee with guys like Ranidel De Ocampo and Japeth Aguilar to fill in the gaps. “As a player naman, kami nagusap-usap kami na kahit anong mangyari, lalaban kami. Yung time na yun, talagang patay kung patay,” Ping added. Despite losing its best player to an untimely injury, Gilas Pilipinas’ confidence in winning never wavered. With their collective backs against the wall, the Philippine national team played even better. Unlike the later iterations of Gilas Pilipinas, the 2013 team, aptly called Gilas 2.0, had the luxury of having actual preparation before the FIBA-Asia Championships. The amount of work that came before the tournament and the Korea game, the bond built over countless hours of training, all of that helped the national team avoid a monumental meltdown in front of a rabid Manila crowd. “We were such a close-knit team in terms of our chemistry, in terms of the talent that we had, so we felt confident even when Marcus went down early in the game. If you looked at our huddle, you had 11 more very confident guys, not just in themselves but more importantly, in each other,” Alapag said. “That just boiled down to the chemistry that we had. I don’t think any of us panicked, we were all confident in each other. We’ve all been into that situation with our PBA teams, having the ball in our hands and making a play. Knowing that we had five weapons on the floor that could make the winning play, I think it made us very confident and we were able to sustain our composure,” the former Gilas captain added.   THE GHOST AND ITS CURSE Shin Dong Pa, Hur Jae, Lee Sang-min, Oh Se-Keun, TJ Moon, and Cho Sung-min are just some players from the South Korean national team that inflicted incredible damage to the Philippines over the course of decades. The dreaded Ghost of South Korea takes form in these players and its curse is to give Filipinos the most heart-crushing loss possible. In 2013, the Ghost was Kim Min-goo and his curse was to beat Gilas Pilipinas in Manila. Despite losing Marcus Douthit and trailing by three points at the break, the Philippines started to turn the tables in the second half. Gilas Pilipinas unleashed Jayson Castro and the Blur led a blazing offense in the third quarter, finding a way to take a 10-point lead over South Korea, the Philippines’ largest of the night. But as the dust settled and Gilas holding a 65-56 lead entering the final period, an ominous figure would make his presence felt. The Korean Ghost has arrived and his name was Kim Min-goo. His curse? Beat Gilas Pilipinas in Manila. Kim was 22 and a senior in college when he made the South Korean national basketball team as a backup shooter in 2013. In nine games in Manila, Kim would play well enough to make the tournament’s All-Star team, averaging 12.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He led Asian Championships with 25 three-point field goals, 10 came in the last two games and five came against Gilas Pilipinas. Kim drilled back-to-back triples to open the fourth quarter against the Philippines. Later, his fifth triple — a four-point play at that — pushed the Koreans to within a point, 72-73. South Korea would take over soon after as Lee Seung-jun dunked the basketball on a fastbreak. The Ghost has arrived and his curse is in effect. “Ako pumasok sa isip ko yun nung lumamang Korea, na putek ito na naman,” Pingris said. “Pero ang sabi ko, sayang yung opportunity, kaya naman eh. So sabi ni Jimmy samin, no matter what happens wag kami gi-give up. Pinaghirapan natin to at may goal tayo, this year aalis tayo,” he added, noting the team’s goal to get into Spain and compete with the world’s best national teams. Faced with the possibility of dealing with a devastating defeat, Gilas had enough mental fortitude to keep things going. Trust your system, trust your preparation, trust your crowd, trust your teammates, and more importantly, trust yourselves. “You’re never out of the game if you’re playing at home,” Norwood said as they stared a deficit late against their destined rivals. “I think that was our mindset, keep it close and just find a way,” he added. Jimmy Alapag found a way.   BORN READY Down 73-75, Jimmy Alapag was under heavy duress when he let go of a three-pointer from the left wing just in front of his bench. It was good to go. The Philippines was back on top by one as Alapag somehow managed to get his team to snap out of an initial shock following Korea’s strong fourth-quarter rally. The stage is now set for a wild finish and Jimmy will star in the final act of what has been an incredible show by Gilas and South Korea. “In situations like that, as an athlete and as a pro, that’s the situations that you dream about,” Alapag said.  “Those are shots that you practice when you were a kid. When the shot clock is winding down, to have an opportunity to knock down a shot. It’s a shot that I practiced thousands of times,” he added. After the Philippines and South Korea traded baskets for the lead, Alapag made perhaps the most underrated play in this crazy and emotional encounter between two basketball rivals. Tasked with inbounding the ball just near underneath his own basket, Alapag found his Talk ‘N Text teammate Ranidel De Ocampo for an open look at three. Swish. Gilas leads, 81-77, with 91 seconds to go. “Ranidel was my favorite target for a very, very long time in my career,” Alapag said on the play that most people probably don’t even remember. “Once I saw that he got open, I wanted to make sure that I gave him as great a pass as possible and Ranidel has been known for a long time to take care of the rest,” he added.   THE EXORCIST “Yeah, I was right under the basket,” Gabe Norwood says with a laugh when asked if he remembers the shot that changed the course of Gilas Pilipinas as a national team. Late in the fourth quarter of what was essentially a heavyweight bout, the Philippines just landed two strong haymakers but South Korea would refuse to go down without a fight, beating the count of 10 each time. Down to the final minute of a crucial grudge match with a World Cup berth on the line, Jimmy Alapag had his hands on the basketball as Gilas would go to its halfcourt set. Jimmy will never let go of said basketball. Up two, Jimmy did what Olsen wished he could 11 years prior. Up two against South Korea in a pivotal semifinal game, Alapag received a screen from Marc Pingris, which was enough to momentarily shake off Kim Tae-sul. With some room, Alapag drifted to his left and let a three-point shot fly. Boom. Gilas leads, 84-79, with 54 seconds to go. The shot would later be remembered as the one that ended the Korean Curse, the one that finally exorcised the Ghost. “The first thought that came to my mind was don’t miss,” Jimmy said of the clutch jumper. “That last one, Ping sets a good screen and I got a clean look. It’s a shot that myself, and Jayson [Castro], and Larry [Fonacier], and Gary [David], and Jeff [Chan], all of us, we practice that shot time and time again after practice. So you know, it was a shot that I was confident in but in that moment, all you’re thinking about was don’t miss,” he added. It’s one thing to be confident in yourself and to be confidednt in your preparation. It’s a different thing to actually perform under such pressure. As soon as Alapag managed to shoot his shot, Gabe Norwood did what any other good teammate would do and got in position to get the offensive rebound. You know, just in case. Gabe got the ball alright, but he got it after it swished through the rim. “When he put the shot up, I tried to crash for the rebound but I basically knew that it was going in,” he said. “I had probably the best view, I was right under the basket. I think caught it after it went through too,” Norwood added. Alapag checked out moments later as the Philippines went to its defensive lineup in order to stop another Korean comeback. South Korea turned to its most effective shooter in Kim and as he rose up to try and answer Alapag’s triple, Norwood met him at the apex for the game’s most dramatic stop. Gabe blocked Kim and Gilas would finish things off with a final Marc Pingris basket on the other end. A historic 86-79 win was complete. “I still get chills thinking about it, to look up and see grown men just breaking down. My wife was trying to hold my kids and she was holding back tears. It was just an awesome moment, the bond that we had on that team, the stuff that we did to get prepare, I think we poured it all out in that game,” Norwood said on the monumental victory. “I think it probably didn’t hit me until the final buzzer sounded. Not just for me but for the entire team, when that final buzzer sounded, it was such a special group of guys and the fact that we could share that moment with not just with each other but the entire country, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Alapag added, savoring the moment of a Philippine win over Korea 28 years in the making.   THE INTRODUCTION Gilas Pilipinas would lose to Iran the next day in the Finals of the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships. The Philippines put up a fight but Hamed Haddadi would prove to be too powerful to stop. It would take another two years for Gilas to beat Iran but that didn’t really matter in the moment. The Philippines is headed to the World Championships for the first time in three decades. The Philippines has beaten South Korea and one singular shot has allowed the Gilas name to be known around the world. Jimmy wouldn’t say that though. At least not directly in that way. “For me, that shot was the biggest for my career. But really, it was our entire team. We’ve gone through so much and that was just one particular play that really culminated the entire game and all the contributions from other guys from Gabe’s defense, to Ping’s rebounding, to Japeth’s rim protecting, to Jayson and LA doing a lot of the legwork,” Alapag said. “Everybody had their part in contribution to the game. After the shot, after the buzzer sounded, it was just a very special moment for us as a team and for Philippine basketball to show that all of the sacrifices, all of the hard work, now it’s given an opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to the world,” he added. Jimmy wouldn’t say it, but his teammates would. That shot of his that beat South Korea in the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships introduced the Gilas name to the world. It announced that the Philippines has finally arrived. Gilas’ breakthrough overtime win a year later in Spain against Senegal — a game Jimmy pretty much decided late as well — made it known that Filipinos are here to stay on the World stage. “I would say so, it got us to where we wanted to be in the World Cup. I think we shocked some people there as well. But just the work that went in, I think it showed the country that we can get back to where we want to be as long as you work together,” Norwood said. “Yung puso ni Jimmy, grabe naman. Makikita mo maliit pero gusto lang niya talaga manalo. Ang liit pero parang lion pag nagalit eh, nandoon yung tiwala namin sa kanya. Ano pa ba masasabi mo, Jimmy is Jimmy Alapag,” Pingris would add.   [NOTES: At the time of original publishing, Gilas Pilipinas was fighting to make a return trip to the FIBA World Cup, this time in China in 2019. To secure its slot, the the Philippine national team needed to beat Kazakhstan in Astana plus a loss from Japan, Jordan, and/or Lebanon. One of the teams that can help Gilas is South Korea... ironically. Jimmy Alapag retired from national team play in 2014 and retired playing for good in 2016. He has since made himself a champion basketball coach in the ABL. Marc Pingris suffered an ACL injury in 2018 and is in the process of returning for his PBA team in the current 2019 season. Gabe Norwood is still in Gilas. He’s still an effective two-way weapon. He can still dunk and will stop your best player too.] The Philippines beat Kazakhstan to make the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. Gilas got help from... South Korea. The Koreans beat Lebanon on the road, allowing Gilas to advance to the World Championships outright with a victory over Kazakhstan.]   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 2nd, 2020

Mark Sangiao pleased to see Team Lakay wards maintain fitness even during quarantine

With Baguio City beginning to ease up on quarantine restrictions, it’s only a matter of time before gyms begin to open back up, something that Filipino martial arts stable Team Lakay is eagerly looking forward to. Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao has stressed the importance of being able to return to the gym for proper training, but he’s pleased to see that even during the two-month period that the whole of Luzon was under Enhanced Community Quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his wards had maintained their commitment to staying fit and in tip-top shape. “The good thing about it is that they stayed locked-in and never really relaxed, even though we’re in a quarantine period,” Sangiao expressed. Given that at home, it’s easy to be lazy and blow off training, the level of commitment that these champion athletes is indeed commendable. “Their fitness levels are very good. I am happy they did their part as athletes during ECQ and they were even posting home workouts on social media,” Sangiao added. Even more impressive is that some of them were able to find creative ways to stay in peak condition. Take for example ONE featherweight contender Edward ‘The Ferocious’ Kelly, who channeled his inner McGyver to create training tools from scrap, while former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario went even further up north in order to continue his outdoor runs. Reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio and former ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon were fortunate enough to be neighbors, so they were able to train with each other during the lockdown. While Baguio has already transitioned into General Community Quarantine, there are still some restrictions in place, that’s why Pacio and other members of the famed Filipino stable decided to move into the gym for the time being. “Joshua and the others are already living here in the gym, in-house,” Sangiao shared. “Joshua decided to stay here, so he does not have to go out often. On the other hand, we go here two to three times a week.” Even with the time off from proper training in the gym, Sangiao noted that there were no signs of rust. “They look like they did not miss a beat because they were disciplined during the quarantine.” With ONE Championship postponing their events for May and with no timetable yet for the events to resume, Sangiao isn’t sure when competition will resume for Team Lakay. Still, there’s no reason to relax. “The plan now is to build up again, train hard, and refocus. As much as possible, we want to pick up where we left off,” Sangiao said.  “I think in one month, they’ll be in competition shape,” he concluded......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 21st, 2020

Bayno left heart in Manila

Indiana Pacers assistant coach Bill Bayno said the other day his love affair with the Philippines over a three-year period was a highlight in his basketball career and if ever there’s a book on his basketball journey, a chapter will be devoted to “that great time in my life.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsApr 26th, 2020

MPBL: Bacoor s passion for their club keeps their title hopes alive

Even in the undercard of Thursday night's South Semifinals game 2 between Bacoor and Basilan, the STRIKE Gymnasium in Baccor City was already packed to the gills. While Davao Occidental was busy eliminating Zamboanga, there was already a crush of people trying to jam themselves into the arena through the corner entrance. At the final buzzer there was an awkward moment when some fans tried to squeeze out the door while many other Bacoorenos were forcing themselves in. A man who seemed to be in charge of the traffic tried to close the door and prevent others from streaming in. But it was useless. Bacoor has fallen hard for their Strikers, and nothing could stop them from catching their team in a do-or-die home playoff game against Basilan Steel Jumbo Plastic. Basilan took the first game, Bacoor had to have this one. The situation was a bit less chaotic from the VIP entrance, which leads to the stage behind one of the goals. From there the sight of so many Bacoor fans crammed into the arena could be properly beheld. The STRIKE Gym is a small arena, but on top of its first level of seating is a second tier. Both areas had every single square inch filled with humanity. Sure, the Strikers had their backs against the wall in this series, down 0-1 in this best-of-three, but some Bacoor fans literally had their backs against the wall as well. As in glued to the back windows and walls because there simply was no other place to be. On either side of the gym there are staircases with a view of the court. They were crammed as well, with Bacoor fans all looking to take a peek, no matter how obstructed, of their beloved team. The upper level of seating has a stainless steel railing in front. Fans were leaning on the railing, two or three deep, all around. Below them sat youngsters fixated on the action, clinging on to the lower bars of the railings. Many dangled legs over the edge. One wonders what would happen if one of them suddenly needed to go to the bathroom. These young urchins were pretty much trapped. In every MPBL game there is a DJ playing music and other sound effects to boost the atmosphere. Tonight his work can barely be heard, as the crowd itself makes an avalanche of noise. Bacoor fancies itself as the Marching Band Capital of the Philippines. There is a band in one corner, with a tuba sticking out into the air, playing lustily, even though this time there is nowhere to march. The home team races to a 20-6 first quarter lead, with the joint heaving with noise with every Bacoor basket. Bacoor fans choose passion over passiveness, roaring with every hustle play, and bombarding the Basilan coach with jeers of “EEE-YA-KIN” every time he complains to the referee. Mac Andaya is an obvious fan favorite. With his old testament beard paired with a messy man bun, the big man draws an extra-large helping of oohs and whenever he goes to the cup. The Strikers lead 43-21 at the half, with Basilan's offense in disarray. In the third quarter Striker King Destacamento executes a perfect putback jam, and underneath the din you can almost hear the rivets of the roof creak as they strain to hold the arena together in one piece. The Philippines has never really had a history of home-and-away sports. Basketball, volleyball and football have mostly been played in shared venues, where fan allegiance is split. Apart from a brave section of Basilan fans, everyone here tonight is cheering on the Strikers. Gilas games are home games, but they are mostly played in cavernous venues, with pricey tickets that only wealthy, “prawn sandwich” fans can afford. It seems that these fans would rather sit and watch than actively participate. The atmosphere is often wanting. But Bacoor fans, like many in MPBL communities, are blue collar, and the league is slaking their long-suppressed thirst for quality live hoops. And it happens in small, intimate bandboxes all over the country, where the cheering bounces off the walls and is amplified tenfold. This makes the MPBL playoff game is an experience unlike any other in Filipino hoops. There is a speedbump in the fourth quarter, as the visitors unleash a late run to cut the deficit to just seven with a minute and a half remaining. But when Bacoor marksman Michael Mabulac hauls down a crucial offensive board, the jugular is well and truly severed, and the party can begin. Final score: 80-69 Bacoor. What else is there left to do for the fans but stream out onto the court for selfies and hugs with the players. Bacoor is alive in the playoffs as the series goes 1-1. And best of all: as the higher seed, Bacoor fans get to do it all over again on Saturday in the deciding Game 3......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 6th, 2020

Derrick Henry, Titans stun Patriots 20-13 in wild-card upset

By Barry Wilner, Associated Press FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — When the eerie Foxborough fog lifted, it became clear that New England's reign atop the NFL was ending. Derrick Henry ensured that with the kind of dominating playoff performance usually reserved for Tom Brady and the Patriots. Henry rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown while Tennessee's defense stymied Brady and perhaps ended his championship-filled New England career with a 20-13 wild-card victory Saturday night. “It’s a great win against a great team in a hostile environment," Henry said on his 26th birthday. “Credit to my team. I’m just happy we were able to advance. “We were just locked in. That was our mindset, just coming in here doing what we needed to do in all three phases, stay locked in no matter what happens in the game, and I feel like we did that.” For sure. As that dense fog that shrouded Gillette Stadium for the first half dissipated, the Patriots, who made the last three Super Bowls and won two, stalled repeatedly with the ball. They no longer were the bullies on the block — Henry was. Six-time champ Brady's contract is up and the 42-year-old quarterback could well be headed elsewhere, including retirement. “I just came off the field," Brady said when asked about his future, but added that it is pretty unlikely he will retire. “There is nobody who has had a better career than me,” he said. “I am very blessed.'' As for this defeat, the Patriots' fourth as a wild card, Brady noted: “They kind of stopped us in the first half and the second half and we couldn't get the job done.'' Meanwhile, the Titans (10-7) are headed next week to Baltimore, the league's top team. There was no scoring in the second half when All-Pro Brett Kern's 58-yard punt that took up 10 seconds rolled down at the New England 1. Brady then was picked by former Patriot Logan Ryan for a 9-yard touchdown to finish off the Patriots (12-5), who at one point were 8-0. The game's first three possessions wound up as three long scoring drives. A 29-yard screen pass to James White set up Nick Folk's 36-yard field goal, but Tennessee answered with a 75-yard march built around Henry. He had no role on the touchdown, Tannehill's pass to a Harvard man, tight end Anthony Firkser that made it 7-3. New England counterpunched with its own 75-yard drive, taking temporary control of the game by victimizing Tennessee's defense on the outside. The Titans looked slow trying to protect the flanks as Sony Michel broke off a 25-yard run and White had a 14-yarder. Julian Edelman finished it with the first rushing touchdown of his 11 pro seasons, a 5-yard dash to the unprotected left side of the Tennessee D. New England appeared primed for another touchdown after Mohamed Sanu's 14-yard punt return set up the Patriots at the Titans 47, and they steadily drove to first-and-goal at the 1. All they got was Folk's 21-yard field goal as three runs failed. It was the 13th time the Patriots had first-and-goal at the 1 in a playoff game in the Brady era and the first time they failed to get a TD on the drive. Tannehill led the NFL with a career-best 117.5 passer rating and by averaging 9.6 yards per pass attempt. But he didn't do a whole lot Saturday night in his first postseason game: 8 of 15 for 72 yards. His awful decision to put the ball up for grabs on the first play of the fourth quarter resulted in Duron Harmon's interception. But New England's spotty attack flopped and never revived. That has not been unusual during the second half of the schedule. Tannehill's passing yards were the fewest for a starter since the Ravens' Joe Flacco had 34 in a wild-card win against the Patriots 10 years ago. BIRTHDAY BOY Henry celebrated his birthday by getting the most rushing yards against a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team in the playoffs. He set an early tone by rushing for 49 of the Titans' 75 yards on their opening touchdown drive. On the Titans' second 75-yard TD march, all Henry did was gain every yard: 22 on a screen pass and 53 rushing, including a 1-yard dive into the end zone for a 14-13 halftime lead. Those were Tennessee's first points in the final two minutes of the opening half since Week 8. He led the NFL in rushing this season with 1,540 yards in 15 games, the fourth-most rushing yards in franchise history. Henry also ran for 16 TDs, second most in team history. NEW ENGLAND SLUMP After winning their first eight games, the Patriots struggled mightily in the second half of the schedule. They lost four games, and with the defeat by the Titans, they fell three times at home. INJURIES Titans: Linebacker Jayon Brown hurt his shoulder in the first half. Patriots: Safety Patrick Chung left in the first quarter with an ankle issue. NEXT UP Titans: Head to Baltimore in the divisional round. Patriots: Head home early, failing to become the second team to make four straight Super Bowls. And wondering where Brady is headed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2020

The King reigns: LeBron James is AP’s male athlete of decade

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press He left Cleveland for Miami, finally became a champion, went back to his beloved northeast Ohio, delivered on another title promise, then left for the Los Angeles Lakers and the next challenge. He played in eight straight finals. No NBA player won more games or more MVP awards over the last 10 years than he did. He started a school. He married his high school sweetheart. “That’s all?” LeBron James asked, feigning disbelief. No, that’s not all. Those were just some highlights of the last 10 years. There were many more, as the man called “King” spent the last decade reigning over all others — with no signs of slowing down. James is The Associated Press male athlete of the decade, adding his name to a list that includes Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky and Arnold Palmer. He was a runaway winner in a vote of AP member sports editors and AP beat writers, easily outpacing runner-up Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. “You add another 10 years of learning and adversity, pitfalls, good, great, bad, and any smart person who wants to grow will learn from all those experiences,” James, who turns 35 Monday, told the AP. “A decade ago, I just turned 25. I’m about to be 35 and I’m just in a better (place) in my life and have a better understanding of what I want to get out of life.” Usain Bolt of Jamaica was third for dominating the sprints at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, soccer superstar Lionel Messi was fourth and Michael Phelps — the U.S. swimmer who retired as history’s most decorated Olympian with 28 medals, 23 gold — was fifth. James was revealed as the winner Sunday, one day after Serena Williams was announced as the AP’s female athlete of the decade. In his 17th season, he’s on pace to lead the league in assists for the first time while remaining among the NBA’s scoring leaders. “When LeBron James is involved,” Denver coach Michael Malone said, “I’m never surprised.” Including playoffs, no one in the NBA scored more points than James in the last 10 years. He started the decade 124th on the league’s all-time scoring list. He’s now about to pass Kobe Bryant for No. 3. No. 2 Karl Malone and No. 1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are within reach. Is Abdul-Jabbar in his sights? Is catching him the new decade’s goal? “I would be lying if I said I don’t see it,” James said. “Obviously I’m not trying to say, ‘OK, well if I play this amount of time, if I average this’ ... I’m not doing that because I’ve never done that with my career. I’ve always just kind of let it happen. Whatever happens, happens. But I see it. I do see it.” His work ethic, even now, makes even those closest to him marvel. Here’s a typical day this past summer for James, who remains obsessed with working even though fame and fortune found him long ago: He’d wake up at 3 a.m. and be at the Warner Bros. lot by 3:45 — where a weight room and court, built just for him, were waiting. He’d be lifting by 4 a.m., getting shots up by 5:30 and be ready to start another day of shooting the remake of “Space Jam” that he has been planning for years by 7 a.m. “That’s who he is,” said Mike Mancias, one of the longest-tenured and most trusted members of James’ inner circle, tasked for more than 15 years with keeping James fit. “He does whatever it takes when it comes to fulfilling his commitments to everything — especially his game and his craft.” The 2010s for James started with “The Decision,” the widely criticized televised announcement of his choice to leave Cleveland for Miami. (Lost in the hubbub: The show raised more than $2.5 million for charity.) He was with the Heat for four years, went to the NBA Finals all four times with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, finally won the title in 2012 — “it’s about damn time,” he said at the trophy celebration — and led the way in a Game 7 win over San Antonio to go back-to-back the following year. “He grew immensely here as a leader,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He impacted winning as much as with his leadership as he did with his talent. I think that was the most important thing he learned with us. And he’s been able to take that to different franchises and continue using that as a template.” Cleveland was devastated when he left. It forgave him. James returned home in 2014, took Cleveland to four consecutive finals, then led the Cavaliers to the 2016 title and came up with one of the biggest plays of his life by pulling off a chase-down block of Golden State’s Andre Iguodala in the final seconds of Game 7 of that series. And in 2018, he was off to LA. Going Hollywood made so much sense — he’s making movies, has a production company, has a program called “The Shop” as part of his ‘Uninterrupted’ platform featuring an array of guests from Drake to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who signed a bill on the show that will allow college athletes to get paid for the use of their likeness and sign endorsement deals. “There’s a lot of moments from this decade that would be up there, winning the two Miami championships, winning a championship in Cleveland, the chase-down block,” James said. “But the best moment? Definitely marrying Savannah. That would be No. 1.” James and longtime partner Savannah Brinson got married six years ago. They already had two sons — both are very good basketball players already — and added a daughter in 2014. James also spent most of the last decade as a lightning rod for critics. He used his voice often on social matters, speaking out after the killing of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and campaigning for Hillary Clinton. He supported Colin Kaepernick’s methods of protesting police brutality and racial injustice. Most recently, he was criticized by many — including top U.S. lawmakers — for his remarks after Houston general manager Daryl Morey sparked a massive rift between the NBA and China by sending out a tweet supporting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. “I don’t live in regret,” James said. “There’s no moment in this last decade that I wish I could have back. If a situation was bad or you feel like you could have done better, then I learned from it.” He doesn’t know how much longer he’ll play. He laments missing time with his children. His “I Promise” school that opened in 2018 in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, has been an immediate success story, and he wants to see that enterprise continue growing. Some love him. Some don’t. He doesn’t mind. “When you believe in your calling or you believe in yourself, then it doesn’t matter what other people say or how other people feel,” James said. “And if you allow that to stop you or deter you from your mission, then you don’t get anywhere.” And in the 2010s, nothing deterred James......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 30th, 2019

UFC s toughest Cowboy set for career fight vs. McGregor

By Dan Gelston, Associated Press Donald Cerrone posted a booze-fueled photo to hype his anticipated fight against Conor McGregor: A bottle of Cerrone's preferred cheap American-style beer vs. the Irish fighter's own whiskey. Cerrone has eschewed McGregor's Proper No. Twelve whiskey, but the winningest fighter in UFC history finally takes his shot at the hard liquor's founder in a January fight at least five years in the making. UFC fans have buzzed for years about the potential brouhaha between McGregor, the biggest star in the sport, and the hard-living fighter better known as "Cowboy." Once the fight was announced last week, the prospect of some four-letter-word trash talking between two of the biggest mouths in the sport was dimmed — at least for now — when McGregor went on social media and wished Cerrone's family a happy holiday. McGregor's friendly acknowledgment came with a steely caveat, " See you in 20/20 with bullseye vision."         View this post on Instagram                   Let this Soak in! This will be my 51st MMA fight and I plan to add new numbers to all these list come January 18. I hold the all-time UFC record for wins with 23. I hold the all-time UFC record for finishes with 16. I hold the all-time UFC record for post-fight bonus awards with 18. I hold the all-time UFC record in knockdowns with 20. I hold the all-time UFC record with seven knockouts via kicks. A post shared by Donald Cerrone (@cowboycerrone) on Nov 29, 2019 at 3:27pm PST "This is the fight that everyone wants to see," Cerrone said. "I don't even know why we have to have a media tour. This fight is going to sell itself. He's done a great job of promoting himself and becoming Conor McGregor." The 170-pound bout is set to headline UFC 246 on Jan. 18 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. McGregor will fight inside the octagon for only the second time in 38 months and the first time since he was choked out by Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018. Cerrone will continue to add to his legacy as MMA's busiest fighter — he fought four times in 2019 (2-2) and holds the UFC career record for wins (23) and most finishes (16) in company history. Cerrone doesn't necessarily believe his grind-it-out schedule holds an advantage over McGregor's elongated rest period. "I don't know if I believe in all that ring rust stuff," Cerrone said. "I don't know if that's an actual thing. He's very talented, won two world titles, went in there with Floyd Mayweather. I don't think a year or a couple of years off is going to matter. Who the (heck) knows? I'm coming in full guns a blazing, man. My camp's excited about this fight." His cowboy hat always on, Cerrone has grown into one of the more popular fighters in UFC with his fight anyone, any time style and who always seems up for a good time. The 36-year-old Cerrone (a +190 underdog) has done it all, except win a UFC championship. His method of cramming as many fights as he can into the shortest window has perhaps at times prevented the patience necessary needed to wait for a major title shot. Cerrone's losses this year were to Tony Ferguson (on a 12-fight winning streak and set to fight Nurmagomedov) and Justin Gaethje (three straight wins and a regular fight of the night winner). "I'm like my own worst enemy, for sure," Cerrone said. "My coaches say all the time, don't take that fight. I definitely could have had better opportunities if I was sitting and waiting. But I love it. I love chasing this crazy feeling." He waited out McGregor for what is expected to be the richest payday of his career. The seeds were planted when Cerrone first called out McGregor when they shared the UFC Fight Night card in January 2015. They shared a dais in 2015 to promote upcoming UFC cards and promptly took aim at each other. Cerrone continued through the years to pressure McGregor to kickstart his comeback and fight him. "This fight was going to happen three or four times," Cerrone said. "Everyone would get their hopes up and then it wouldn't go through. It was like, yeah, right, it's not going to happen. Then the contract came sliding across, and I was like, oh (wow), here it is." Cerrone is ready for a "fun as hell" fight night in a matchup that might have been more enticing two or three years ago. The fight has already seemingly become more about how McGregor will look in his return than what a win would mean for Cerrone’s career. But while McGregor has been caught up in a string of legal woes during his time off, Cerrone has remained in about an endless cycle of training. "My wrestling is far superior," Cerrone said Monday by phone on his way to a swim workout outside his training camp home of Albuquerque, New Mexico. "My pace, my cardio, I plan on really putting on the pressure." Cerrone signed a new mutli-fight deal as part of the McGregor bout and has no plans to slow down, no matter the outcome. He's dabbled in acting and says he wants to put his UFC records far out of reach for the next generation of stars. He trains at the BMF Ranch, part of another nickname that's made him one of the more respected fighters inside the cage. Up next, the fight of a lifetime. "What I want to do is get all of America to back me like Ireland does him," Cerrone said, laughing. "That's what I want. If there's a guy for America to stand behind, it's the blue-collar, beer-drinking Cowboy. I think I'm the man.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 3rd, 2019

Several world-ranked stars will light up Dubai once again at Rotund aRumble 2 on November 22.

The #MTKFightNight – promoted by D4G Promotions in association with MTK Global and Round 10 Boxing Club – hosts a range of huge names including WBO world super-lightweight No. 1 Jack Catterall, India’s highly-ranked icon Vijender Singh, Pakistani boxing hero Muhammad Waseem, WBO world bantamweight No. 4 Thomas Patrick Ward and many, many more. A busy undercard kicks off with two local debutants in Fahad Al-Bloushi and Sultan Al-Nuaimi – moments of history for the sport in Dubai. Fighters from no fewer than 15 countries make up a lengthy bill ready to delight a packed audience at the luxurious Caesars Palace, Bluewaters as well as those tuning in on ESPN+ in association with Top Rank and on iFL TV. Here’s a sneak preview of what you need to know…   JACK CATTERALL vs. TIMO SCHWARZKOPF (10 rounds) With a stunning undefeated record of 24-0, 13 KOs, Catterall is already seen as a super-lightweight world champion in waiting. Chorley’s ‘El Gato’ has systematically destroyed all put before him since turning professional in 2012; claiming the Central Area, the WBO European, the WBO Inter-Continental and British crowns. As the No. 1 challenger in the world to WBO and WBC world champion Jose Ramirez, Catterall is in line for a career-defining world title shot in 2020 but standing in his way is the high-class Schwarzkopf. Germany’s Schwarzkopf (20-3, 12 KOs) is a former IBF International welterweight and EBU European super-lightweight champion and is likely to push Catterall into producing his very best on the night.   VIJENDER SINGH vs. CHARLES ADAMU (10 rounds) Undefeated Singh (11-0, 8 KOs) is a sporting icon in his home country and regularly rubs shoulders with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar. Having already picked up the WBO super-middleweight Asia Pacific super-middleweight title and the WBO Oriental crown, Singh continues to gather an entire nation behind him on his quest to reach world champion status. In Ghana’s vastly-experience Adamu (33-14, 26 KOs), Singh takes on a man who has been in with the likes of Billy Joe Saunders, Rocky Fielding, George Groves and Carl Froch. Singh said: “For me these fights are going to be a build up to the world title which I am aiming for in 2020. I am sure my debut fight in Dubai is going to be an exciting one and I’m looking forward to a knockout win in the early rounds.”   MUHAMMAD WASEEM vs. GANIGAN LOPEZ (8 rounds) In Pakistan, world-class Waseem (9-1, 7 KOs) is another huge national hero and is supported by compatriots such as Shoaib Akhtar. ‘Falcon’ enjoyed a stellar amateur career that included two Commonwealth Games medals and went on to challenge for the IBF world flyweight title in just his eighth fight as a professional. Although Waseem was narrowly denied the world crown by now MTK Global team-mate Moruti Mthalane, he takes the next step back towards the top against tough Mexican Lopez (36-10, 19 KOs). Waseem, whose last performance was a stunning first-round stoppage on #RotundaRumble, said: “I’m confident of stealing the show once again. I’m very happy to be handed the chance to perform in Dubai for a second time in a row.”   THOMAS PATRICK WARD vs. MARTIN CASILLAS (8 rounds) The fighting pride of the north-east and a super-bantamweight king in waiting, unbeaten Ward (28-0, 4 KOs) is ready to announce himself to Dubai fans in style. The skillful 25-year-old has already made his name in the US by outclassing Jesse Hernandez back in February and is eager to accelerate his march towards world honours having recently signed with MTK Global. Ward said: “I’m very excited to be fighting in Dubai. It’s new for me. I’ve been all around the world but it’s always nice to showcase your skills in front of brand new audience.”   ROHAN DATE vs. JUSTICE ADDY (6 rounds) Dubai-based Irishman Date (10-0-1, 8 KOs) snatched headlines on his last outing on #RotundaRumble when he decimated Pardeep Kharera inside a single round. As he continues to move towards title shots, the 26-year-old will be looking for a similarly spectacular display against Ghana’s heavy hitting Addy (16-6-1, 14 KOs). Having already fought in Dubai four times since turning professional in mid-2016, Date is amassing a substantial following and is looking to charge up the 147lb rankings.   JAYR RAQUINEL vs. JACK AMISA (8 rounds) Raquinel (11-1-1, 8 KOs) is an emerging star of Filipino boxing and has already challenged WBC Silver flyweight honours last year. At the age of just 22, the man from Cauayan has the chance to make a name for himself on the big stage against the experienced Amisa from Indonesia.   HASIBULLAH AHMADI vs. DETNARONG OMKRATHOK (6 rounds) A teen sensational proudly representing Afghanistan, Ahmadi has impressed in blasting his way to 7-0 as a professional. A product of the local Round 10 Boxing Club, Ahmadi recorded an entertaining points win over China’s teak-tough Shidong Cai (10-4-1, 2 KOs) on the last #RotundaRumble show and will look to follow up in front of a growing fanbase.   FAHAD AL-BLOUSHI vs. SANDRO TUGHUSHI (4 rounds) Along with team-mate Sultan Al-Nuaimi, 23-year-old lightweight Al-Bloushi will be making history in joining Majid Al-Naqbi as Dubai’s only professional boxers when he makes his debut in the paid ranks on the night. Al-Bloushi said: “I’m proud to say that this is a stepping stone for us to use our talents further beyond and show the world what the UAE is made of. It’s a blessing to be able to start off the right way, in my home country and to showcase my talent to the boxing community and the community of the UAE.”   SULTAN AL-NUAIMI vs. CHARLES LATUPERISSA (4 rounds) Another man looking to cause a stir on his first outing as a professional is super-flyweight Al-Nuaimi, who won two national titles and represented UAE on numerous occasions. Al-Nuaimi said: “Being a professional boxer representing the UAE is a huge honour that I can’t describe. We can show the world that we are capable of achieving great things and making our nation proud.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 18th, 2019

Young Denver Nuggets set sights much higher this season

By Arnie Stapleton, Associated Press DENVER (AP) — The Nuggets didn’t make major upgrades over the summer like so many of their Western Conference opponents, and they’re fine with that — they figure Denver will turn into a desired destination soon enough. The Nuggets return a young corps that won 54 games last season and came within four points of reaching the conference championship. Eight of their top 12 players are 25 years old or younger, including All-Star center Nikola Jokic, power forward Jerami Grant and fascinating forward Michael Porter Jr., the No. 14 selection in 2018 who sat out last season as he recovered from back surgery. Although they didn’t make any splashy moves in the offseason, the Nuggets were busy over the summer, acquiring Grant from Oklahoma City, picking up Paul Millsap’s $30 million option and signing point guard Jamal Murray to a $170 million extension. Five months later and coach Michael Malone is still blown away by The Joker’s playoff performance that put him in some pretty elite company. In 14 games, the Nuggets’ unpretentious 24-year-old superstar averaged 25.1 points, 13 rebounds and 8.4 assists. The only other players to post averages of at least 20 points, 10 boards and eight assists while playing at least 10 games in the postseason are Oscar Robertson in 1963, Wilt Chamberlin in 1967 and LeBron James in 2015. “Going into the year I don’t know how you can even have an MVP discussion without mentioning his name because of what he did last year, for a guy that is supposedly unathletic and out of shape,” Malone said. “I think he proved a lot of people wrong.” So did the Nuggets, who ended a six-year playoff drought by going 54-28 and becoming the youngest No. 2 seed ever. They won their first playoff series since 2009 with a seven-game ouster of Gregg Popovich and the Spurs in the opening round before falling at home in Game 7 to the Trail Blazers. “We saw our young players grow up,” Malone said. “You can’t replicate those 14 games in the postseason. You can’t replicate two Game 7s. And I think all of our players have grown from that experience. They’re coming back more confident.” COACH’S CAUTION Now that the Nuggets have broken through and tasted playoff success, Malone’s main goal is to make sure his team guards against letting up. “That’s going to be our greatest challenge,” he said. “It’s not the Lakers, the Clippers, the Warriors, the Jazz or Rockets. It’s us. Fighting ourselves and fighting human nature and not thinking that we’ve arrived, because we haven’t done a damn thing yet.” NO JOKE Malone wants more AND less out of Jokic. “We became so reliant upon Nikola in the postseason,” he said. “I go back to Game 7, when we lost to Portland and he came to my office he’s crying and apologizing for missing a big free throw. He missed the free throw because he was dead tired. The guy was playing 40 minutes a night. Hopefully this year in the playoffs — if we get back to the playoffs — we don’t have to be so reliant on him.” MOTIVATED MURRAY Murray cringes when he hears someone say the Nuggets can end Golden State’s reign out West and reach the NBA Finals. “We need to have the mentality that we’re going to win it,” he said. Murray figures the Nuggets have all the ingredients: “a passing center, shooters all around, the deepest bench.” What they need is more consistency, starting with his own. “I can’t go 4 for 18 or whatever I was in Game 7” against Portland, he said. GRATEFUL GRANT The Nuggets acquired Grant from the Thunder for a 2020 first-round pick. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward is coming off a breakout season that saw him set career highs in points (13.6) and rebounds (5.2). He also blocked 100 shots and collected 61 steals. “It’s good to get off a sinking ship,” said Grant, the son of longtime NBA player Harvey Grant. “I couldn’t really ask for a better situation.” PERSISTENT PORTER “I have no pain. All my flexibility is back and I feel pretty good out there,” said Porter, who has only played in three games since high school because of his bad back (and a knee injury that scuttled his Summer League plans). “No matter how many times you fall it’s up to you if you’re going to get back up, even if you fall a million times,” Porter said. “Eventually my time will come when I’m meant to be a basketball player.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 16th, 2019

Zion Williamson brings rare potential to New Orleans

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Eventually, as with every NBA Draft, there will be a “re-draft” of the Class of 2019. That’s the irresistible exercise in hindsight from media outlets that rank a particular year’s prospects not on their projected value but on actual demonstrated value five, 10 or more seasons into their professional careers. Some players will rise. Others will fall. “Bust” and “sleeper” tags will be dispersed accordingly. This team or GM will be lauded for an especially savvy selection, that one will be razzed for the quality player or players on whom it whiffed. But the through line of the dreams-come-true event Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Barclays Center, the lone selection that will not or at least should not change, is Zion Williamson. Williamson is the sure thing, the “can’t miss,” consensus No. 1 pick bound for the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s a 6'7", 285-pound freshman from Duke whose comps aren’t merely established players currently in the NBA but some of the game’s legends. So think Blake Griffin, sure. But also think LeBron James. And Charles Barkley. And, for that matter, every other wide-body who’s ever played with muscles on muscles, above-the-rim explosiveness, balletic body control and an instantly recognizable game that’s as charismatic as it is freakish. Yeah, awfully small subset. “I’m looking forward to playing against everybody,” Williamson said soon after his selection. “I want to be the best. I feel I have to earn everybody’s respect.” It’s not just a matter of Williamson’s game tickling NBA fans’ fancy, either. He managed, in almost his first official pro moment, to capture a lot of their hearts too. No sooner had Williamson – the first No. 1 pick to be born in this millennium (July 6, 2000) – strode to the stage in his cream-white suit, tugged on a Pelicans draft cap and embraced NBA commissioner Adam Silver, he dropped his guard to let the world share his emotions in the moment. His status as college basketball’s best and his draft position had been established months ago. There was no new mystery as to when his name would be called by Silver at the podium. And yet, when the first ESPN microphone was poked in front of him, with his mother Sharonda Sampson at his side, the big guy lost it. He choked up and blinked back tears, not quite winning that battle. “My mom sacrificed a lot for me,” Williamson said. “I wouldn’t be here without my mom. She did everything for me. I just want to thank her.” Several interviews and maybe 20 minutes later, Williamson explained how the horribly kept secret of his No. 1 selection could trigger his response. “Because I love the game of basketball,” he said. “You can hear people say things like, ‘Oh, it was likely I was going to go No. 1.’ But I guess you don’t know until you actually go through it.” What mattered most to Williamson about his mother’s role in his life? “Tough love,” he said. “She was always be the first one to keep it real with me. … She put aside her dreams just so me and my brothers could have a chance at ours.” The love already heading Williamson’s way in New Orleans was less tough and more unconditional at this stage, for the teenager represents a re-birth for a Pelicans franchise rocked by the loss of All-Star forward Anthony Davis. Davis, coincidentally, was the No. 1 pick in 2012 and generally considered the top prospect to hit the Draft before Williamson. But after six-and-a-half seasons and only two trips to the playoffs, Davis asked in December to be traded, despite having more than two-plus seasons left on his contract. David Griffin, the Pelicans' new vice president of basketball operations, had hoped that Williamson’s arrival might convince Davis to stay. When that didn’t happen, Griffin swiftly shifted to Plan B, arranging to trade the discontented big man to the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal that won’t be official until July. Now New Orleans, which has won just two playoff series in its 17 seasons and failed to qualify 10 times, has a new cornerstone. Williamson figures to be under team control contractually for as long or longer than Davis stuck around, with teammates relocated from L.A. such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart to run with him and Pelicans holdovers. “What excites me the most is the fact that they’re young and they’re close to my age,” said Duke’s third No. 1 overall pick (Elton Brand in 1999, Kyrie Irving in 2011). “So they can help me a lot more, like how to deal with this transition. I think we can build something over there.” The essential block is Williamson, who swept college basketball’s major awards with a game that strains credulity. At 285 pounds, his listed weight is greater than almost every big man in the NBA, but he has quick-twitch speed and thrives in the open court. He can stare down into the rim before slamming home dunks with unnerving ferocity, and he is a deft and willing passer. Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 30 minutes for the Blue Devils, while making 68 percent of his shots. He and fellow Top 10 picks R.J. Barrett (New York, No. 3) and Cam Reddish (Atlanta, No. 10) helped Duke reach the Elite Eight, with Williamson earning ACC Tournament MVP along the way. He’s not a perfect player – his jump shot and range need work – but he already is working to complement his transition and low-post repertoire. Defensively, Williamson has the motor and mobility to switch assignments and quick hands to dislodge the ball without fouling. As a rebounder, his verticality is matched by, well, his horizontality in controlling the air space above and around him. “His size, his athleticism, his power is visible,” former St. John’s coach and Naismith Hall of Famer Chris Mullin said. “But to me his speed is really incredible from end to end. “I would morph Charles Barkley and Shawn Kemp and put them together [as a comparison]. When he gets to the NBA and he plays with that extra space they have in the wide key, he’s going to be a monster.” Williamson arrives with hype – no, make that expectations, because of all he’s shown already on courts around America – that rival what James shouldered when he arrived from high school in 2003. His plan for lugging that responsibility: “Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do it, because I feel people remember winners.” The selections immediately after Williamson were nearly as predictable, based on intelligence and mock drafts that solidified in the days before the Draft. Murry State guard Ja Morant was chosen by Memphis at No. 2, and Barrett’s ensuing selection by the Knicks delighted their always boisterous fans in the stands at Barclay. The order of the next four choices was jumbled from some predictions. Yet by the time the smoke cleared, sure enough, the seven players projected to come off the board soonest had slotted into the night’s top seven spots. That included Virginia forward De’andre Hunter to Atlanta at No. 4 (via the Lakers, in the aforementioned Davis trade that has yet to be completed), Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland to Cleveland at No. 5, Texas Tech wing Jarrett Culver to Minnesota at No. 6 and North Carolina guard Coby White to Chicago at No. 7. Just because there wasn’t a lot of suspense at Barclays didn’t mean there was no intrigue. Much of that came from unusually heavy trade action – all technically unofficial – that had teams moving up, down and all around to snag picks, dump picks or clean up their salary-cap positions in anticipation of free agency that starts June 30. The timing of the Draft, relative to when the NBA’s new business year begins, had players donning caps of teams they’ll never play for, while speaking guardedly about those for whom they really were picked. A reported nine trades impacted draft decisions made in the first round alone. There even was a moment when Morant, in his post-Draft media session, gave a shout-out to veteran Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, whose spot he’ll presumably be taking once Conley’s trade to Utah officially goes through. But there’s no such uncertainty about Williamson, the through line of this year’s class, the true line in his heartfelt reactions Thursday (Friday, PHL time) and broad-shouldered hope of a Big Easy franchise in need. Williamson showed his grasp of the NBA’s and sports’ need for fresh icons, in effect accepting his status as a legend in waiting. “You know, times change,” he said. “That’s why there are so many debates about who people think the greatest players of all time are. If you were in the time of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, you’d probably say one of those two. If you were in the time of Jordan, you’d say Jordan. In our generation, a lot of them say LeBron. “So times changes and I think younger fans like younger players.” You don’t have to be young, though, to have your eye on Zion. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 21st, 2019

Curry, Lillard battle for NBA supremacy, Oakland s affection

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND — He arrived at the Western Conference finals wearing the jersey of the Oakland A’s, who play right next door at the Coliseum, just a five-minute drive from where he was born. Damian Lillard paused and signed a few autographs before entering Oracle Arena, because he is a man of the people, and these are his people. None of them mention that, in their hearts, they’re rooting for him to lose this playoff series, and so it goes unspoken, a truce in a sense. For this fleeting moment, they’re Lillard fans, until the ball goes up. And then it’s all for Steph Curry, all night long. There is a competition within the competition between the Warriors and Blazers, and it is the battle for the affection of Oakland. There is Lillard, the pride of the Brookfield Village neighborhood, who has blossomed into a bonafide star with the Blazers. And then there’s Curry, the symbol of a basketball renaissance here, who has raised the profile of Oakland the last several years. Now you see why The Town is a bit conflicted. A bit. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The conference championship may well hinge on the performance of these All-NBA guards. Game 1 was fairly lopsided, both in terms of the teams — Warriors 116, Blazers 94 — and the two principles. Lillard struggled Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) and appeared whipped, physically if not mentally, no doubt from a grueling seven-game second round that just wrapped up 48 hours earlier. He missed 8-of-12 shots, had seven turnovers and, in a rarity for him, he was a non-factor for Portland. He’s a combined 7-for-29 in his last two games. Meanwhile, Curry rolled, dropping 36 points and the Blazers along with them. And so, this is the verdict: Portland cannot hope to stretch this series beyond four games, five tops, without the max from Lillard. He obviously means that much. And Curry, now working without the comforts of his injured co-star Kevin Durant for the second straight game, and maybe without Durant for another two games, needs to keep his skills elevated to prevent suspense from encroaching on the series. The Warriors are well aware of what Lillard has done to them in the past; he has averaged more points against the hometown team (27.0) than any in his career likely because of provincial pride. Yet Golden State is also aware that he has yet to beat them in any game or series of significance. “He’s one of the best guards in this league and carries a chip on his shoulder and it has (worked) well for him in his career,” said Draymond Green. “A special talent. I know he’s excited to be back home playing in the last year at Oracle. So it’s special for him but it don’t mean nothing to us. We’ve got to come out here and try to stop him. A tall task.” While the East Bay has given birth to its share of NBA stars, with Bill Russell, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton among them, Lillard is still freshly active and refreshingly loyal. The connection between him and Oakland remains unwavering despite fame and distance and the fact it’s his job and desire to shock the world in the next few weeks. He played at St. Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda and then finished at Oakland High, and a thick section of fans at Oracle Wednesday were wrapped in Blazers gear and made their preference clear. Most were either from the old neighborhood or family members. His high school coach, Damon Jones, is a Warriors season ticket holder, and Jones said: “Nobody bought me a drink tonight.” The coach added, playfully: “They gave me a hard time. When the Warriors scored, they wanted to turn around and slap five but then caught themselves at the last minute.” Jones remembers Lillard as being a promising and quick guard who picked up the nuances of the game rapidly. “He was very personable for someone his age, a solid teammate,” Jones said. “He still keeps in touch with all of his former teammates. It’s a brotherhood and he’s the leader. He’s always trying to be a positive influence on everyone around here.” Lillard returns every summer to give away backpacks with school supplies and funded the renovation of the Oakland High gym. He’s a familiar sight around town in the offseason and always approachable, and that loyalty and devotion doesn’t go unnoticed. “People here respect him,” said Raymond Young, Lillard’s AAU coach. “When he comes here to play, people here say they’re going to clap for Damian but cheer for the Warriors. Only he can get that kind of reaction. His loyalty comes from his family. His mother and father were no-problem parents. They let us coach him. He was a joy to be around. Still is.” Lillard is even more endearing because he comes from humble beginnings and is self-made. Both of his youth coaches are admittedly shocked by his impact in the NBA. He wound up at Weber State. He wasn’t highly recruited by the big schools. Even nearby Cal-Berkeley came late. “But if he goes there,” said Young, “does all this happen?” Lillard is revered in another place as well. Portland is also smitten by his loyalty; in an age of transient stars, Lillard has never wanted to play anywhere else. Perhaps this has cost him some visibility, with a majority of his games tipping off at 10:30 ET. It’s a price he’s more than willing to pay. Lillard has never taken a team this deep into the playoffs, where legends and reputations are made, and so being in the conference finals represents some new and deserved shine for him. A layer of that invisibility was peeled off in these playoffs where Lillard has come up massive. His shot from nearly 40 feet that eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round, and the bye-bye wave reaction, became iconic. Then he followed up with a strong second round as well against the Nuggets, although as that series crept to the conclusion, Lillard shot just 3-for-17 in that Game 7, then followed up with a 4-for-12 Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), proof that he might be gassed — and also that the Warriors cooked up a defensive game plan specifically for him. “Obviously it’s a little bit difficult physically and emotionally just because you’re excited about being in the Western Conference finals,” said Lillard. “You come straight here form Denver and get ready for the best team in the league. But once we lace our shoes and put our uniforms on, it’s fair and square. You got to go out there and handle your business. "They did a good job defensively and even when I was trying to find (teammates), they were getting deflections. They were making me play in a crowd. I thought they were successful at that … in this first game.” But his toughest task of all might be upstaging Curry, particularly here in Oakland. While Lillard has flourished through much of the postseason, Curry by comparison has been mild, especially by his standards. The missed layups, a famously flubbed dunk attempt and sporadic three-point shooting was unsightly. And then, after Durant limped off the floor, Curry felt a sense of urgency and a flush of greatness. He buried the Rockets with a pair of epic fourth quarters, then kept the faucet running Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). The Blazers couldn’t limit or at least slow him anywhere on the floor, especially from the three-point line, where Curry was a sizzling 9-for-15. And no missed layups. In his last six quarters of basketball, Curry has scored 69 points with 13-for-24 shooting on 3s. “I know what I’m capable of doing on the floor," Curry said, "and the situation calls for me to be more aggressive and hopefully that will continue. It’s nice to see the ball go in. I want to maintain that. I didn’t shoot well for 4.5 games the last series. Every game is different. You have to reestablish yourself and that’s my perspective no matter how I play.” Curry didn’t arrive wearing the baseball jersey of the home team, and if anything has been spotted at San Franciso Giants games across the Bay, where the Warriors will call home starting next season. But don’t get anything twisted. Curry’s bond with Oakland, developed over time, is genuine and real for someone born and bred a country away in Charlotte, and the feeling is mutual. The tug of war for the heartstrings of Oakland is subtle between the pair of franchise players on the floor in this playoff series. Call it a draw from the standpoint of whom the fans here respect and appreciate. There’s enough love to be shared by both. Yet in the basketball sense, this series is on the verge of being owned by the one wearing the jersey that reps Oakland. Curry has more momentum and better teammates, and Durant is on deck. Oakland, therefore, will indeed cheer for one of its own, for Damian Lillard. But the way this series and these playoffs are going, The Town is anxious to pop bottles with Steph Curry once again, at the usual place and time, for one last time. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2019

Phil and James Younghusband discuss their retirement and future with Philippine football

In a span of just months, Filipino-British football stars Phil and James Younghusband both announced their retirement from the sport, thus ending the Younghusband era in Philippine football.  Phil and James were crucial parts of the Philippine Azkals’ biggest moments, including the Miracle in Hanoi during the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, as well as their recent milestones with the AFC Asian Cup berth.  In November of 2019, Phil, the Philippine Azkals’ leading goalscorer announced that he was calling it a career, and in June of 2020, his older brother James followed suit. As it turns out, that wasn’t the original plan for James, who initially wanted hang his spikes up at the end of the year. Speaking to Cedelf Tupas on the Crossover Podcast, James shared that he actually wanted to play out the whole 2020 Philippines Football League season, but the COVID-19 pandemic axed those plans.  “Originally, my plan was to finish off the year with Ceres with the whole 2020 season but of course, with the pandemic and the situation and football put on hold especially now here with it still on break, I just felt it was time to announce, I’ve decided to end it a bit earlier,” James said.  Ceres-Negros was the final stop on James’ long and decorated professional Philippine club football career, which began in 2011.  While 2019 was indeed an eventful year for James on the pitch, he admits he would have wanted a proper end to his career.  “Winning the double last year, getting the chance to play in AFC in the Champions League and with AFC Cup, it was a nice way to end it, but of course, would have been nice to finish the year.” With the uncertainty of things given the COVID-19 pandemic however, James felt that the time was right to put a bow on what has been a great career.  “Just felt with the momentum of being on break, I had to announce it now, and seeing around, waiting around, wondering when the league would restart but I felt yeah, it was time to announce it and I’m just thankful to everyone for the great messages and the great articles…itreally feels great to see that appreciation.” James admitted that seeing his younger brother retire first did play a part in influencing his decision as well.  “Yeah, I think as well. During this time, you’re sitting at home, a lot of time to think and evaluate yourself and your life, and as well, my brother he’s starting a family, me as well I felt there’s other things in life I want to experience as well and a new chapter to begin.” “It played a part as well, we had a great run as well, great memories as well and I just felt the time was right during this pandemic to announce it,” James added.  As for Phil, he explained that his decision to retire last year came after a series of setbacks coupled with him getting ready to start a family.  “I mean there’s a lot of ups and downs and the downs can really bring you down and it came to a point that I had successive blows with the folding of Davao, with not being able to start in games in the Asian Cup, it was very disappointing and my morale was very low and I was getting married at the time, losing my job when I knew I had to fund a wedding,” Phil admitted.  “I just knew my priorities when my wife, we were starting a family and I just felt very unmotivated with football so those successive blows really took its toll on me and I knew I didn’t wanna feel that again and I want security and start a family, your priority is family you gonna want to support them and make sure they never in a vulnerable position so I decided I want to be in a position where I can support them and give them security,” Phil continued.  Unfortunately, unlike in most other Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines is still struggling to keep a local club football league afloat, which can largely be attributed to the clubs themselves struggling to get financial support.  “Playing in Philippine football is not gonna give me that because there’s been numerous times clubs folded and look what’s going on now, it’s really tough,” Phil said. “I was in the same position of a lot of players are going through now in Philippine football where clubs are going to find financial support and it’s very difficult. I empathize with anyone in that position.”  While the Younghusband era in Philippine football may be over in terms of them being players, there remains a large possibility that the two remain involved in a different capacity, whether it be coaching or otherwise. “I think it’s now time where I wanna start pursuing a possibility in coaching and learning more about coaching,” he shared. “I would actually like to travel as well to different countries and learn about different cultures about football also, and different philosophies,” said James.  “I wanna travel to different countries and learn different ways of styles of football, coaching football. My goal was always to help develop Philippine football and to go abroad, learn, and come and share that to the Philippines,” he continued.  “James and I have always said a lot of our knowledge and experience were gained at Chelsea Football Club. We were able to watch the best players in the world every day, the best facilities, being under the best coaches in the world and most of our knowledge and experience has come from that but we feel if we want to grow in the sport and we want to help develop football even more in the Philippines, we need to go abroad and gain more knowledge, more experience and be able to bring it back again to the Philippines,” Phil added.  “I think we still have a lot to offer Philippine football, whether that’s next year or the year after. We don’t know but we still have something to offer,” he continued......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News21 hr. 55 min. ago

Column: Johnson back to winning now after brief knee concern

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer It only looks as though Dustin Johnson barely has a pulse on the golf course. One moment made him a little nervous. It wasn't the tee shot that rolled toward the railroad tracks and barely crossed the out-of-bounds line, right after he had taken a two-shot lead in the final round of the Travelers Championship. It wasn't even the tee shot two holes later that was headed for the water until it landed softly enough to stay dry, even though his feet got wet hitting the next one. That's just golf. Good or bad, he moves on. No one has a shorter memory. What caused concern was his knee. Johnson missed three months at the end of last year recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair cartilage damage. He lost another three months when golf shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And then as he worked overtime getting ready to resume, the knee started acting up. He called his partner, Paulina Gretzky, on the Tuesday before the Colonial and said he was coming home. The next day the knee felt better, so he stuck it out and missed the cut. “I was nervous,” Johnson said Tuesday. “I had an MRI when I got home, and everything with my surgery had healed great. It was just a strained tendon.” Whether it was time away from golf and then an abundance of practice, Johnson isn't sure. “Obviously,” he said, “everything is better now.” Johnson won the Travelers Championship for his 22nd victory worldwide, ending a drought of 490 days that matched the longest of his career. It was more exciting than it needed to be, which often is the case with his entertaining brand of golf. After going out of bounds on the 13th, he answered with a 15-foot birdie putt and then got a rare break for him — Johnson's ledger remains heavily skewed toward misfortune on the course — when his ball stayed out of the water. One victory doesn't always signal he's on his way. One shot did it for Butch Harmon, his swing coach who was watching from Las Vegas. With a one-shot lead playing the 18th, Johnson smoked his driver 351 yards, setting up a flip wedge and two putts for the win. “He was leaking oil a little on the back nine,” Harmon said. “His bounce-back is incredible. But the key to me was knowing he had to drive it well on 18. I told him when I talked to him later, that was the part I appreciated the most. Yeah, that was just like Oakmont.” The drive on the daunting closing hole at Oakmont in Pennsylvania, reputed to be the toughest course in America, is what Johnson considers one of the signature shots of his career. It sealed his victory at the 2016 U.S. Open, which remains his only major title. Johnson turned 36 last week. There is still plenty of time to fix the one area of his resume that — with his talent — is sorely lacking. What also got Harmon's attention was where Johnson won. The TPC Riverland Highlands in Connecticut is a par 70 at 6,841 yards, hardly known as a course for big hitters. Johnson played the two par 5s in just 2 under for the week and still shot 19-under 261, his sixth straight victory with a score of 19 under or better. His 22 victories have come on 18 courses. He has won at sea level (Doral) and mile-high altitude (Mexico City). He has won on courses that reward power (Crooked Stick) and shot-making (Riviera). Pebble Beach; the TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee; Kapalua and Chapultepec in Mexico City are the only courses where he has won twice. Johnson wasn't aware of this. “I think it shows my game is suitable for any course,” he said. “I like a variety of golf courses. And a lot of these courses that I didn't like then, I've grown to like now.” He paused before adding with a laugh, “And I wasn't hitting it as straight.” If there are “horses for courses,” this might make him mostly a thoroughbred. He's not alone in that department, of course. Rory McIlroy, the current No. 1 player in golf, has won 26 times on 22 courses around the world, with his only repeat victories at Quail Hollow, TPC Boston and both courses in Dubai (Emirates and Jumeirah Estates). Ditto for Tiger Woods, even if it doesn't seem that way. Woods has eight victories at Torrey Pines, Firestone and Bay Hill. He has five victories at Augusta National, Muirfield Village and Cog Hill. They are among 19 courses where he has won multiple times. That's mainly because Woods wins a lot. Phil Mickelson has 47 wins worldwide on 25 courses, with multiple wins on 14 courses. “Being able to adapt is a huge deal, play on different golf courses,” Bryson DeChambeau said. “That's what I'm trying to learn how to do. I think that will happen down the road if I just keep playing good golf, but being able to adapt in different situations and play in different conditions, win everywhere, is pretty impressive." When he's on his game, when he's healthy, Johnson is as impressive as anyone. A winner again, he plans to spend two weeks at home in Florida before returning for the Memorial. He hasn't won there yet......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 1st, 2020

P2,000 sent Troy Rosario to Manila, now he s a star ready to help those in need

Troy Rosario is a former UAAP champion, a Gilas Pilipinas mainstay, and an absolute star for a flagship PBA team in the TNT KaTropa. At 6'7" with an athletic build and shooting prowess, he looks like the ideal modern Filipino basketball player. At 28-years-old, Troy's peak is just about to come. But for all his accomplishments and incredible potential, Rosario's journey to where he is now was far from easy. He had to grind to earn his place in Manila's tough basketball landscape. While he ended up with a UAAP title with NU, ending the school's 60-year drought, Rosario actually had to spend time with the Team B as a walk-in prospect. "Sobrang laking tulong ng National University sakin. Talagang nabago nila buhay ko. Yung opportunity pa lang na binigay nila sakin, hindi nga ako recruit eh," Rosario said. Troy recalled his humble beginnings during the 2OT podcast with PBA broadcasters Magoo Marjon and Carlo Pamintuan. "Walk-in lang ako. Tapos pinadala nila agad ako sa States para mag-training, nag-stay ako doon for six months para mag-training. Yung value ng hard work, doon ko natutunan. Pag nakita mo yung hard work, talagang may babalik sayo," he added. Through his dedication, Rosario's effort has been rewarded tenfold. Battle-tested in basketball and in life, Rosario is choosing not to ignore his past. In the three months of quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, the TNT star is trying to use his connections to help those in need. [Related: PBA: Rosario steps up relief effort as plight of homeless hits close to home] "Lumapit ako sa SM, which is yung mga boss ko nung nasa National U ako tapos may binigay silang tulong. Dinagdagan ko lang then nai-distribute namin ng maayos," Rosario said. "Nung pangalawa, parang gusto ko pa so sabi ko, pag sumahod, tutal wal naman masyadong gastos nandito lang sa bahay, nag-allot ako ng konti para maka-tulong sa mga homeless dito malapit samin," he added. Rosario admits that it's tough for him to look away when there are people in need. After all, before his basketball career started, he could barely afford the trip to Manila. Troy knows what it feels like to struggle, and now with a successful young career, he's trying to do his part. "Naalala ko pa nga yung pag-punta ko ng Manila, talagang pinilit lang ng mga magulang ko," Rosario said. "Yung natitirang binhi namin, talagang binenta para may pamasahe ako, naalala ko pa dalawang libo yun eh. Tinaya talaga para sakin, kaya alam ko yung pakiramdam nung wala," he added. — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 29th, 2020

Kai Sotto s coach at TSF believes he s ready for the big time

The coach that guided Kai Sotto when he first went to the US believes that it's just a matter of time before the 7'2" Filipino teen phenom plays in the NBA. When Sotto decided to go to America to chase his NBA dream, he landed in Atlanta and played for The Skill Factory under coach Rob Johnson. In less than a year there, Johnson saw more than enough to believe that Kai is destined for the big time. After his stint at TSF, Sotto took a major step towards the NBA by signing with the G League, where he'll team up with other top prospects like top-ranked Jalen Green. "I believe the G League will be a great challenge for Kai. I believe he is prepared to play at that level," Johnson told the Olympic Channel. "He just needs to take advantage of the opportunities in front of him and continue to improve," he added. The level of play Kai will face in the G League will be different and far better. But based on his time at TSF, Johnson is confident that Sotto will be able to take everything in and come out as an evolved as an evolved player. "Kai has a great attitude about training, he is a gym rat. He loves finding out information to apply to his game and to help him improve," Johnson said. "Kai has great basketball IQ. He is easy to coach and understands instructions and concepts at a very high level," he added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 29th, 2020

Tolentino misses warmth, love of Ateneo fans

Aside from the adrenaline rush and heart-pounding action, what Kat Tolentino misses the most in the UAAP are the Ateneo de Manila University fans. Considered as arguably the most rabid and hardcore supporters of a team in the country’s premier collegiate league, the Lady Eagles fans, who come from all walks of life and some aren’t even students or alumni of the school, left quite an impression to the Fil-Canadian. “I mean the fans are so supportive, they are so dedicated in supporting Ateneo,” said Tolentino during her appearance in ‘So She Did!’ podcast. Ateneo fans truly are the energizer of the Lady Eagles. They make every arena where Ateneo plays virtually the Lady Eagles’ home court. They form a sea of blue and their presence alone can put chills down the spines of every team Ateneo faces. And when they cheer – or occasionally jeer – they are sure to bring the noise. “For me, I mean just the way that every point is like cheered for, it’s not just like towards the end or the crucial point. It’s just crazy how when you do anything, they’re gonna react, they’re gonna scream or whatever. It doesn’t even matter if you score or whatever,” said Tolentino, who helped Ateneo win its third title overall in Season 81 last year. But aside from that, what Tolentino likes about the Lady Eagles fans the most are their genuine love and loyalty to the team. “I remember my first year I was so shocked, just because after the game, it wasn’t even during the game I got shocked, it was after when we got out to the bus, and there were like hundreds of people outside just waiting,” she said. “Imagine we still took an hour to shower, to get changed and to get all of our stuff. But they were all just waiting there outside, like it’s already getting dark, it’s past dinner time, they were just waiting for us just to say ‘hi’ or just to get an autograph or something” Tolentino added. That encounter according to Tolentino made her realize that the support of the Lady Eagles fans goes beyond the game. It’s intimate. “I’m just thankful for that just because it doesn’t just show that they are trying to watch the game, that’s it. They also want to meet us and they wanna say ‘hi’ so I’m just thankful to experience that,” said Tolentino. Tolentino, who is yet to decide if she will come back one last time to play for Lady Eagles, flew back to Canada after the cancellation of Season 82 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 25th, 2020

“Golovkin will hurt Manny” - former GGG trainer Abel Sanchez weighs in potential Pacquiao bout

As talks of a potential Manny Pacquiao-Gennady Golovkin mega-bout continue to pick up steam, people have weighed in on the matter including the likes of long-time Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach and former long-time Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank Boxing.  Both Roach and Arum have been less than keen, so to speak on the possible bout that would require the Filipino eight-division boxing champion to go up to a weight class that he’s never been to before.  Pacquiao, the reigning WBA (Super) Welterweight World Champion, went up to as high as junior middleweight back in 2010 but even then, was significantly smaller than his opponent Antonio Margarito.  Golovkin, the reigning IBF and IBO Middleweight World Champion, has been a middleweight all his career, and was at one point held four middleweight world titles at once. The Kazakh’s only loss came to Canelo Alvarez.  Now, even GGG’s former long-time trainer Abel Sanchez has shared his two cents on the rumoured superfight.  In an exclusive interview with Phil Jay of World Boxing News, Sanchez, who parted ways with Golovkin back in early-2019 after nine years of working together, said that the size difference would be significant.  “Manny Pacquiao is a small fighter. I believe he started as a flyweight, so the size difference would make a difference,” said Sanchez.  Sanchez also referenced the bout with Margarito, but added that GGG is on a different level.  “I see Manny having his moments early in the fight, but Gennadiy Golovkin is no Margarito.”  “Golovkin will hurt Manny,” Sanchez stated.  Sanchez did give Pacquiao his props, saying that even at 41, the Pinoy boxing icon remains as a serious force in the welterweight division.  “Manny, even at his advanced age, is still a very good fighter. His hand speed and experience will be a problem for most welterweights in the world," he said. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 22nd, 2020

Four champion martial artists who are also champion dads

Father’s Day comes but once a year, and is a time to celebrate the incredible patriarchs in our lives who have guided us through our toughest challenges. They are the foundation of every family, working tirelessly through day and night to make sure the people they love are happy and safe. This Father’s Day, let’s honor the men in our lives who embody strength, discipline, and loyalty. Great fathers provide their children with a feeling of security, both physically and emotionally, but aren’t afraid to let them stumble and fall in order for them to learn the lessons they need to make it through life.  These four men have given their children the gift of martial arts, but more importantly have also proven to be amazing dads. Ken Lee Brazilian jiu-jitsu and taekwondo black belt, Ken Lee, introduced martial arts to his children at a young age because he believes it can help develop them into great fighters, not just in competition, but also in life. Together with his wife Jewelz -- also a champion martial artist -- they’ve raised four incredible children, including reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee, and ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian Lee. Their two youngest children, Adrian and Victoria, are both on their way to following in their footsteps. Needless to say, martial arts is the family tradition. “Martial arts has always been a way of life for my family,” said Lee. But as much as he is the powerful voice in each of his children’s corners whenever they compete, Lee takes pride in being their father first and foremost. Guiding their careers, he says, is only his second priority. “I will always be their father first and coach second. As a father, the most important thing for me when it comes to my children is their safety and good health, that they are happy and able to live their dreams,” said Lee. Mark Sangiao Filipino martial arts icon Mark “The Machine” Sangiao is a well-known pioneer in the Philippines’ local martial arts community. He is a loving father to two boys, and a father-figure to his students in the famed Team Lakay. Many seek Sangiao out for his wisdom, not just in competing at the highest levels of martial arts, but also for his experience in traversing the hardships of life. The principles he imparts on his two sons, and many young Team Lakay athletes who could very well be considered his own children, have helped guide them down the right path. “As a father, what matters most for me when it comes to my children is providing them what they need,” said Sangiao.  “I’m not just referring to their material or financial needs, but most importantly giving enough attention to their emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being. It is essential that I can provide these to my children, because these are the very core of their development and formation as good and responsible people.” Sangiao has cultivated and developed many world champions, including former titleholders Eduard Folayang, Honorio Banario, Geje Eustaquio, and Kevin Belingon, as well as ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua Pacio. While his eldest son Jhanlo has decided to take after his father in becoming a martial artist, Sangiao says he would support his children regardless of their chosen profession. “I may end up raising a martial artist, a gardener, a businessman, a lawyer -- it doesn’t matter. I will raise them the exact same way. I will support whatever they want to be in life, and what they want for their future. I just want to raise my children to be good, strong, and responsible people,” said Sangiao. Eduard Folayang For two-time former ONE Lightweight World Champion and Team Lakay veteran Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, being a father means imparting his wisdom to his children, and helping them become good members of society. Folayang is a proud father to two young girls, and hopes to instill in them the right values and principles. “I think we have to give our children the right principles to live by. They must be strong in both the body and the mind, but also kind and generous,” said Folayang. While he will support his children no matter what they decide to do when they get older, Folayang still plans on introducing them to martial arts, which is what helped turn his life around as a young man raised in hardship and poverty. “Being a father feels great. I do want my children to practice martial arts. It’s a great way of life and will teach them a lot of lessons. I just want them to find their own talents and help make the world a better place,” said Folayang. Danny Kingad Former ONE World Title challenger and ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship Finalist Danny “The King” Kingad is relatively new to fatherhood, with his son Gleurdan Adrian becoming his pride and joy after being born just two years ago.  Being a father, Kingad says, is his single greatest purpose, and he vows to do everything in his power to give his son a good life. “I want to spend every day with my son. It’s important to me to be there for him. I want to help prepare him for the challenges life will bring,” said Kingad. Kingad grew up a troubled youth who fell into bad company and many vices. It wasn’t until he discovered martial arts that his life gained meaning and direction. He hopes to one day introduce martial arts to Gleurdan, when his son is ready. “Martial arts was a saving grace for me, and I learned a lot from training and competing. I would love for my son to learn the core values that martial arts instilled in me when I was younger. I think it will teach him a lot about respect and honor. But of course, I’m here to support my son in whatever he wants to be in life,” said Kingad. “What’s important to me is that he learns to be humble and respectful, and most especially strong, to be able to handle tough times. Having a strong mind is the best asset of a martial artist.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 21st, 2020

Tab s unfiltered comments shook up Philippine coaching fraternity

Reactions to Tab Baldwin's now-controversial unfiltered comments about the PBA come from all sorts of places, but it seems like the general consensus is that he disrupted the Philippine coaching fraternity that's supposedly built on brotherhood. Hoops Coaches International, established by Blackwater's Ariel Vanguardia for webinars featuring local and foreign coaches, issued a statement about Baldwin's comments about the PBA last week. The Ateneo coach called the PBA's one-import tournaments as a "big mistake" and said local coaches as having "tactical immaturity." [Related: Unfiltered Baldwin comments on the PBA's "big mistake"] Hoops Coaches International is focusing on the tactical immaturity part on condemning Baldwin's comments. The very existence of webinars by Hoops Coaches International is to help advance the level of coaches here. Current and former PBA coaches like Tim Cone, Norman Black, Yeng Guiao, Mark Dickel, Jeffrey Cariaso, and Bill Bayno have all appeared in the webinars. A number of foreign coaches have shared their expertise as well. "We have hosted a number of webinars because we are aware that we do not have all the answers. That in order to compete with the best, we have to expose our coaches to a plethora of ideas, theories, and practices from successful coaches that work with all age groups and levels, from all leagues," the statement read. "Only by raising the level of coaching at the grassroots and provincial level can we move the needle," the statement added. [Related: Northport owner on Tab's PBA comments: "Sounds like racism"] Hoops Coaches International acknowledged some of Coach Tab's points but his comments on local coaches seem to have done more harm than good especially with the reaction that followed. "We have long believed that a coaching fraternity is built on a foundation of camaraderie and a free exchange of ideas," Hoops Coaches International said in its statement directed to Baldwin. "So, it is disheartening to hear that instead of helping the Filipino coaching community grow towards a higher standard, you saw it fit to put us down," the statement added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 15th, 2020