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Marcial still committed to national team, but eyes pro fight soon

Fresh from his bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics, Marcial hopes to continue representing Team Philippines, but is also looking to move forward in his professional career......»»

Category: newsSource: philstar philstarAug 18th, 2021

Marcial still weighing his options

Tokyo-bound Eumir Marcial remains undecided on whether to stay in Los Angeles where he has a scheduled professional fight in March or go back to the Philippines to join the national team in a training camp in Calamba, Laguna......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 11th, 2021

Ramirez writes OSG to seize assets of payroll scammer

Philippine Sports Commission chairman William ‘Butch’ Ramirez seeks the help of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on the agency's case against one of its staff discovered to be cheating the government in a payroll scam. Back from his month-long leave to take care of his sick wife, the PSC head hit the ground running on Monday addressing the latest controversy to hit the sports agency. "We need all the help we can get to get to the bottom of this and make every effort that nothing of this sort ever happens again," explained Ramirez, who also convened the sports agency's board the same day to discuss the matter as well as other pertinent matters needing the body's decision. In the letter to the OSG, Ramirez sought "assistance in instituting proper proceedings relative to the complaint filed against Paul Michael Ignacio" including garnishment of all real or personal property and the reversion of these back to the government. Just a week ago, Ignacio was taken by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents acting on the request of PSC's Executive Director Merlita Ibay for assistance on the discovered payroll padding committed by Ignacio. This also prompted the agency to take stock of its entire operations, some areas of which received ISO certification just last year. "The board is 100% with the Chairman on this," said Commissioner Ramon Fernandez who was Officer in Charge when the irregularity came to notice.  Atty. Guillermo Iroy, Jr., Deputy Executive Director for Support has been appointed to lead the legal team in pursuing the case. In the same board meeting, it was also approved to have process and organizational auditors to help the agency in its mission to fortify all bureaus. Ramirez explained that "we need fresh eyes to take a look at our processes and seek out areas that need to be strengthened."  Another online meeting is set on Wednesday between the board and the audit team......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 21st, 2020

PSC vows full support to Team PHI all the way to Tokyo Olympics

Aspiring and Olympic-bound athletes will continue to receive support from the Philippine Sports Commission despite the agency’s belt-tightening measures brought about by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Philippines already has four qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which has been pushed back to next year, in pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, male artistic gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo, national boxers Eumir Felix Marcial and Irish Magno before the lockdown. The PSC board has assured that the agency will support them for as long as they can, explaining that the investment of both the government and the athletes into their Olympic dream cannot be set aside just that easily. This the PSC assures the athletes despite around P1.3 billion of its funds redirected back to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to fund the country’s COVID-19 fight. By virtue of Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, P596 million, and P773 million were realigned by the DBM from the sports agency’s National Sports Development Fund and the fund from the General Appropriations Act (GAA), respectively. Even with this unexpected development, the PSC will keep true to its promise to support the Filipino athletes Olympic bid. In fact, PSC Chairman William Ramirez is hoping to send more athletes to represent the country in the prestigious multi-sport event. “We will not waiver in our quest to fulfill the country’s Olympic dream and we are very hopeful that more athletes will be able to qualify once the situation gets better,” shared Ramirez. The sports agency is banking its hopes on 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting, four-time SEA Games champion Kiyomi Watanabe of judo, 2019 SEAG double-gold medal winner Margielyn Didal of skateboarding, multi-titled jin Pauline Lopez of taekwondo, and Junna Tsukii of karatedo among others. The budget cut has forced the sports agency to take belt-tightening measures in recent weeks, to be able to cover all commitments. “It’s a tough situation but we understand the priorities of the national government. We will do what we can to continue the support we give to our athletes especially those vying for an Olympic slot,” added Ramirez. Aside from financial support, the PSC also continues to provide online sports psychology consultations, virtual training sessions, nutrition, physiology, and conditioning webinars to athletes and coaches through PSC’s Medical Scientific Athletic Services (MSAS) and the Philippine Sports Institute (PSI)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 18th, 2020

Embattled boxer Marcial finds solid ally in Chooks-to-Go

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Embattled Filipino boxer Eumir Marcial has found a solid ally in his fight against the lack of financial support extended to boxers and other national athletes. Renowned sports patron Ronald Mascariñas, the president of Chooks-to-Go Philippines came to Marcial’s aid after pledging to support the boxer who will represent the country […] The post Embattled boxer Marcial finds solid ally in Chooks-to-Go appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 21st, 2021

Philippines eyes entry in all esports events for Hanoi SEA Games

PESO is still waiting for more information from the Vietnam National Olympic Committee (NOC) before making any final decisions, as well as making any changes with regards to the selection process under Team Sibol's esports program......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 1st, 2021

Dubai: Possible destination too for national boxers

The Philippine boxing team headed by Tokyo-bound Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam has yet to decide whether or not it will vie in the Asian Elite Men and Women Championships that was moved from New Delhi, India to Dubai......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsApr 28th, 2021

With overseas plans shelved, Baldwin eyes Gilas games vs PBA teams

Speaking on Noli Eala's Power & Play on Saturday, Baldwin revealed that the SBP initially intended for the national team to fly to Australia to fine-tune their skills ahead of the regional qualifiers......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMar 28th, 2021

Gilas eligible to win PBA title

The door is open for Gilas to play as a guest team in the PBA Philippine Cup which is tentatively set to start April 9 and commissioner Willie Marcial said the other day the national squad will be eligible to compete for the championship......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsFeb 16th, 2021

Olympic-bound Eumir Marcial expected to train with Team Philippines

With six months to go before the Tokyo Olympics, the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines is hoping to get all its national pugs to train together —including Eumir Marcial......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 6th, 2021

Reelected POC chief eyes unity, Tokyo gold

Cycling chief Abraham Tolentino yesterday gained a fresh four-year mandate as Philippine Olympic Committee president, and vowed to work hard to unify their ranks and rally behind the national team to win the elusive first Olympic gold medal for the country in Tokyo next year......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsNov 28th, 2020

Marcial loses eldest brother

Tragedy struck the family of national boxing team mainstay Eumir Felix Marcial just days into his Olympic preparations in Los Angeles, California. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsOct 18th, 2020

Jack Animam excited to spring back to action in Taiwan

The National U and Gilas Pilipinas standout committed to play as an import for Shih Hsin University and is expecting to complete her visa application next week to finally join her team’s training camp. .....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsSep 13th, 2020

Carl Tamayo made it a point to play with the big boys in Gilas 23 for 23

Carl Tamayo had been a stalwart of Batang Gilas. Alongside 7-foot-2, 17-year-old Kai Sotto, he was a big part of the biggest-ever Philippine national youth team. Even more, though, Tamayo is also being eyed to be a big part of the future of Gilas Pilipinas itself. In fact, the 6-foot-7 modern big man was included in the 23 for 23 - a list of youngsters who were looked at as national team mainstays once the 2023 FIBA World Cup comes around. That list was concretized on 2018, when Tamayo was just 17-years-old. Still, even then, he was already standing out. So much so that the talented teen had already wowed Gilas and NLEX guard Kiefer Ravena. "Nakasama ko si Carl nung unang practice na magkakasama yung matatanda pati yung mga bata sa 23 for 23. Nun, siyempre, wala pa namang team, wala pa namang first five," he shared in The Prospects Pod. He then continued, "Pero si Carl, laging sumasama doon sa unang lima. Sinasabayan niya lagi sila June Mar [Fajardo], sila Japeth [Aguilar], sila Jayson [Castro]. Dun niya laging gustong sumabay." Yes, apparently in the very first training session of the supposed future national team, Tamayo made it a point to play with the likes of eight-time champion six-time MVP Fajardo, one-time best point guard in Asia Castro, and fan favorite Aguilar. And in Ravena's eyes, that in itself is nothing but impressive. "Ako, nasa isip ko nun, 'Okay, matapang 'tong batang 'to ha.' Kasi wala namang sinasabi, pero nag-volunteer siya agad," he shared. He then continued, "First impression ko talaga, malayo mararating ng batang 'to kasi wala siyang paki kung bago siya. Unang practice pa lang yun, kakasalang pa lang niya sa Gilas, pero ganun na kaagad yung approach niya." That even allowed the Road Warriors' lead guard to poke fun at his good friend. "Nung nakita ko yun, sinisiko ko si Troy Rosario. Sabi ko sa kanya, 'Troy, may papalit na sayo, Troy," he said, through chuckles. Of course, Tamayo isn't Rosario's replacement. Rather, hopefully, the two will join forces in a national team frontcourt ready and raring for modern basketball. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 30th, 2020

Aljun Melecio s never-ending quest to prove he belongs

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 29th, 2020

UAAP 81: When the sleeping giant named UP finally awakened

No cheering - that's the cardinal rule for sportswriters during coverages. In collegiate sports, not even your very own alma mater song is spared. Still, on November 28, 2018, I thought this one time could be an exception to the rule. After all, more than half of the Araneta Coliseum had their hands raised in singing "UP Naming Mahal." Certainly, not one more fist in the air could be considered conspicuous. After all, the University of the Philippines Men's Basketball Team was letting it all out right there on the court. Certainly, not one more show of emotion could be out of place. And after all, the Fighting Maroons had just done it. It, being seeing a new dawn after the so-called dark days. FROM FIGHTING TO WINNING UAAP 81 started very much like how many, many UP seasons did in recent memory. There was a lot of hope, no doubt, what with Paul Desiderio in his last year, Bright Akhuetie in his first year, Gomez de Liano brothers Juan and Javi being back for more, and Bo Perasol still at the helm. Only, being a fan of the Fighting Maroons also meant you know full well all of it couldn't be true. History is a lesson to be learned - and from the promise of Migs De Asis, Mike Gamboa, Martin Reyes, and great Filipino-American hope Mike Silungan and the potential of Mikee Reyes, Woody Co, and Kyles Lao, Diliman has learned many, many lessons, indeed. And then, the season started. A season-opening win became a 1-3 standing. A 3-3 record worsened to 3-5. Standing at an even 5-5 in the stretch run then led to winning three of the last four games in the elimination round. And before you knew it, UP, yes, UP was knocking on the door of the Final Four. Could this be it? Or could this be just the biggest disappointment the Fighting Maroons had ever served? FROM WINNING TO LOSING A winning tradition could be taken for granted. Coming from a school down south that was, is, and forever linked to a particular powerhouse, I, personally, was very much used to winning. Even more, I was right there when Joshua (or Dave, as we called him) Webb, Jeric Fortuna, and Jed Manguera led the team formerly known as the Bengals to a breakthrough championship. So, yeah, personally, my tradition was to root for a winning team - be it in the Jrs. or in the Srs. Come college, though, I traded in the shield of green and white for the luntian at pulang sagisag magpakailanman. And hey, UP Diliman is and always will be the best school in the history of man, in my eyes. In terms of basketball, though, it left much to be desired. As I was about to go to college, the Fighting Maroons went winless in back-to-back years. And then, they had three-win seasons when I was a freshie and a sophomore. In all my four years in college, I only experienced eight wins out of 56. So yeah, in State U, there was the exact opposite of a winning tradition. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Don't get me wrong here. UP is a power in many, many sports and is a contender for the general championship year in and year out. Back then, though, forgive me if I only had eyes for men's basketball.) FROM JETT TO PAUL And then, a ray of light shone bright, and brighter, and brighter. I have now grown to love Mikee Reyes - he is a great guy and a good analyst. Back then, though, he was a prime proof of what wasn't working in UP. Here was a talent who had a shot at making a name for himself and taking his team along with him for the ride, but unfortunately, just could not put it all together. Reyes was just one of many, many promising players in maroon and green who didn't have the sort of support that a winning tradition entailed. True to their name, though, the Fighting Maroons kept, well, fighting. And in his last year, Jett Manuel proved that the tides could turn in their favor. Manuel would never be the best player on De La Salle University or Ateneo de Manila University or even University of Sto. Tomas and Far Eastern University. Still, he gave his all game in and game out and grew to be a beloved player and leader in Diliman. He set the standard for the kind of fight a Maroon should have and in his last year, steered his squad to a fifth-place finish at 5-9. Not a finish to be proud of by any means, but for the first time in a long time, there were signs of life coming from State U. And that's when I knew Jett Manuel would be my forever King Maroon. However, just two years later, Paul Desiderio made me question that. FROM THEN TO NOW Definitely, Paul Desiderio is not Jett Manuel. Jett is eloquent and looks like he came from an exclusive private school, which he did. Paul speaks in short but sweet terms and is very much proud of his roots in Cebu. What they both have, though, is an undeniable love for UP and an unwavering determination to lead the Fighting Maroons to where they belong. When Manuel left, of course, the reins went to Desiderio and in his very first game as main man, he proved his worth. I know you know what I'm going to talk about - because this was the time he uttered the words that would define State U from that point onto the foreseeable future. "Atin to, papasok to!" -- Paul Desiderio during the timeout. Moments later...#UAAPSeason80 pic.twitter.com/7yafSpldJM — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) September 10, 2017 The maroon and green yet again fell short of the Final Four that year, but come next season, a playoff berth was, indeed, theirs for the taking. Downing La Salle in the very last game of the elims, they booked a trip to the next round for the first time since 1997. That would have been more than enough for their long-suffering faithful, but they did themselves one better - actually, two better - and upset second-seed and twice-to-beat Adamson University. Just like that, UP would be playing in its first Finals since the days of Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc, Eric Altamirano, and Joe Lipa. That day, November 28, 2018, would always live on with me. FROM ME TO YOU As bad as I wanted to break the cardinal rule for sportswriters, I didn't. As bad as I wanted to stay on the floor to listen and live in the chorus singing in harmony, "Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan," I couldn't. When UP made history, I had to go back to the press room and finish my full take on the game. Just minutes before, I honestly couldn't believe the breaking report I was working on in my phone and uploading in our website. Really? The Fighting Maroons had done it. Even with the final stat sheet in my hands, I still couldn't believe it. Really? The Fighting Maroons had done it. Even through writing "those back-to-back wins have set up for them a date with defending champion Ateneo de Manila University in the best-of-three Finals slated for Saturday at the MOA Arena," I still couldn't believe it. Really? The Fighting Maroons had done it. Of course, in the very end, Ateneo was Ateneo and State U had to settle for second-place. Still, there may not be another silver medal that was worth celebrating more. You have to understand that again, this is a team not that far off from its dark days - so, yeah, this silver season was a special season. And so, at the very end of Season 81, when I saw Paul standing on the game officials' table, basking in the UP community's cries of "De-si-de-rio" and "A-tin-to," another chant was playing in my head - "You deserve it." This image, would always live on with me. At the same time, though, I was a firsthand witness to another image that told me this was just the beginning. First Finals appearance, first Finals loss. Fo sho, GDL brothers @javigdl22 and @juan_swish9 will only be better from this. #UAAPSeason81 pic.twitter.com/CMV0JH30rh — No Work Normie Riego (@riegogogo) December 5, 2018 Juan and Javi GDL sat on the makeshift awarding stage while the Blue Eagles were enjoying their back-to-back championships and Desiderio was being serenaded by the Fighting Maroons' faithful. Their eyes were welling up with tears, but deep down there, you could also see their determination to be back, to be better, and to say themselves "Atin 'to" to a championship. FROM HERE ON OUT UAAP 81 was Ateneo's, no doubt about that. UAAP 82, when UP was supposedly stronger, was still Ateneo's, yet again no doubt about that. Actually, the Fighting Maroons were even owned by runner-up UST that year - and those Growling Tigers had a Cinderella tale to tell of their own. And yet, for my money, no team in recent memory has won over everybody quite like Paul Desiderio's UP Fighting Maroons. Maybe, just maybe, that's all because I'm an Isko with student no. 2008-6*1*5. Or maybe, just maybe, it's so good to see a sleeping giant awakened - now knowledgeable of how to build a team and now knowledgeable how to put up support for that team. Or maybe, just maybe, it's so good to see homegrown stars like Diego Dario and the GDLs stay home and play home and to see a foreign student-athlete like Akhuetie shine bright both as a student and as an athlete. Or maybe, just maybe, it's so good to put your full faith in somebody like Desiderio who truly, madly, and deeply believed "Atin 'to" - even though recent history said otherwise. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo. Norman Lee Benjamin Riego has served as a sub-section editor for ABS-CBN Sports' website since 2014. He is among thousands of ABS-CBN employees who will be retrenched on August 31, 2020. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 28th, 2020

Congress promises PSC funding for Tokyo Olympics

Lawmakers promised to heed the Philippine Sports Commission’s call for financial support for the Tokyo Olympics next year. Congressmen who are members of the Committee on Youth and Sports Development gave a positive response when the government’s sports arm lobbied for Tokyo 2021 budget in the House of Representatives.   "Rest assured that we will do our part to get the funding for this Olympics. All hands are in. Dapat lahat tayo dito. This is the best chance we have," said committee head Rep. Eric Martinez. He added that they would discuss the matter with the Department of Budget and Management and schedule it the soonest time possible because the athletes "need that budget for the Olympics." PSC Chairman William 'Butch' Ramirez during the regular committee meeting on Wednesday bared the sports agency's need for its slashed funds to continue supporting the training and competitions of Tokyo Olympic Games qualifiers and hopefuls vying for slots.   "We were one of those government offices who also contributed to the Bayanihan Act. The DBM deducted from us. Para sa amin malaking bagay 'yun kasi kasama doon 'yung Olympic budget namin. Hanggang ngayon po bakante 'yan. It's an opportunity for us to ask, we need your help," expressed Ramirez. After presenting the Olympic budget request of more than P182 Million for Tokyo-bound athletes and hopefuls made by Chef de Mission (CDM) Mariano Araneta to the PSC, the sports agency chief highlighted the push Congress can give to the country's Olympic dream.     "Rep. Bambol Tolentino has initially supported ‘yung P180 million na allowances ng atleta which was approved by the bicam, and to be approved by the President. Thank you sa lahat ng congressman na sumuporta. Pero 'yung Olympic budget namin, we are hoping again for your support," said Ramirez. The PSC chief informed the body that "the Philippine Sports Commission is operating on the savings coming from PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation)" and that "when we talk about the elite athletes of the national team, the budget being used is the NSDF (National Sports Development Fund)” prompting PSC to lessen grassroots sports program related to local government units. "Dito kami naka-focus sa elite athletes. We still have some budget just enough for us to reach December," admitted Ramirez in his response to Committee Vice-Chair Jericho Nograles' inquiry on the PSC's funds. To aid in the government’s effort to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, P596 million from the National Sports Development Fund and another P773 million from the General Appropriations Act by the DBM was slashed from the PSC’s budget. Gymnast Caloy Yulo, pole vaulter EJ Obiena and boxers Irish Magno and Eumir Marcial already qualified for the Summer Games. Eighty-two more hopefuls are training to earn spots in the Tokyo Olympics.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 27th, 2020

For Mike Nieto, all roads lead to leading

Mike Nieto's leadership is not just for the basketball court. Apparently, his voice carries just as much weight inside the Nieto household in Cainta. "Hanggang bahay, umaabot yung pagli-lead ko," he shared with a laugh. "Rinig na rinig palagi boses ko sa bahay. Since I've proven to them na I can be a leader sa court, siyempre, I can also be a leader dito sa bahay." What does that mean exactly? Well, let's just say that whenever the Nieto family decides they want and need some quality time together, it's the 23-year-old who sets the time and the place where it would happen. "I think nasanay na rin kasi sila na ako ang palaging nagsasalita kahit sa ganyang bagay so most of the time, ako na talaga nagsasabi saan at anong oras kami pupunta," he said. This is not at all that surprising as when you talk about Mike Nieto, you talk about leadership. That has long been the calling card of the 6-foot-2 swingman - from his days as a Blue Eaglet to his time as a Blue Eagle and from his stint in Batang Gilas to his current run in the Gilas Pilipinas pool. But… Why do people say that in the first place? What is it with Mike Nieto that just speaks, leader? FTW: For The tWin To get the answer, we need to go back to the start. As in, the very, very start. Technically, Mike is the leader of the four Nieto siblings as he is the firstborn of Ateneo de Manila legend Jett and super mom and dentist Girlie. Matt is his brother, but is younger by two minutes. Make no mistake, though, the twins have always gotten along. "Kami ni Matt, ever since, close na talaga kami. We started playing basketball at the age of six and from then on, naging magkasama na kami sa lahat ng bagay," Mike said. He then continued, "Even course namin sa college, pareho kaya almost lahat ng classes namin, classmates kami. Ever since talaga, unusual na hindi kami magkasama." Indeed, the Nieto twins have always been some sort of a package deal. Hence, the reports of their commitment to Ateneo for college had headlines such as "Ateneo scores 'twin kill' as Nieto brothers commit to play for Blue Eagles." Through and through, however, Mike was thought to be the leader - even though Matt is the point guard. The reason for that? Because "Big Mike" is more vocal. And why is he more vocal" Well, because he had a two minute headstart on "Matty Ice" at letting his voice be heard. Seriously, though, Mike said it was just because he doesn't waste any time at all in being vocal - and that's why he's being heard first and more often. "Siguro, mas maingay lang kasi ako kay Matt. Ako kasi, kapag may nakita akong mali sa ginagawa ng teammates ko, siguradong makakarinig agad sila sa akin," he shared. He then continued, "Hindi ako papayag na lilipas ang isang bagay na alam kong makakasama sa team. Talagang maglalabas at maglalabas ako ng mga salita hanggang ma-solve ang problema." That doesn't mean that Matt doesn't lead, though. As his twin put it, "Matt is the leader on the court. That's the assignment Coach Tab [Baldwin] gave him and I think he has done well with that." Well, yeah, Matt has three rings as court general of the Blue Eagles' dynasty to show for that. LOL: Lead out Loud It was another court general altogether, however, who had made the biggest mark on Mike Nieto. While he never was a point guard due to his wide frame, he was always trying to emulate one of the best ball-handlers in the history of Philippine basketball. "Jimmy Alapag is my role model when it comes to leadership," he said. "I'm just very lucky that for a long time now, he would talk to me on how I can affect the team positively on and off the court." When Alapag was in his prime as captain of Gilas Pilipinas, Nieto was put on the pedestal as skipper of Batang Gilas. While he knew full well that was a tall task, he was also eager to prove himself worthy. "Sa Batang Gilas under coach Jamike [Jarin], he made me team captain kahit second year high school pa lang ako. But that made me realize na I have the capabilities of being a leader," he said. With that, Mike had the responsibility of making sure the likes of Paul Desiderio, Richard Escoto, Jollo Go, Jolo Mendoza, and Renzo Navarro were kept in line. And from then on, he just did not stop keeping at it. Whether it be as the Jrs. MVP as a Blue Eaglet or a rotation regular as a Blue Eagle, Nieto's biggest contribution has always been his leadership. "Being a leader is never easy. At the end of the day, you have to gain the trust of your teammates and your coaches - that's the hardest part," he said. Ask his teammates from high school, many of whom were still his teammates come college, and they would say they always have his back. "Buti na lang nakuha ko ang tiwala ng lahat ng tao na nakapaligid sa akin. Kaya rin ako nag-succeed being the team captain ng every team na nagiging part ako," he said. While he has always had the full faith of longtime teammates and good friends Thirdy Ravena, Gian Mamuyac, Mendoza, and of course, twin Matt, Mike could only acknowledge that it was another challenge altogether being the voice of the team that swept the season. "Ang malaking naging difference ngayong college from high school, kinailangan kong magsalita ng English mas madalas," he said, through chuckles. With foreigners such as Ange Kouame and Filipino-foreigners like Raffy Verano, Nieto, indeed, did have to make sure his communication lines were crystal clear. The thing about leaders, though, is that they give their all in anything and everything - whether that be giving a pep talk or passing the message to somebody like Kouame who only started learning English in 2017. IMO: In My Opinion And the thing about leaders? They do not necessarily care about themselves. Imagine Mike Nieto, a Jrs. MVP, a team captain for Batang Gilas, a literal blue-blood in Katipunan. Do you know his averages through their three-peat? In 47 games total, he saw 14.2 minutes of action and had 5.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Still, that did not matter at all. All that mattered for Mike are all those Ws. "To be a leader, you have to prove palagi that you can lead on and off the court," he said. "I think yun ang napatunayan ko kay coach Tab - na handa akong i-sacrifice ang personal goals ko para sa ikabubuti ng team. Wala akong pakialam sa sarili ko since ang nasa utak ko lang is kung ano ang makabubuti para sa team namin." But did he? Did Nieto prove himself to Coach Tab - a coach who has gone around the world and seen it all? The talented tactician's statement right after Ateneo completed its perfect run through UAAP 82 speaks volumes. “Look at all of us and think about where we’re gonna be in 10 or 15 years, you’ll forget most of us,” he said in the post-game conference where he sat alongside the Nieto twins, Ravena, Isaac Go, and Adrian Wong. “But you won’t forget Mike Nieto.” Coach Tab then went on to explain why he said so. As he put it, "Mike is a natural leader. Mike is a communicator. Mike is a thinker. In terms of touching people, making lives better, and making sure that everybody around him has a better chance than what he has, that’s our captain." High praise coming from the very mentor who has been getting nothing but high praise. Safe to say, though, Mike has proven himself to coach Tab. TBC: To Be Continued In doing so, Mike Nieto has also made it possible for the two of them to continue working together. Mike, twin Matt, fellow Blue Eagle Go, University of the East's Rey Suerte, and San Sebastian College-Recoletos' Allyn Bulanadi were the first five names listed for the Gilas pool. The likes of Ravena, Dwight Ramos of Ateneo, Justine Baltazar of De La Salle University, Dave Ildefonso then of National University, and the University of the Philippines foursome of Javi and Juan Gomez de Liano, Kobe Paras, and Jaydee Tungcab also made the list not long after. But the fact remains that "Big Mike" - he of zero starts, but three titles in a row in his last three years in blue and white - was one of the first names there. With that, he is now one of the few Batang Gilas players who have successfully gotten promoted to the Men's team. "Of course, sino bang ayaw i-represent ang bansa natin, 'di ba? That's why I'm very grateful for this opportunity to be part of the Gilas pool," he said. He then continued, "That's why I've been working on my game even harder so that I can provide whatever Gilas needs from me." Of course, what Gilas would need from Nieto is, first and foremost, his leadership. After all, that is still and would always be his greatest strength. To do so, though, the youngster would have to prove himself yet again - not only to Filipinos who are forever invested in their national team, but more importantly, his teammates, many of whom are already superstars in the PBA. For Mike, however, this is nothing new - nothing new at all. "Ever since I was in grade school, people have been doubting that I can progress my game to the next level. What we can't forget is that at the end of the day, it's in your hands if you want to prove them wrong or prove them right," he said. He then continued, "I actually enjoy these kinds of moments since dito talaga lalabas ang totoong pagkatao mo. Ang sigurado ko lang, I will fight for my spot in Gilas." And so, from a successful high school career and then an even more successful college career, Nieto is now seeking success as part of the Gilas pool. Does he deserve to be there? That's for the haters to hate, the doubters to doubt, and the bashers to bash. And that's for Mike Nieto to lead them out of the darkness. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 27th, 2020

2020 king of recruiting crown remains on UP’s head

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 26th, 2020

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 of their potential when they 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 a podium finish 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 NewsAug 10th, 2020

Arjan Bhullar promises to be tough test for ONE heavyweight king Brandon Vera

When Filipino-American ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon "The Truth" Vera finally makes his return to action, it will likely come against top heavyweight contender Arjan "Singh" Bhullar.  The Indian-Canadian heavyweight, who had an impressive run in the UFC before jumping over to Asia-based ONE Championship, was impressive in his promotional debut, dominating former title contender Mauro Cerrilli en route to a unanimous decision win.  The win over Cerrilli was enough to earn Bhullar a title shot, and now, he looks to do for India what Vera did for the Philippines.  “I respect Vera for what he has accomplished in this sport. For how long he has been fighting the best, for how he has represented ONE as a champion, for what he has done for the Philippines and the Filipino people, and for what he has done for himself and his family," said Bhullar. "I want to do all of that and more for myself, for India, for Indians worldwide, and for ONE."  “Vera is a great ambassador for the sport and has treated me with the utmost respect. The feelings are mutual, until we become competitors in the Circle," Bhullar continued. Vera, who has been ONE's heavyweight king since 2015, has yet to lose in the division, and has never gone past the first round against other heavyweights as well.  As far as experience goes, Vera - who also made a name for himself in the UFC - has the distinct advantage.  “His strengths are clear. He has a tremendous amount of experience and has seen all the different looks a fighter can see in the cage. He can fight out of both stances, going forward and backward. He is well-rounded everywhere, and has excellent Muay Thai. That has allowed him to finish every single heavyweight threat he has faced,” said Bhullar. In ONE, Vera holds wins over the likes of Igor Subora, Paul Cheng, Hideki Sekine, and Cerrilli. Bhullar, a former Canadian National Wrestling Team member, is by far the toughest test tha Vera will face in ONE's heavyweight ranks.  “But none of those guys were named Arjan Singh Bhullar, nor bring what I do to the Circle," Bhullar confidently stated.  Compared to Vera, who is widely regarded as one of the faces of ONE, Bhullar is a relative unknown. If he can dethrone Vera however, it's hard to not see the 34-year old become a household name, not just in India, but in the world as well.  “I'm younger. I'm hungrier to get what I haven't yet. I have been pursuing the opportunity to be a world champion since I was in diapers. I am a lifelong athlete who still lives and breathes competition to the fullest. I don't have any other distractions or priorities in my life,” said Bhullar. Bhullar's main motivation is to be able to bring pride to India, and he's highly confident that he can get the job done against ONE's most dominant heavyweight star. “I have an entire nation and people worldwide who are supporting my quest. I have the skills that have proved problematic for Vera in his losses in the past. I have the strongest mindset to get this job done, which will carry me through the most extreme conditions. I am a winner. I am one billion strong.”      .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 5th, 2020