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WHAT IF... Perez wasn t suspended for NCAA 94 Finals Game 1

History lesson: After missing out on the Final Four for its first six seasons in the NCAA, Lyceum of the Philippines University made back-to-back trips to the Finals in Seasons 93 and 94. The Season 93 Finals, the school's first-ever, wound up as a heartbreaking loss to eventual champion San Beda University. Memorably, the Pirates won each and every one of their 18 games in the elimination round - the first-ever team to do so in the Grand Old League - before going winless in their last two games. Of course, playoff experience and championship heart proved to be the difference for the Red Lions. In that light, Season 94 should have been a different story for LPU. Only, it wasn't. San Beda yet again swept the upstarts via convincing victories. And from Game 1, the Red Lions already knew it was all over. "Oo naman. Siyempre, mag-iiba laban kung nandun siya," then-King Lion Robert Bolick in last week's The Prospects Pod. "Sa part din namin, wala siya so tapos na. Tapos na yung laban." The "siya" he was referring to? CJ Perez, Season 93 MVP and Season 94 Mythical selection, who was not in action and not even at the venue for the series-opener. Apparently, Perez failed to notify the NCAA about his application for the 2018 PBA Draft and was therefore sanctioned with a suspension for Game 1 of the Finals. But what if he were there - there, ready and raring to play in the opener of the series where he and all of LPU were seeking redemption? The now-26-year-old had no doubt that if that were the case, the Pirates would have put up a much fiercer fight. As he put it, "Siguro, mas ginanahan pa yung mga kasama ko. Nung natambakan na kasi nung Game 1, parang nanginig na yung mga tuhod ng Game 2 eh." Sans Perez, the maroon and grey fell victim to a 19-9 start by their opponents and never recovered. Final score read 73-60 in favor of San Beda. If the 6-foot-2 playmaker were there, Cameroonian powerhouse Mike Nzeusseu would not be their top-scorer as the former had averaged 18.7 points in the prior 18 games. Of course, defensive-minded coach Boyet Fernandez would have also adjusted accordingly and the Red Lions, just like they did in last year's championship round, would have put their full focus on Perez. Still, a full-force LPU side would, for sure, have posed more problems for San Beda. In the end, Mendiola's dynasty would have still have all the answers - what with Bolick and Javee Mocon just playing their best basketball that season. That momentum would then carry over to Game 2 where the Red Lions still sweep the Pirates for their fourth championship in a row. In terms of result, Perez's presence would not have changed a thing. Nonetheless, his being there would have made for much more must-see TV. Also, his being there would not have forced him to just drown his sorrows all by his lonesome. "Ang mindset ko pa rin bago nun, tulog pa rin nang maaga para handa, pero nung sinabi na ngang 'di ako pwede maglaro, sabi ko na lang, 'Hala, ready na ako eh,'" he recalled. He then continued, through chuckles, "Nung araw na yun, nasa dorm ako, nakaupo sa couch, nanood ng laro. Nakailang beer nga ako nun." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJun 17th, 2020

All that pressure turned CJ Perez, Robert Bolick into diamonds

CJ Perez and Robert Bolick are now the lead guards of upstart teams Terrafirma and NorthPort, respectively. Having wrapped up their first years in the PBA as members of the All-Rookie Team, the future surely shines bright for the former rivals. This, even though Perez continues to juggle five-on-five and 3x3 national teams and Bolick continues to recover from an ACL injury. After all, both of them know rocky roads all too well. Perez was already a shining star in San Sebastian College-Recoletos, but then took his talents to Ateneo de Manila University. However, he fell short of the academic requirements in Katipunan and did not play a single game as a Blue Eagle in the UAAP. Still, he is nothing but glad to share that he became a better player and a better person by the end of his time there. "Kahit sa Team B lang ako nakalaro, parang mas natuto pa nga ako doon kasi ang daming laro, ang daming liga. Feeling ko, mas nakundisyon pa ako," he shared in The Prospects Pod last Friday. He then continued, "Tapos sa aral naman, nung pinaghahabol ako dahil sa bagsak, doon ako natuto talagang mag-aral nang mabuti. Nabilib pa nga ako sa sarili ko kasi kaya ko palang mag-aral nang ganun." Fortunately, the 6-foot-2 guard landed on his feet in Lyceum of the Philippines University and proceeded to win MVP and make school history. He was well on his way to being the top overall pick by the Dyip in the 2019 PBA Draft, but even that didn't come easy as complications arose regarding his application. Apparently, Perez failed to notify the NCAA about his draft application and was suspended for Game 1 of the Season 94 Finals. In the end, he and the Pirates lost anew to San Beda University. Nonetheless, he chooses to see silver linings from that. "Yung mga ganung bagay is a lesson. Para sa akin, natuto ako kung paano yung mga moves bago magdesisyon, kung paano paghahandaan muna lahat para yung desisyon mo, mas mapaganda," he said. While he won three championships in a row as a Red Lion, it was not all roses as well for Bolick. A self-proclaimed "bench player" for two years in De La Salle University, he shared that he felt like he didn't belong in Manila. "Parang feeling ko nun, hindi ko pa kaya yung college kasi never pa ako nakapaglaro nang ganung karaming tao. Dati nga, naisip ko, pagpasok ko ng court, ang laki naman nito, ano ba naman 'to," he said. He then continued, "Dati, kaunting takbo lang, pero ngayon, parang ang tagal bago ka makarating sa kabila." Thankfully, teammate Oda Tampus was always there to lift up the spirits of the 6-foot-1 playmaker. As he put it, "Ang nagbukas talaga ng mata sa akin, si Oda, kaming dalawa lang yung Bisaya sa team ko siya yung kuya ko kumbaga. Siya yung nagturo sa akin ng ropes, ng diskarte sa college." Not long after, he only grabbed the golden opportunity over in Mendiola where he came to be known as "The Bus Stop" and then "Big Shot Bolick" and then "50-point man." And not long after, he was drafted third overall by the Batang Pier. Looking back, the Ormoc native has no doubt that he is where he is today all because of the rocky road he had taken. "Minsan, ngayon, kapag naiisip ko yun, grabe napagdaanan ko yun? Papasok, fa-foul tapos babalik sa bench," he said. He then continued, "Pero dahil dun, tumibay talaga ako." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 14th, 2020

Built by Bo, bonded for Bo, believe in Bo

This is not the first time that Bo Perasol has had a recruiting haul this huge. Now heading into his fifth season in the University of the Philippines, he has brought in blue-chip recruits such as Gerry Abadiano and Carl Tamayo and talented transferees like Joel Cagulangan, CJ Cansino, and Malick Diouf to a team that already has Bright Akhuetie, Kobe Paras, and Ricci Rivero. And don't forget that Gomez de Liano brothers Javi and Juan are only sitting out the next season - and what lies beyond for them is yet to be determined. This is not that different from his time in Ateneo de Manila University when he scored UAAP Jrs. Season MVP Jerie Pingoy, UAAP Jrs. Finals MVP Hubert Cani, NCAA Mythical selection CJ Perez, and NCAA Jrs. standout Arvin Tolentino in his first few years. Those promising prospects then joined forces with Blue Eagle stalwarts Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal Unfortunately, all of Pingoy, Cani, Perez, and Tolentino - along with the rest of the so-called "Magnificent 7" - found themselves with academic deficiencies and, therefore, ineligible by the blue and white's standards. Not long after, they transferred to different schools and squads and then had varying degrees of success. Will Coach Bo's tale get a different ending this time with the Fighting Maroons? Perasol is making sure of that. "From my experience in Ateneo, natuto ako. Ngayon, meron kaming grupo sa programa na nagha-handle lang ng academics ng players," he shared. He then continued, "Sinasamahan sila sa mga klase, pinapakilala sa mga propesor, ine-explain na player natin yan, pag merong problema, coordinate lang po tayo." Apparently, this academic assistance team is made up of former student-managers who have graduated. Now, their first job is all about seeing to it that State U would not have to go through the same sort of headache Ateneo had with its "Magnificent 7." With that, you could be sure that UP's pillars of honor and excellence still stand strong even as all these new faces join Men's Basketball Team. "Walang special consideration. Pumapasok sila, bumabagsak sila. Binibigyan sila ng extra work, humihingi sila ng extra work," Coach Bo said. He then continued, "Ang ine-explain ko lagi sa players at sa professors, ang mahalaga, basta masipag pumasok at nagpapakita ng intensyong matuto." STARRING AND STRIKING At present, just about everybody is still getting used to blue-chip recruits and talented transferees going for UP. That is why there are more questions than answers each and every time they announce a new player. And along with the question of whether or not all these new faces would be up to par in terms of the honor and excellence the Philippines' prime public university prides itself in, there is a question of just how the Fighting Maroons got here in the first place. How could State U, not that far removed from its self-proclaimed "dark days," get all of these players? And not just players, at that, but many big name players. The categorical answer? The program could now afford it. "Meron nang pondo salamat sa sponsors," head coach Bo Perasol explained. "For example, kung makikita mo lang yung patches sa harap ng jersey, malaking pera yun. Nag-aagawan ang marami para dun." At present, the shot-caller said that UP has eight corporate sponsors all getting together for the funds for the program. And unlike Ateneo which has Manny V. Pangilinan or National University which has Hans Sy as primary backers, the Fighting Maroons' system is quite different. "Ang source ng funds ng UP, halos lahat galing sa alumni. Tapos lahat yun, mina-manage ng nowheretogobutUP," coach Bo said. According to its website, nowheretogobutUP (NTGBUP) is "a volunteer group of UP alumni that aims to help, assist, and support the development, improvement, and advancement of the varsity program of UP." All of the finances it manages, however, are not necessarily donations. As Perasol put it, "Yung model ng UP is unique kasi yung support nila, kailangan may balik din from us." For example, the tactician said that many of their players have made appearances, online in this continuing COVID-19 crisis and in person prior to the pandemic, to cheer up employees of Palawan Pera Padala, one of the team's sponsors. More importantly, Coach Bo reminded yet again that the only reason they have all these new faces is because they have to. He pointed out how Abadiano and Filipino-American Sam Dowd would make up for the losses of Jun Manzo and Juan GDL as well as how Diouf and Cansino are already waiting in the wings once Bright Akhuetie and Ricci Rivero graduate. "We're also recruiting for the impending need," Perasol said. "Hindi naman ito biglaan. Since nagsimula kami rito, we all did this nang dahan-dahan lang. Kaya rin yung support from alumni for funding, hindi na rin naging mahirap." DREAMING Still, the mere fact that UP is now a big-time player on and off the court in collegiate basketball seemed so farfetched just five years ago. Before Bo Perasol, the Fighting Maroons were stuck in a vicious cycle. Now, though, they have back-to-back playoff appearances and have traded blows with traditional powerhouses for recruits and transferees. All of this made possible because the very moment he came in, Coach Bo already knew the secret to success. "You cannot build a program without funds," he said. Perasol furthered that his biggest takeaway from his time in Ateneo was that competing with the traditional powerhouses on the court entailed competing with them as well off of it. "Alam ko yung kakayanan ng Ateneo and siyempre, kakumpetensya ko rin nun yung La Salle so alam ko rin yung kanila. Ganun na rin ang kakayanan ng NU and yung iba pa, kakayanin din nila kung gustuhin nila," he said. He then continued, "Kaya kung ang objective ng programa is to be in the top four, your program should be levelled din sa capacity ng top four." The General Santos native then went on to point out how training in the country or abroad, recruitment local and overseas, housing, and food and nutrition all have costs. "To sum it up, everything you're going to do would entail financing. Hindi ito kakayanin ng UP as a public school dahil wala namang pondo ang gobyerno para dyan," he said. He then continued, "Ang pinakasagot nalang ng school is yung scholarship. And siyempre, yung nag-aaral ka sa UP." That doesn't mean, however, that their hands were tied. In fact, the answer to the questions had always been there. "The good thing about UP is there's millions of alumni all over the world and a lot are successful people and businessmen who are willing to help," Perasol said. BELIEVING Indeed, having educated Filipinos for over 112 years now, UP has, without a doubt, more than a few successful alumni. It was all a matter of uniting - and then unleashing - them. Even before Bo Perasol came home to Diliman, NTGBUP was already organized. They were not necessarily thrilled with the Fighting Maroons, though. "Nung una, dahan-dahan lang, ambag-ambag lang para merong kakainin, pambayad sa dorm. Merong nag-donate ng shoes," Coach Bo said. He then continued, "Pero siyempre, they want first and foremost a program with improvements and direction." NTGBUP and the UP community got just that from Perasol as a 3-11, seventh-place finish in 2015 became a 5-9, sixth-place finish in 2016 in Coach Bo's first year. In his second year, the squad improved to a  6-8, fifth-place finish. From there, the Fighting Maroons have been in the Final Four for back-to-back years now - and even made the Finals in 2018. "Nagsimula maging excited ang alumni nung nagsimula ring manalo," he shared. "When we started winning, nagkaroon hindi lang ng physical support, but financial support as well. We were ascending eh." In his third year at the helm, State U, finally, officially had corporate sponsors. And you know how that year went? That was when they ended a 21-year Final Four drought and then a 32-year Finals absence. Safe to say, the sleeping giant was awoken. "Yes, sleeping giant talaga tayo and when we say nagising, ang pinaka-catalyst was the winning," its fearless leader said. Now, UP MBT has a mean machine of financial support on its back, paving the path for its big-time recruiting haul in 2020. Even better, they now have a loud and proud fanbase that is making up for all the lost time they stayed away during the "dark days." "Actually, sa pitches ko sa recruitment, kasama sa presentation ko yung machi-cheer sila nang ganung klaseng crowd," Coach Bo said. SURVIVING At the same time, though, that loud and proud fanbase expects much, much more from this brand new power. For each and every one of them, Bo Perasol has but one reminder. "What we have done in the past years is to level up lang. We have a new gym, we have all these players, we can train abroad," he said. He then continued, "Pero yung mga Ateneo, La Salle, 20 to 30 years na nilang ginagawa yan. What we did was just to level up alongside them." Again and again, Coach Bo has said that what he has been doing is, put simply, putting UP in the best position to win. Still, with a roster as overflowing with talent as this, he could only acknowledge that just about everybody sees them as having gone championship or bust. Credit to him, however, Perasol was blunt with his assessment that he would also be disappointed if they would not be able to taste their first championship since 1986 sooner than later. "Yes, it will be a failed plan kung hindi tayo makakakuha ng championship in the next three to five years," he said. He then continued, "Yan naman talaga ang plano and ang ginagawa natin ngayon is all going towards that objective." And again and again, he is putting all those great expectations on his shoulders - and on his shoulders alone. "Ako naman, hindi ko rin pwedeng hindi gawin itong ganitong recruitment kasi hindi rin naman ako magkakaroon ng chance kung ganun. I have to be in the best position to succeed so that we are in the best position to succeed," he said. Only time would tell if all the seeds he has sown would bear fruit. But Coach Bo is already guaranteeing that whatever happens then, he would have no regrets. "In the end, alam ko namang babalik ang lahat sa akin. Alam na alam ko namang ako ang leader ng team," he said. He then continued, "Ang mahalaga is we gave ourselves a chance. Anuman ang outcome, basta nabigyan natin ang sarili natin ng pagkakataon." After years and years and years as the laughingstock of men's basketball, it looks like it's now UP's turn to smile and wave. Whether or not that ultimately turns into jumps for joy for their first title in three decades remains to be seen. But maybe, just maybe, Coach Bo is right - this is all worth it just to have a chance to compete. Just remember that in the "dark days," that chance to compete wasn't there at all. --- 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

Eduard Folayang: When an underdog finally became a world champion

In the five years that I was with the ABS-CBN Sports website, I was fortunate enough to have covered quite a number of memorable sports moments, so when I was asked to write about which was the most memorable for me, it was tough to narrow it down to just one single coverage. I could have written about Letran’s momentous upset of a dynasty-seeking San Beda in the NCAA Season 91 Finals, or I could have written about the Philippine Azkals making history by clinching a spot in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.  Being an MMA fan, I could have written about getting to be Octagon-side for the UFC’s first and only trip to Manila, which was indeed a dream come true for me.  When I think about it however, the coverage that sticks with me to this day, even four years later, was being cage-side, just inches away from Eduard  “Landslide” Folayang as he pummeled Shinya Aoki to become the ONE Lightweight World Champion in Singapore back in 2016.  I tell people about that night all the time, and I believe I’ll continue to do so for the rest of my life.  A Fan First As I mentioned earlier, I’m an MMA fan. In fact, being a fan was actually how I eventually got into sports writing.  During my first year or so with ABS-CBN, I got wind of a show on Balls Channel entitled “The Takedown” which was, you guessed it, about the UFC. Immediately, I knew that I wanted to be a part of that show, in any capacity. I even offered to research or write for free, LOL.  While I never did get to work on the show (because unfortunately, it lasted only a few episodes), I did get to make some connections (shoutout to Sir Lori, Ms. Jo, and Ms. Anna!) which eventually landed me a gig as a UFC writer for the Balls Channel Website. During that time, I got to meet and interview stars like BJ Penn, Alexander Gustafsson, Urijah Faber, Cung Le, and even Arianny Celeste. For an MMA fan like me, it was like working a dream job. It was a pretty sweet gig.  Eventually, that job with the Balls Channel Website would lead me to a spot on the ABS-CBN Sports Website which was launched in 2015. By 2016, I had started covering Asia-based MMA promotion ONE Championship quite a bit because ABS-CBN had signed a broadcast deal with them, and because ONE had a ton of homegrown Pinoy fighters on their roster, most notably Folayang and the Team Lakay guys.  Folayang, whose contract with ONE expired in March of 2016, re-signed with the promotion and returned to action in August, defeating Adrian Pang by Unanimous Decision in Macau. That win over Pang earned Folayang the biggest bout of his career at that point: a title shot against reigning champion Aoki.  When I learned of that title fight, I was very excited for Folayang, but had little expectations for his chances, being that Aoki was a legend in the sport.  Best Seat in the House Eduard Folayang finally getting to fight for a world championship was a huge deal for Filipino MMA fans, especially those that had followed the Baguio-based star’s career since his days in the URCC. The Pinoy star was on ONE’s first ever event, but could never seem to gain enough momentum to compete for a world title, until that point.  That November night in Singapore, all the years of work sacrifice that Folayang had put in during his nine-year MMA career would finally pay off.  This was only my second time to cover a ONE event overseas, so apart from having to write stories, I also had to take pictures. Learning from my past mistakes, I asked if I could have a spot cage-side so that I could take some at least decent photos. Thankfully, the ONE people agreed and gave me a spot just beside one of the judges’ tables.  I had the best seat in the house.  Now, as I said, I had tapered my expectations for the fight. I had seen what Aoki could do in the cage. I’ve seen the guy break peoples’ bones before, so honestly, I was just hoping that he wouldn’t injure Folayang. Our guy was the underdog heading into this fight, no doubt about it.  Of course, as a Filipino and as a fan I was hoping for a massive upset. The beautiful thing about MMA is anything can happen.  Shock The World This was legitimately the first time that I felt nervous covering a fight. It’s like that feeling you have when your favorite basketball team is in a close game with just seconds left.  That first round was a frigging whirlwind of emotions if you’re a Pinoy MMA fan. It looked like Aoki was within moments of being able to submit Folayang on multiple occasions.  The second round was a little bit more relaxed for Folayang, especially since he had been able to survive Aoki’s opening round grappling blitz. It looked like he was a bit more confident and he started to throw some of his trademark spinning kicks and elbows.  A miscalculated flying knee attempt led to another Aoki takedown, but this time around, Folayang appeared a little more calm and relaxed under the pressure.  Late in the round, Folayang began to attack Aoki’s torso with punches and kicks, and it looked like it had the Japanese legend a bit winded. The tide had shifted.  Heading into the third round, there was a different feeling in the air. It felt like Aoki was done, and it felt like Folayang knew it.  In the opening seconds of that fateful third frame, Folayang knew exactly what Aoki was going to do and had an answer for it. Aoki shot in for a takedown, and Folayang countered it with a jumping knee to the jaw.  For a brief second, Folayang was on his behind, but managed to outmuscle Aoki and deliver another vicious knee.  “Oh sh*t!” I yelled internally while scrambling to take photos of the ensuing beatdown.  Folayang turned Aoki over and began to connect with punch after unanswered punch.  Without taking my eye away from my camera’s viewfinder, I started yelling for Folayang to finish it.  Folayang continued to punish Aoki with piston-like punches as the Singapore Indoor Stadium began to erupt.  For what felt like an eternity, referee Yuji Shimada watched as Folayang unloaded nine years worth of heartbreak and frustration into a ground-and-pound sequence.  And then, it was over.  There was a new lightweight king.  AND NEW! EDUARD FOLAYANG STOPS SHINYA AOKI IN ROUND 3! — Santino Honasan???? (@honasantino) November 11, 2016     The Landslide Reigns As much as I would have wanted to keep it cool, I started to freak out. I looked to my right and saw my fellow Pinoy journalists doing the same, one was even standing on the table, cheering the new world champion on.  At that point, I had watched UAAP championships, NCAA championships, even some boxing world championships, but this one was different. I knew what Folayang had gone through. I knew that the odds were stacked against him.  As the confetti began to rain down and the celebration inside the ring continued, I recomposed myself and started to take pictures again. I wanted to be able to capture this moment.  After the official decision and the post-fight interview, I remember calling out to Folayang so that I could take a photo of him with his shiny new toy.  I’ve gotten to witness other members of Team Lakay become champions since then. I’ve been blessed enough to see Geje Eustaquio, Kevin Belingon and Joshua Pacio all become titleholders within a single year. While getting to see Team Lakay draped in gold to end 2018 was definitely a sight to behold, being there cage side as ‘Manong Ed’ realized a life-long dream was definitely an experience that I won’t soon forget.  Folayang's title win wasn't Team Lakay's first world champmionship, and it isn't the last. For me however, I think it's the most important, because it showed that no matter how many times you fall, you can still find your way to the top.  Everyone loves a good underdog story.  -- Santino Honasan has served as a sub-section editor for ABS-CBN Sports' website since 2015. He is among thousands of ABS-CBN employees who will be retrenched on August 31, 2020. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 29th, 2020

PetroGazz seeks to surpass Creamline in an all-local battle

Creamline remains the standard when it comes to strength of its local lineup in the Premier Volleyball League. The Cool Smashers have the deepest bench as the two-time Open Conference champions parade a star-studded roster led by elite hitters Alyssa Valdez, Jema Galanza, Michele Gumabao, Risa Sato and top setter Jia Morado. That’s the reason why PetroGazz, which built an exciting rivalry against Creamline last year, is keen on shoring up its team composition for PVL Season 4. “’Yung level ng Creamline kapag all-Filipino mas mataas talaga sa amin,” admitted Angels coach Arnold Laniog in an interview with ABS-CBN Sports. PetroGazz pulled off an upset over Creamline in last year’s Reinforced Conference Finals with the help of prized imports Cuban Wilma Salas and American Janisa Johnson. The two teams met again in the Open Conference championship, but the firepower of the Cool Smashers’ local arsenal proved too much for the Angels, who were swept in the Finals series. Creamline completed a rare 20-game tournament sweep last year. “We need to work hard para maka-recruit ng players at possible talents na magpi-fit din mismo sa system namin,” Laniog said.   The Angels made their move early this year when they signed three-time NCAA Most Valuable Player Grethcel Soltones, Jerrili Malabanan and setter Ivy Perez. Their arrival proved to be timely after skipper Paneng Mercado-de Koenigswater took a leave of absence because of her pregnancy and starting setter Djanel Cheng departed. The trio according to Laniog fits perfectly with their system has shown good chemistry with holdovers Jeanette Panaga, Cherry Nunag, Jonah Sabete, Jovyu Prado, Cai Baloaloa, Jessey De Leon, Chie Saet and liberos Cienne Cruz and Rica Enclona. Unfortunately, their preparation was halted because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Still, Laniog is confident that once the government gives the green light for volleyball activities to resume PetroGazz will be ready to take on the powerhouse Cool Smashers in an all-Filipino setting.    “Sabi ko nga in the future di malayo na kaya naming malagpasan ang challenge ng locals ng Creamline,” he said.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 15th, 2020

Beast and Baby Beast together in Coach Topex s NCAA First 5

Topex Robinson has been calling the shots for Lyceum of the Philippines University from 2015 to present. Before this, the always amiable mentor was at the helm for San Sebastian College-Recoletos from 2011 to 2014. Through all of that, he has had a hand in the discovery and the development of young talent for his teams as well as the game planning for the opposing rising stars. Among all of those, who are the best of the best for him? Here is Topex Robinson's NCAA First 5, as he told ABS-CBN Sports: CJ PEREZ One phone call - one phone call was all it took for the tides to turn in favor of LPU. When Perez was looking to leave the nest of Ateneo de Manila University, he called one person and one person only - Coach Topex, who discovered and then developed him back in San Sebastian. The rest, as they say, is history as in the first year of their reunion, the 6-foot-2 guard was hailed as MVP all while the Pirates sailed to a historic Finals. CALVIN ABUEVA "The Beast" continued to be unleashed under the watchful eye of coach Topex. Already a force under then-coaches Ato Agustin and Turo Valenzona, Abueva stayed Abueva even as he did not replicate his MVP win in Season 87. And up until now, there is still no end-to-end force quite like one-third of the "Pinatubo Trio." IAN SANGALANG Another third of the "Pinatubo Trio," Sangalang had polished post moves from the moment he stepped into the collegiate ranks. He became an all-around player in his later years in San Sebastian, however, and much of that was thanks to the guidance of Coach Topex. The 6-foot-7 big man's MVP came in the season that went unfinished by Robinson, but there remains no doubt that the latter had a huge hand in the rise of the latter. ROBERT BOLICK LPU was woken up from its dream season in Season 93 by San Beda University - who else but dynastic San Beda University. In particular, it was Bolick who dashed their dreams, dropping seven of his 24 points in the last two minutes of Game 1 and delivering seven of his 22 markers in the last five minutes of Game 2. The only thing unfortunate about the Pirates' transformation into a powerhouse was that it just so coincided with the self-proclaimed bench player in De La Salle University's transformation into "Big Shot Bolick." RAYMOND ALMAZAN (Photo courtesy of Mark Cristino, ABS-CBN News) In the early 2010s, San Beda's challenger in the Finals was either San Sebastian or Colegio de San Juan de Letran. In the same time that Baste was the stage for the "Pinatubo Trio," Letran was home to tantalizing talents such as Kevin Alas, Rey Guevarra, and RJ Jazul. Among them, though, it was only the 6-foot-8 Almazan who stood out enough to be recognized as MVP - and his two-way impact throughout his collegiate career has most definitely not gone unnoticed by opposing coaches. --- Coach Topex did not go into detail as to why he went with these five players. In general, though, he said that these five are "for a fact, the best that the NCAA has produced in the last 10 years." Even better, Robinson said that all of Perez, Abueva, Sangalang, Bolick, and Almazan are, at present, keeping at proving his point as stars in the PBA. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 3rd, 2020

GREATEST PERFORMANCES: Joel Cagulangan s NCAA 93 playoff run

Joel Cagulangan was, hands-down, the best player in all of the NCAA Jrs. in the Season 93 playoffs. And he had to be because College of St. Benilde-La Salle Green Hills lost five of its last six games in the elimination round and had to win a knockout bout against San Sebastian College-Recoletos just to get into the Final Four. There, they had to down powerhouse San Beda High School not once, but twice before moving on to a date with defending champion Mapua High School. Safe to say, the odds were all against the Jr. Blazers in that playoff run - but one player, one player who only stood at 5-feet, 8-inches willed them to do the impossible. That was no more evident than in the winner-take-all Finals Game 3 where LSGH was trailing by one with less than a minute remaining. After getting a defensive rebound, Cagulangan got a foul for his troubles and was sent to the line where he coolly converted both free throws. Not long after, two defensive stops by partner-in-crime Joshua David finished off an improbable championship. In the end, the Butuan native had 19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and four steals to his name - unquestionably recognized as the Finals MVP. Inand Fornilos, the green and white's tireless forward then, perhaps put it perfectly when he said, “Pag wala siya, parang magiging imposible. Pag nandun siya, kayang-kaya.” And yet, that wasn't even Cagulangan's most impressive game. In another do-or-die game, this one, Game 2 against the top-seeded and twice-to-beat Red Cubs, the Jr. Blazers found themselves all even with their opponents at 103-all with less than a minute remaining in the third overtime. It was at that point, that the pint-sized playmaker sliced and diced his way to a left-handed layup. That proved to be the go-ahead basket en route to a 110-108 decision in the classic contest. There wasn't even supposed to be a third extra period as LSGH was down by three with 11 ticks to go in the clock in the second overtime before Cagulagan buried a booming triple to emphatically exclaim that the game was far from over. In the end, he had 29 points to go along with nine assists, nine rebounds, and two steals and played all but three of the possible 55 minutes in a matchup that had 22 lead changes and seven deadlocks. That performance will always be known as the first and foremost show of just how great his will to win is. Fortunately for the University of the Philippines, it will be getting to know just that as Joel Cagulangan is now its point guard of the future. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 2nd, 2020

Bolick bares coach Boyet s key to success - tireless scouting

Boyet Fernandez has brought home four championships to San Beda University. In fact, last year was the first and, thus far, only time he has missed out on a title as head coach of the Red Lions. Through it all, he has overseen the lighting up of shining stars such as Baser Amer, Ola Adeogun, James Canlas, Javee Mocon, and Calvin Oftana. Among all those, there is one standout who made the most out of the full faith Coach Boyet had in him. In his first year in red and white, Robert Bolick came to be known as an impact player at either end. Still, he was known more for his defense - becoming "The Bus Stop" to the "Bus Driver" Jiovani Jalalon - than his offense, even though at that time, San Beda was a run-and-gun team under Jamike Jarin. With Fernandez at the helm, however, the tables turned and the 6-foot-1 playmaker got into his groove on offense. The then-King Lion became a fearless gunner with the capability and confidence to score from all over their side of the court. In NCAA Season 93, he posted per game counts of 13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists and saved his best for last, sinking elimination round-sweeping Lyceum of the Philippines University by his lonesome in the Finals. For reference, his averages from the season before were 9.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Clearly, Coach Boyet unlocked something in Bolick. And up until present, the now-NorthPort lead guard is nothing but grateful for that. "Si Coach Boyet kasi, pro style ang ginawa niya sa amin e. Na-ready na niya kami para sa pros," he said in The Prospects Pod last Friday. He then continued, "Siguro, sa utak, si Coach Boyet ang isa sa pinakamautak na coach na nakilala ko kasi grabe siya mag-scout e." And all of that came to be thanks to the veteran mentor's tireless work ethic. "Siguro, kung pwede lang siya pumunta kunwari sa practice nina (LPU star) CJ [Perez], pupunta siguro yun," he said, through chuckles. He then continued, "Lahat, ini-scout e. Lahat, meron siyang film, mula Filoil (Preseason) hanggang ibang lugar. Minsan nga, sinasabi ko nang, 'Pano mo nakuha yan?'" Indeed, there have been more than a few times when reporters have seen Coach Boyet in the venue for the first game of the day even though the Red Lions were scheduled to take the floor for the third of the tripleheader. He has also been seen alongside his trusted assistants and trusty notebook in other leagues - whether it be preseason or in-season - doing his due diligence for their opponents. Without a doubt, Fernandez is one of the most hardworking - if not the most hardworking - mentors in all of college. "Yung work ethic talaga ni Coach Boyet, yun yung mapapabilib ka," his one-time prized ward said. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 13th, 2020

CJ Perez got the best out of Robert Bolick and vice versa

For a winning team like San Beda University, the standard has become San Beda University itself. Having won 11 of the last 14 championships, the Red Lions have dominated the recent history of the NCAA. And with that, back in 2017, Robert Bolick had more than just back-to-back titles in mind as a goal. "Nung nag-champion kami sa (2017 PBA) D-League (Aspirants Cup) tapos natalo pa namin La Salle (sa Filoil Preseason), sabi ko na, baka ma-sweep namin 'to ha," he narrated in The Prospects Pod last Friday. The boys from Mendiola had just reclaimed the crown and were upbeat about their chances of repeating as they had a mostly intact core. Bolick, indeed, went so far as to aim for the perfect season that had only been done by San Beda's 2010 squad led by Sudan Daniel and Borgie Hermida. "Sa San Beda kasi, nakalagay sa court kung sino yung naka-season sweep. Sabi ko, baka ma-duplicate namin ito ha," he said. After an 18-point win to start the season, all was going swimmingly for them. And then, they got ambushed - ambushed by Pirates. "Biglang pangalawang game pa lang namin, natalo kami agad. Sabi ko, hindi ito yung inaasahan namin ha. Nagulat talaga kami sa linaro nila," the 6-foot-1 playmaker said. Lyceum of the Philippines University sent a statement to all of the league with a thrilling five-point triumph over San Beda. From there, they would go on to win each and every one of their assignments in the elimination round - the very first team to go 18-0 in the history of the Grand Old League. Of course, the Pirates had to win two more - and Bolick and the Red Lions had other plans. In the end, the red and white triumphed anew and took away the upstarts' shot at history. "Akala ko nun, magcha-champion na ako sa NCAA. E biglang kumana nang kumana yung Robert Bolick, wala na," Lyceum's CJ Perez then said. Despite the heartbreak, though, LPU only became better as it moved forward. Indeed, it was at that point that San Beda - and by proxy, Bolick - became a true obstacle Perez had to hurdle. As he put it, "Ako kasi, naniniwala ako sa mindset e. kunwari kung kalaban namin San Beda, Robert Bolick, sabi ko talaga gagalingan ko kasi alam kong gagawin niya yung best niya." The Pirates forged a rematch in the NCAA 94 Finals, but yet again came up short. Still, they had made their school proud and that was more than enough. And looking back, the 6-foot-2 guard said that having the Red Lions as the standard did nothing but pull them upward and upward. "Ganun yung mindset ko lagi kaya kapag kalaban yung San Beda, Robert Bolick, matututo't-matututo ka," he said. For his part, Bolick could only acknowledge that Perez did the same for him and LPU did the same for San Beda. "Kailangan talaga yung ganun e. Kailangan mo ng katapat," he said. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 13th, 2020

WHAT IF… National U failed in must-win run to historic title

History lesson: From 1954 to now, National University only has two titles to show in UAAP Men's Basketball. The Bulldogs won it all in 1954 before going through a six-decade wait for another championship. The wait was finally over when the blue and gold side coached by Eric Altamirano and led by Gelo Alolino, Glenn Khobuntin, and Troy Rosario took home the trophy to Sampaloc. Without a doubt, it was a happy ending to a colorful story, but it was, also without a doubt, a shock to just about everybody. Sans back-to-back MVP Ray Parks Jr., National U wound up with a 9-5 standing at the end of the elimination round. That was pretty good, relative to the long-suffering squad, but that also meant they stood on level ground with University of the East. And if they were to get the better of the Red Warriors for the fourth-seed, they would then be matched up opposite top-seed Ateneo de Manila University and eventual MVP Kiefer Ravena and eventual Mythical selection Chris Newsome. The other bracket wasn't a slouch either as it featured a Far Eastern University with Mac Belo or a De La Salle University with Jeron Teng. Against all odds, though, the Bulldogs did it - coming out on top of UE, coming through against Blue Eagles twice, and claiming the crown in three games at the expense of the Tamaraws. At long last, Jhocson Street was to be the venue of a championship celebration anew. To do so, thought, they had to walk the knife's edge as, aside from the Finals, their first three games after the elims were all must-win. What if they failed there? What if, even in just one of those three tries, the odds proved to be insurmountable? While the Red Warriors, despite the presence of Roi Sumang and Charles Mammie, would remain to be a tall task, there's still a better than good chance that they still fall to Khobuntin, Rosario, and company. And so, we have the blue and gold moving on to a duel with Ateneo. On a high from staying alive, the Bulldogs have a good chance at still stealing the playoff game behind J-Jay Alejandro's breakout game. Game 2, however, should have been where, ultimately, their dreams were dashed. In the real world, National U eked out a two-point triumph over the Blue Eagles on the back of Alfred Aroga's 14-point, 12-rebound double-double. In the what if world, Ateneo shows them the door once and for all in the do-or-die game as Ravena comes out way more determined than his five-point, 2-of-10 effort in the first half. In the Finals, though, FEU gets the better of the Blue Eagles and wins the first of its back-to-back championships. Newsome still fails to graduate on the highest of highs, but at least, he gets to go out in the championship round. Ravena and Von Pessumal return for their fifth and final seasons hungrier than ever, but also fall short of going out on top. For National U, the waiting game continues - and with Khobuntin and Rosario graduating, making the Final Four in Season 78 wouldn't even be a certainty. They still do so, but will also still be booted out by Finals-bound University of Sto. Tomas. Just like the real world, the what if world will then see the exit of Coach Eric and the Bulldogs will be searching for a brand new mentor. It could have still been one-time NCAA champion coach Jamike Jarin, but it could also have been Jeff Napa who gets promoted after winning three titles in UAAP Jrs. What's certain is the National U Bulldogs would still be longing for its first championship since Ramon Magsaysay was President of the Philippines. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2020

Coaching great John Thompson of Georgetown dead at 78

By JOSEPH WHITE AP Sports Writer WASHINGTON (AP) — John Thompson, the imposing Hall of Famer who turned Georgetown into a “Hoya Paranoia” powerhouse and became the first Black coach to lead a team to the NCAA men’s basketball championship, has died. He was 78 His death was announced in a family statement released by Georgetown on Monday. No details were disclosed. “Our father was an inspiration to many and devoted his life to developing young people not simply on but, most importantly, off the basketball court. He is revered as a historic shepherd of the sport, dedicated to the welfare of his community above all else,” the statement said. “However, for us, his greatest legacy remains as a father, grandfather, uncle, and friend. More than a coach, he was our foundation. More than a legend, he was the voice in our ear everyday.” One of the most celebrated and polarizing figures in his sport, Thompson took over a moribund Georgetown program in the 1970s and molded it in his unique style into a perennial contender, culminating with a national championship team anchored by center Patrick Ewing in 1984. Georgetown reached two other title games with Thompson in charge and Ewing patrolling the paint, losing to Michael Jordan’s North Carolina team in 1982 and to Villanova in 1985. At 6-foot-10, with an ever-present white towel slung over his shoulder, Thompson literally and figuratively towered over the Hoyas for decades, becoming a patriarch of sorts after he quit coaching in 1999. One of his sons, John Thompson III, was hired as Georgetown’s coach in 2004. When the son was fired in 2017, the elder Thompson -- known affectionately as “Big John” or “Pops” to many -- was at the news conference announcing Ewing as the successor. Along the way, Thompson said what he thought, shielded his players from the media and took positions that weren’t always popular. He never shied away from sensitive topics -- particularly the role of race in both sports and society -- and he once famously walked off the court before a game to protest an NCAA rule because he felt it hurt minority athletes. “I’ll probably be remembered for all the things that kept me out of the Hall of Fame, ironically, more than for the things that got me into it,” Thompson said on the day he was elected to the Hall in 1999. Thompson became coach of the Hoyas in 1972 and began remaking a team that was 3-23 the previous season. Over the next 27 years, he led Georgetown to 14 straight NCAA tournaments (1979-92), 24 consecutive postseason appearances (20 NCAA, 4 NIT), three Final Fours (1982, 1984, 1985) and won six Big East tournament championships. Employing a physical, defense-focused approach that frequently relied on a dominant center -- Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo were among his other pupils -- Thompson compiled a 596-239 record (.715 winning percentage). He had 26 players drafted by the NBA. One of his honors -- his selection as coach of the U.S. team for the 1988 Olympics -- had a sour ending when the Americans had to settle for the bronze medal. It was a result so disappointing that Thompson put himself on a sort of self-imposed leave at Georgetown for a while, coaching practices and games but leaving many other duties to his assistants. Off the court, Thompson was both a role model and a lightning rod. A stickler for academics, he kept a deflated basketball on his desk, a reminder to his players that a degree was a necessity because a career in basketball relied on a tenuous “nine pounds of air.” The school boasted that 76 of 78 players who played four seasons under Thompson received their degrees. He was a Black coach who recruited mostly Black players to a predominantly white Jesuit university in Washington, and Thompson never hesitated to speak out on behalf of his players. One of the most dramatic moments in Georgetown history came on Jan. 14, 1989, when he walked off the court to a standing ovation before the tipoff of a home game against Boston College, demonstrating in a most public way his displeasure against NCAA Proposition 42. The rule denied athletic scholarships to freshmen who didn’t meet certain requirements, and Thompson said it was biased against underprivileged students. Opposition from Thompson, and others, led the NCAA to modify the rule. Thompson’s most daring move came that same year, when he summoned notorious drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III for a meeting in the coach’s office. Thompson warned Edmond to stop associating with Hoyas players and to leave them alone, using his respect in the Black community to become one of the few people to stare down Edmond and not face a reprisal. Though aware of his influence, Thompson did not take pride in becoming the first Black coach to take a team to the Final Four, and he let a room full of reporters know it when asked his feelings on the subject at a news conference in 1982. “I resent the hell out of that question if it implies I am the first Black coach competent enough to take a team to the Final Four,” Thompson said. “Other Blacks have been denied the right in this country; coaches who have the ability. I don’t take any pride in being the first Black coach in the Final Four. I find the question extremely offensive.” Born Sept. 2, 1941, John R. Thompson Jr. grew up in Washington, D.C. His father was always working — on a farm in Maryland and later as a laborer in the city — and could neither read nor write. “I never in my life saw my father’s hands clean,” Thompson told The Associated Press in 2007. “Never. He’d come home and scrub his hands with this ugly brown soap that looked like tar. I thought that was the color of his hands. When I was still coaching, kids would show up late for practice and I’d (say) ... ‘My father got up every morning of his life at 5 a.m. to go to work. Without an alarm.‘” Thompson’s parents emphasized education, but he struggled in part of because of poor eyesight and labored in Catholic grammar school. He was moved to a segregated public school, had a growth spurt and became good enough at basketball to get into John Carroll, a Catholic high school, where he led the team to 55 consecutive victories and two city titles. He went to Providence College as one of the most touted basketball prospects in the country and led the Friars to the first NCAA bid in school history. He graduated in 1964 and played two seasons with Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics, earning a pair of championship rings as a sparingly used backup to Bill Russell. Thompson returned to Washington, got his master’s degree in guidance and counseling from the University of the District of Columbia and went 122-28 over six seasons at St. Anthony’s before accepting the job at Georgetown, an elite school that had relatively few Black students. Faculty and students rallied around him after a bedsheet with racist words was hung inside the school’s gym before a game during the 1974-75 season. Thompson sheltered his players with closed practices, tightly controlled media access and a prohibition on interviews with freshmen in their first semester -- a restriction that still stands for Georgetown’s basketball team. Combined with Thompson’s flashes of emotion and his players’ rough-and-tumble style of play, it wasn’t long before the words “Hoya Paranoia” came to epitomize the new era of basketball on the Hilltop campus. Georgetown lost the 1982 NCAA championship game when Fred Brown mistakenly passed the ball to North Carolina’s James Worthy in the game’s final seconds. Two years later, Ewing led an 84-75 win over Houston in the title game. The Hoyas were on the verge of a repeat the following year when they were stunned in the championship game by coach Rollie Massimino’s Villanova team in one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. Success allowed Thompson to rake in money through endorsements, but he ran afoul of his Georgetown bosses when he applied for a gambling license for a business venture in Nevada in 1995. Thompson, who liked playing the slot machines in Las Vegas, reluctantly dropped the application after the university president objected. Centers Ewing, Mourning and Mutombo turned Georgetown into “Big Man U” under Thompson, although his last superstar was guard Allen Iverson, who in 1996 also became the first player under Thompson to leave school early for the NBA draft. “Thanks for Saving My Life Coach,” Iverson wrote at the start of an Instagram post Monday with photos of the pair. The Hoyas teams in the 1990s never came close to matching the achievements of the 1980s, and Thompson’s era came to a surprising and sudden end when he resigned in the middle of the 1998-99 season, citing distractions from a pending divorce. Thompson didn’t fade from the limelight. He became a sports radio talk show host and a TV and radio game analyst, joining the very profession he had frustrated so often as a coach. He loosened up, allowing the public to see his lighter side, but he remained pointed and combative when a topic mattered to him. A torch was passed in 2004, when John Thompson III became Georgetown’s coach. The younger Thompson, with “Pops” often watching from the stands or sitting in the back of the room for news conferences, returned the Hoyas to the Final Four in 2007. Another son, Ronny Thompson, was head coach for one season at Ball State and is now a TV analyst. ___ Joseph White, a former AP sports writer in Washington who died in 2019, prepared this obituary. AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 15th, 2020

Cone rewards Japeth with more minutes ‘to get him in shape’

Japeth Aguilar topscored Barangay Ginebra with 20 points against Meralco. (PBA Images) Some were probably wondering why coach Tim Cone kept Japeth Aguilar on the floor even though Barangay Ginebra San Miguel already had the game won against Meralco Sunday night. “I left him out there the whole time, just so to get him in shape,” Cone said after Ginebra’s 105-91 victory at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center. Aguilar finished with a game-high 20 points, scoring nine during a nine-minute appearance in the fourth quarter, something Cone said is something he rarely does. But Cone explained that having such exposure even in a blowout contest could bode well for Aguilar in the long run since the Finals Most Valuable Player of last season’s Governors’ Cup entered the bubble only days before the restart. And it has resulted in averages of 9.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in wins over NLEX and Blackwater. “We really don’t have time to get him in shape by working out because the games come so fast,” said Cone.  “Though we have a big margin, I wasn’t taking Japeth out. That’s unusual for me, but I saw it as a purpose and to stay on the floor and keep working. Hopefully that will make him better into our next game.” Ginebra is hoping that would be the case as it enters a stretch of difficult games against tough opponents. The Kings return to action on Wednesday against the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters, who opened the conference with two straight wins. Next is Ginebra’s “Bubble Clasico” showdown with Magnolia on Sunday followed by a clash with another sister team in defending five-time champion San Miguel Beer on Oct. 30......»»

Category: lifestyleSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 19th, 2020

Rebirth of Nash Racela

Nash Racela has steered Blackwater to an early success inside the bubble. (PBA Images) ANGELES CITY–Blackwater’s new coach Nash Racela seemed like he hasn’t skipped a beat despite missing the PBA sidelines for a long time.  Racela steered the Elite to a 2-1 record in the Philippine Cup at the expense of the winless NLEX, 98-88, on Saturday at the Smart 5G-powered Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center. But the 48-year-old mentor bared that it wasn’t easy for him to return to the league after losing his post in TNT KaTropa two years ago.  “When I got kicked out of Talk N’ Text (TNT), in a way I lost interest in the PBA. I wasn’t watching the game for at least a year,” said Racela. The former Far Eastern University tactician led TNT to a finals and five playoffs appearances in two years. But the KaTropa’s underwhelming performance early in the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup prompted the management to put him on leave and eventually replace him with current head coach Bong Ravena. Racela found his way back to the PBA after he signed a two-year deal with Blackwater in November last year. He could only thank his current Elite squad for helping him readjust to the league.  “What really helped me was number one, ‘yung coaches and players that we have. They’ve been helping me a lot by giving inputs,” said Racela, whose familiarity with PBA also encouraged him to take another shot at coaching in the pros.  “Number two is really the familiarity. Most of the players I know, the team tendencies and the coaches are the same,” he said.   “Those are the things that really helped me to slowly be comfortable with coaching again in the PBA.” .....»»

Category: lifestyleSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2020

Lakers’ Green received death threats after NBA Finals miss

ORLANDO – Los Angeles guard Danny Green said he wasn’t fazed to receive death threats on social media after missing a late three-pointer in the Lakers’ game-five loss to Miami in the NBA Finals. Green said he and fiancee Blair Bashen, a former collegiate volleyball player, had both received threats after the Lakers were unable […] The post Lakers’ Green received death threats after NBA Finals miss appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsOct 12th, 2020

Heat say they’ve got to be better at the start vs Celtics

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida — The formula that the Miami Heat had backed themselves into using throughout this postseason wasn’t exactly ideal. They were losing almost every first quarter, and winning almost every game anyway. It’s not a sustainable plan, and the Boston Celtics finally showed that in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals […] The post Heat say they’ve got to be better at the start vs Celtics appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsSep 23rd, 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

2020 king of recruiting crown remains on UP’s head

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 26th, 2020

Always About the People

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 23rd, 2020

Four of coach Frankie s NCAA First 5 comes straight from San Beda

Frankie Lim has been calling the shots for University of Perpetual Help from 2018 to present. Before this, the fiery mentor was at the helm of San Beda University from 2007 to 2011. Through all of that, he has had a hand in the discovery and the development of young talent for his teams as well as the game planning for the opposing rising stars. Among all of those, who are the best of the best for him? Here is Frankie Lim's NCAA First 5, as he told ABS-CBN Sports: ROBERT BOLICK Coach Frankie was no longer in San Beda when Robert Bolick became "Big Shot Bolick." Where he was instead was at the other end, doing his best to push Perpetual into getting the better of the 6-foot-1 playmaker. In his three games going up against Bolick, Coach Frankie and his boys fell short - and that only made the latter all the more impressed with the former. GARVO LANETE Before Bolick was doing what he was doing, Lanete set the standard on what San Beda should get from its lead guard. A fearless gunner forever willing to put the Red Lions on his back, the 6-foot-2 scorer was right up there with the likes of Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas as the best backcourt players in college. Lanete had an edge over those two, though, as he was a key cog in four championships for the red and white. MIKE NZEUSSEU Nzeusseu is not the foreign student-athlete we're used to watching. Yes, he could back down on opponents, but he was at his best either facing up and forcing his quickness on defenders or finishing setups from the likes of CJ Perez and the Marcelino twins. Coach Frankie knows a thing or two about paint presences, but he is also a big fan of more well-rounded big men. SUDAN DANIEL Daniel had an unenviable task of following Sam Ekwe, you know, the Nigerian who won MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season. Without a doubt, though, "Superman" lived up to his lofty billing, making sure San Beda remained the team-to-beat even in the face of San Sebastian College-Recoletos' Pinatubo Trio as well as Alas and Raymond Almazan-led Colegio de San Juan de Letran. In an MVP campaign in 2010, Daniel stood as the pillar for the Red Lions' 18-0 romp through the tournament and wound up with something not even Ekwe had - a season sweep. OLA ADEOGUN At the peak of his powers, Adeogun was, simply put, scary. An unbelievable hybrid of Ekwe's power and Daniel's agility, the Nigerian saw to it that there was no let up for San Beda even after they had moved on from their two foreign student-athletes who won MVP. Adeogun did not win the top individual player himself and yet, he won the hearts of the San Beda faithful thanks to the attitude he brought to the Red Lions. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 14th, 2020

GREATEST PERFORMANCES: Arellano U’s sweep of thrice-to-beat SSC-R

Arellano University has been the dominating force in the NCAA women’s volleyball for the past three seasons. If not for the cancellation of Season 95 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Lady Chiefs would’ve made a strong case for a four-peat. But while the Lady Chiefs displayed great character to extend their reign, it was Arellano U’s impressive showing in Season 92 Finals series that built the solid foundation of its grand slam. Three years ago, the Lady Chiefs redeemed themselves from surrendering the crown the previous season by dethroning College of St. Benilde in the stepladder semifinals. Arellano U thus earned a return ticket to the Finals. However, the Lady Chiefs had to face an uphill climb in the championship series as they took on an unbeaten Grethcel Soltones-led San Sebastian College armed with a thrice-to-beat advantage. The Lady Stags handed Arellano U its only loss in the elimination round, before coming into the Finals with nine straight wins. Led by the graduating Soltones backed by a veteran crew, SSC-R looked poised to avenge its humiliating defeat the season before when they squandered the same series advantage. But the Lady Chiefs proved that they were the hungrier team. Using the death of head coach Obet Javier’s wife, Amy Marie, after a long bout with lung cancer as added motivation, Arellano U pulled off a shocker in the series opener. The Lady Chiefs swept the Recto-based squad, 25-18, 25-20, 25-16, with Rialen Sante, Jovie Prado, Andrea Marzan and Mary Anne Esguerra leading the way. Drawing first blood, Arellano U quickly shifted momentum to its favor. They played spoiler to Soltones’ third straight Most Valuable Player award in Game 2 when the Lady Chiefs survived a thrilling five-set match, 18-25, 25-16, 25-11, 26-28, 15-13, to inch closer to its second title since joining the league in 2009. Arellano kept its composure in a very tight fifth set breaking a 13-all deadlock with Regine Arocha’s off speed. SSC-R was the first top blink when Dangie Encarnacion committed an attack error that brought back the nightmare of the Lady Stags’ Season 91 Finals defeat. Then in Game 3, the Lady Chiefs celebrated Valentine’s Day by breaking the hearts of the Lady Stags, 25-15, 22-25, 25-23, 25-16. “Napakalaki sa amin ito kasi 'yung mga bata, pinaghirapan talaga namin ang taon na ito," Javier said then. "Noong first round, natalo kami sa Baste kaya nag-set kami ng goal na hindi na dapat mangyari ito. Nangyari naman."    That feat set the tone for Arellano U’s next two conquests. From there, the Lady Chiefs established its current domination of the country’s oldest collegiate league.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 13th, 2020