Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Bea De Leon: Volleyball and how it changed her world



Bea De Leon: Volleyball and how it changed her world
story and pic by rick olivares 


"I just hit a ball."

Thus Bea De Leon rationalises when confronted with the hysteria of volleyball madness, fandom, or whatever you want to call it. At the center of it all are the Ateneo Lady Eagles, the glamor team for the past five years. De Leon is punching in her time card for Year Two on a train led by the phenomenal Alyssa Valdez. 

Yet the 19-year old lass, isn't merely piggybacking on a juggernaut of a team. De Leon has given Ateneo a massive presence in the middle and that helped the team on its way to a second straight UAAP Women's Volleyball championship.

And that "ball" or "volleyball" to be succinct about it, has had a huge effect on the young woman's life.




One ball. One team. One family.
While she was in high school at Poveda, Bea's father, Elmer, wondered why his only daughter bothered with a sport that wasn't popular or he couldn't appreciate. "I wanted her to play golf or try something else that was more competitive," recalled the father with a wry smile after seeing how everything has turned out. 

Elmer never watched a single game of his daughter while she was at Poveda. Not one. "We weren't very competitive to begin with," clarified Bea. "But as a teenage girl, you crave for your parents' approval and their support. My dad not being there hurt me and I would often cry about it."

"I would watch, but Elmer didn't," added Det, Bea's mother. "I had to console Bea many times because she wanted her dad to be there."

All that changed when she was pursued by La Salle and Ateneo and we all know where she turned up in spite of her family's green and white pedigree.

Watching the mammoth crowds at the games, Elmer can't help but marvel at how huge the game has become. And his daughter is a young star at the center of the storm. Nowadays, he makes it a point to watch his daughter's every game, sometimes, even practices whether it be for Ateneo or the national team. "Even on weekends where it has taken me away from golf," he jokes.

Tickets to games sometimes cause little squabbles because everyone wants to watch.

As a youngster, Bea's father wanted to play for the La Salle basketball team but he wasn't skilled enough. "She is now living my UAAP dream for me," coos the approving father. "And I am proud of her."

"He is making up for lost time," chuckled a pleased Bea. "But better late than never."

The virtues of patience and perseverance
One of Bea's hobbies is her Lego collection of famous landmarks throughout the world. She has the Eiffel Tower, the White House, the Sydney Opera House, and the leaning Tower of Pisa among many others.

One would think that it would take a while to assemble them.

"I never have the patience to assemble them," she laughs. "I want them whole and assembled already."

The game of volleyball is altogether different. 

To anyone who saw her in high school, she was tall and gangly tall who could hit but not with the power she unleashes right now. Standing at 5'11", she felt very insecure with her height. "I was taller even than the boys I knew so it was awkward. Maybe that is also why I slouch. Now, I love my height."

Confidence. 

In the space of a few months, Bea's prowess on the court grew manifold.  Clearly, Ateneo's head coach Anusorn Bundit has a lot to do with her rapid development. However, it is also Bea's dedication and willingness to learn that has also made the difference.

However, the hard training has at one time or another caused the girl to wonder quite a few times last season if she should hang it up.

"Training under Tai is hard," she said and then paused for a moment. "That's an understatement. He pushes us. He teaches us all in the pursuit of perfection. It isn't only physically demanding but also mentally taxing. It's a constant struggle though. Imagine, several hours of practice that wears you out and you still have to study. Sometimes, you want to sleep but you can't."

"Then you have to bring it again the next day."

One time, Bundit questioned Bea's dedication and the words hurt her. "How could that be? I am here everyday and I get that?"

"It sounds harsh but when I look back at it, I am grateful. It has all been good because it got me to where I am. I won a UAAP championship. I was able to play for the national team. What blessings, di ba?"

Learning to be appreciative
Following every game, it seems like De Leon has just gotten back from a fire sale at some warehouse. She literally carts away bundles of food, fan art, gifts, and sometimes, shoes. 

"Napupuno yung refrigerator namin after every game," said Elmer. 

"One time," added Det, "A fan saw her buy some green mangoes outside the arena. The next game, that fan gave her two jars full of green mangoes 'so hindi na siya bibili.' How can you not be touched by these acts of kindness?"

"Sometimes, I forget to say 'thank you.' With everything that is going on -- people in your face asking for pictures, an autograph, Tweeting you words of encouragement -- I forget to say that. Luckily, my parents always remind me."

Although she's only 19, Bea has a maturity beyond her years. "Athletes do not necessarily want to be put on a pedestal," she reasoned. "But if we can touch other people's lives and inspire them then why not?"

When she hangs up her sneakers from the game, she not only wants to help her father with the business but to also find ways to help others.

While others her age might not care about national news and concerns, Bea does feel strongly about what goes on. "One time, I asked my parents what if I ran for public office? It is not a whimsical thought. I take what happens to our country very seriously. Of course, my parents told me that the system would swallow me up. But I really care about what goes on."

Sometimes, even among friends, they are surprised with how passionately she discusses national and social issues. 

But being a young public figure of sorts, as opinionated as De Leon is, she is careful with what she says on social media less she misconstrued. "Sometimes, I just want to do things normal girls my age do. Learn and experience things. Make mistakes, just not the big ones. Rant. But I can't. I have to think of how I say it and when I say it. Maybe not now. Sometime in the future, I guess."

The future right now is that the Ateneo Lady Eagles are in the hunt for their third ever Shakey's V-League title as well as preparations for the coming UAAP Women's Volleyball tournament where they shoot for their third straight crown.

Over dinner at their home in Quezon City, Bea and her parents talk about the game, Ateneo, the pressure of winning, friends, and rivalries. The game has opened up a new world for Bea De Leon. A world where she hopes to make the most out of the opportunities presented.

"Who would have thought this would all happen? After all, I just hit a ball."


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Jerry Codinera and the Arellano University Chiefs (post-win vs CSB)



I was in high school when I first saw Jerry Codinera. He was playing for the senior UE Warriors team (he also played for their junior squad) and was a bullstrong and powerful player. He was like a man playing among boys. The only opposing center who gave him fits -- to a certain extent -- was Ateneo's Mike Facundo who was tall and hefty. 

When he moved up to the pro ranks, first with Purefoods and then later with Mobiline, he was even better. In fact, they hung the nickname "the Defense Minister" on him because he not only did he guard the lane with impunity but he also took on the imports. 

I got to know him when he served as an assistant to Aboy Castro over at UP several years ago. Then he became head coach of the Red Warriors where he never really got going with a team that eventually mutinied. When he landed in Arellano University following Koy Banal, I was surprised at how much better a coach he was. Am not saying he was bad. But I guess, the sum of the previous experiences taught the old warhorse something. And he has been a joy to watch and listen. He led the Chiefs rather unexpectedly to a NCAA Finals berth last Season 90 where they were taken down by San Beda. This year they are somewhat struggling as their frontline isn't as good the previous one.

I'll be following Jerry and his Arellano Chiefs a little more. In the meantime, here's a post-game video following their win over tough College of Saint Benilde.

Breaking down UAAP colleges by HS recruits

This appears on abs-cbnnews.com


Breaking down UAAP colleges by HS recruits
by rick olivares

One of the contentions of the proponents of the now defunct Residency Rules was the "pirating" of a school's high school players.

During our initial research two years ago, we showed how very few of a high school team's players moved up to their school's senior ranks. And this year is no different.

Let's take a look at the Season 78 lineups of each UAAP school and find out how many moved up from their respective high schools.

Adamson - four from Adamson High School: William Polican, Frederick Tungcab, Gerald Fernandez, and Alwin Margallo.

Ateneo - five from Ateneo High School: Aaron Black, Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, Von Pessumal, and Kiefer Ravena.

La Salle - none from De La Salle Zobel

FEU - four from FEU-FERN: Wendell Comboy, Richard Escoto, Russel Escoto, and Mike Tolomia.

NU - two from NU: Reggie Morido and Ralph Tansingco.

UE - one from UE HS: RR De Leon.

UP - one from UPIS: Diego Dario.

UST - one from UST high school: Kevin Ferrer.

So Ateneo has the most with five while FEU has four.

So where do the recruits come from? Here is a list of the high schools with the most number of recruits in UAAP college teams.

San Beda High School with eight: Ateneo's GBoy Babilonia, Ponso Gotladera, and Arvin Tolentino; La Salle's Andrei Caracut; NU's Nico Abatayo and Rev Diputado; UE's Chris Javier; and UP's Dave Moralde.

Ateneo de Cebu with six: Adamson's Dawn Ochea; NU's Dave Yu; UP's Henry Asilum, Jan Jaboneta, and Pio Longa; and UST's Zach Huang.

La Salle Greenhills with five: DLSU's John Gob, Prince Riveor, and Thomas Torres; UE's Mario Bonleon; and UP's Gelo Vito.

Xavier with five: Adamson's Harold Ng; Ateneo's Isaac Go; La Salle's Jeron Teng and UP's Jarrell Lim and Jet Manuel..

Hope Christian High School with four: Adamson's Ken Miranda; Ateneo's John Apacible, La Salle's Jollo Go, and NU's Tzaddy Rangel.

JRU HS with three: Adamson's Jerome Garcia and UST's Jeepy Faundo and Louie Vigil.

Chiang Kai Shek High School with there NU's Meds Salim and UE's Shannon Gagate and Fran Yu.

From other Metro Manila high schools: 18

From other provincial schools: 15

From abroad: (Fil-Fors and Africans): 22

So what are schools howling about? What? Losing one star player from a high school team. 

Because of one everyone else was affected by all the inanity. 

UAAP Season 78 Men's Basketball Preview


For the second time in three years, Eric Altamirano's NU Bulldogs open the season as favorites. The difference is they now walk with championship pride.

UAAP Season 78 Men's Basketball Preview 
by rick olivares

Adamson Soaring Falcons
Coach: Mike Fermin who once played for UP in the early 1990s. Is in his first year at Adamson.
Season 77 record: 1-13

Losses: Matt Aquino, Alexis Barrera, John Baytan, Harold Butron, Francis Donahue, John Gumtang, Axel Iñigo, Ryan Monteclaro, Jess Pedrosa, Jansen Rios, and Don Trollano. And head coach Kenneth Duremdes.

Holdovers: Christian Garcia, Joseph Nalos, Dawn Ochea, William Polican, Ivan Villanueva

Newcomers: Kristian Bernardo, Simon Camacho, Nico Capote, Jose Carlo Escalambre, Gerald Fernandez, Jerome Garcia, Alvin Margallo, Ken Mark Miranda, Harold Ng, and Gwall Cherif Sarr Soulemane.

Team breakdown:
Where do you begin with this team? 

They practically lost all their scoring and rebounding team from last season. Essentially that was Jansen Rios and Don Trollano.

And there's that valuable game experience -- save for Jospeh Nalos -- they lost as well.  And to think before Season 77 they also lost a lot of key players.

For last year's squad, promising rookie Matt Aquino moved to a new zip address that is NU. Their head coach, make that ex-head coach Kenneth Duremdes is out and from all indications it was an acrimonious parting. 

So is there any good news?

Yes.

Hope springs eternal and the Soaring Falcons enter the season well under the radar. It is both good and bad notes first year head coach Mike Fermin.

Good in the sense, it allows his team to grow without the harsh spotlight reserved for veteran and talent-laden teams. 

Bad in the sense that, they do not want to stay in the cellar.

It is a young team yet Fermin got them to play hard-nosed basketball during the summer. Players like Dawn Ochea who languished on the bench in previous seasons now had lots of playing time. There sure were a lot of adjustments. However, Fermin likes what he sees.

They've got a good attitude in spite of the odds being stacked against them. And they hope to run and play some small ball. 

For them to do that, Cameroonian Gwall Cherif Sarr Soulemane must rebound. Coach Mike has asked his 6'8" center to rebound and protect the rim. He has players -- Ochea, Joseph Nalos, and Frederick Tungcab who is coming off a Mythical Five selection from last season's Juniors UAAP -- to provide some scoring. Some points here and there, a lot of rebounding and defense; Fermin will be happy.

"Unfortunately for us, we learn as we go on," said Fermin. "The summer was a good experience but the UAAP is something else. As long as we can stay close up to the end of the game, we can be satisfied. It is just getting better with every game."

Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles
Coach: Bo Perasol who played for the UP Maroons in the late 80s. In his third year at the Eastern end of Katipunan.
Season 77 record: 11-5 including Final Four

Losses: Anton Asistio, Clint Doliguez, Nico Elorde, Jay Javelosa, Isaac Lim, Chris Newsome, Kris Porter, and Thirdy Ravena.

Holdovers: John Apacible, Gboy Babilonia, Gwyne Capacio, Ponso Gotladera, Von Pessumal, Kris Porter, Kiefer Ravena, Arvin Tolentino, and Vince Tolentino.

Newcomers: Aaron Black, Hubert Cani, Chibueze Ikeh, Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, Jerie Pingoy, Adrian Wong.

Team breakdown:
Okay, they are arguably a better team that last season. For one, there's more talent and they improved themselves in every position. 

Lots of ifs for their frontline that is still suspect. If six-foot-nine Nigerian Chibueze Ikeh can rebound and provide lane defense that would plug a gaping hole in the middle. If Ponso Gotladera can reprise his fireman's role last year that's going to be huge especially now he will slide back and forth from the five and the four. If Arvin Tolentino learns to play some defense that would help immensely. If Big John Apacible can be a little more sure with his under goal stabs and if he is allowed to work inside then he could live up to the promise of his high school days.

There's a disparity between the experience of the veterans like Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal and the other holdovers and newcomers. Of the veterans, mention must be made about Gwyne Capacio who has yet to have that breakout season. This is his last chance to do so. Stymied by injury and inconsistent and poor play due to a roller coaster ride of emotions and confidence, he is finally healthy and raring to go. If he can bring consistent scoring and defense to the three-spot, then Bo Perasol will have another reliable player. 

However, the Blue Eagles' basketball IQ went up with Cani, the Nieto brothers, and Pingoy in tow. If Jerie Pingoy and Hubert Cani can solidify that point guard position with passing savvy, creativity, and scoring not to mention perimeter defense they could be the best point guard tandem in the league. How they mesh with their teammates is of great interest since they are players who need to handle the ball in order to be effective. Obviously, you have to give Kiefer the ball. Arvin too lest he get into a funk. So ball and shot distribution is something a lot of people will keenly follow.

This team can shoot from the outside as well. If they find the range early on it will give their inside operators room to apply some surgery.

If the Blue Eagles want to win it all this year, they have to get past NU who they have not beaten in six consecutive outings. During the last Blue Eagle dynasty, NU was tugging at their cape. Now it's on the other way around.

The Final Four loss to NU last year especially after losing a twice-to-beat advantage is something that sticks in their craw. And that serves as a lot of motivation to not only get back at their new tormentors that has emerged as their new rival but also to serve as a nice send off for their veteran players.

De La Salle Green Archers
Head coach: Juno Sauler who played for the Green Archers in the mid-90s and is in his third year as head coach.
UAAP Season 77 record: 11-6 including Final Four

Losses: Yutien Andrada, Robert Bolick, Kib Montalbo, Terrence Mustre, Matt Salem, Norbert Torres, Arnold Van Opstal, and Almond Vosotros.

Holdovers: Jason Perkins, Prince Rivero, Julian Sargent, Jeron Teng, Thomas Torres, and Abu Tratter

Newcomers: Andrei Caracut, Jollo Go, Jon Gob, Leondro Amiel Langston, Larry Muyang, Loreno Fernando Pascual, and Joshua Torralba.

Team breakdown:
This team has talent all over. Like Ateneo, the disparity between the experience of the veterans and newer players is theoretically huge. But if you watched them from the summer that wasn't the problem. The ball moved around beautifully. They were making big shots. Their rookies shone. The problem was they were getting beat inside.

Without Arnold Van Opstal and Ben Mbala who DLSU hoped could play, it will be up to Abu Tratter, Larry Muyang, Jon Gob, and Jason Perkins to clog that lane. Tratter is finally showing his form from his Team B days. Perkins seems to be not the same effective player he was from two years ago. But he just might round out into form come UAAP. Once he's on, watch out.

Rivero is vastly improved and it won't be long before he straps this team on to his back.

Another player who is even better -- if that is humanly possible -- is Jeron Teng. He has greatly improved his jump shot and that makes him even deadlier. Still their go-to guy in the crunch. 

Andrei Caracut will be Rookie of the Year. La Salle has this penchant or luck of the Irish when it comes to bagging supreme snipers from San Beda. There was Renren Ritualo and Jayvee Casio before and they both won titles. Caracut has the same golden hands. He'll keep defences honest.

For all their losses in personnel you cannot take this team lightly. They'll be competing for the title for sure.


FEU Tamaraws
Coach: Nash Racela who is in his third year at the helm of FEU.
Season 77 record: 13-7 including Finals 

Losses: Carl Cruz, Jason David, Jesson Delfinado, Vince Denila, Anthony Hargrove, Joel Lee Yu, and Reeve Ugsang.

Holdovers: Mark Belo, Ron Dennison, Russel Escoto, Richard Escoto, Achi Iñigo, Roger Pogoy, Francis Tamsi, and Mike Tolomia.

Newcomers: Monbert Arong, Wendell Comboy, Kevin Ebona, Ken Holmqvist, Steve Holmqvist, Prince Orizu, and Joe Allen Trinidad.

Team breakdown:
The Tamaraws are better this year. But I believe if they want to go far, they will need Prince Orizu to really play long minutes and contribute significantly. During the summer, he looked lost and was some times inconsequential. The time away after the summer tourneys has however given him more time to adjust. Just how crucial is he?

Well, let's put it this way. If Anthony Hargrove did not pull a disappearing act in last year's Finals, the Tams could be entering Season 78 as defending champs. They need Orizu to battle NU's Alfred Aroga inside. 

But the onus isn't only on Orizu. There's Russel Escoto who had a miserable return last season. Outside the amazing Mac Belo, it is Raymar Jose who has become a crucial piece to their frontline puzzle. Jose has improved by leaps and bounds but he is rather undersized to be battling the likes of Karim Abdul and Aroga, hence, Orizu's importance.

Monbert Arong will finally play after serving his residency following a transfer from Southwestern University. Small but built like a linebacker, he's another scorer, a fearless one too. 

They'll have two of arguably the best at their position in the league right now with Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo. It's a last hurrah for these two and they are on a mission. Along with Escoto and Ron Dennison, they've been to two finals and have come up empty-handed each time. You bet they're driven.

Roger Pogoy could be their x-factor. He is their utility man who does a little bit of everything from scoring from everywhere to guarding the opposing team's tough scorer. O love what he brought to the table during the summer.
Francis Tamsi didn't have a very good second year with the Tams unlike his debut in S76. If he can approximate what he showed that season and more, he'll be a valuable reserve player for Racela.

A strong favourite to compete for the title. The question though is, who is the Aroga stopper here?

NU Bulldogs
Coach: Eric Altamirano who once played for UP and is on his fifth year with the team.
Season 77 record: 14-6 including Finals

Losses: Raph Atangan, Henri Betayene, JP Cauilan, Glenn Khobuntin, Tristan Perez, and Troy Rosario.

Holdovers: JJ Alejandro, Alfred Aroga, Reden Celda, Rev Diputado, Pao Javelona, Jeff Javillionar, Kyle Neypes, Meds Salim, Ralph Tansingco, and Dave Yu.

Newcomers: Nico Abatayo, Kevin De Castro, Ronnel Lastimosa, Reggie Morido,  and Tzaddy Rangel.

Team breakdown:
Nothing like starting the year as the defending champions and they are favourites to defend the crown. Their manpower losses aside, they have four things going for them: the confidence of a champion, talented newcomers, a very competent coaching staff, and Alfred Aroga.

Many of their players came of age last season: Gelo Alolino, JJ Alejandro, and Reden Celda who previously was in and out of the lineup for the previous seasons. Gelo Alolino went from the verge of being cut from the team to a dependable and important piece of their championship puzzle. Alejandro finally made his presence felt with his timely bombs from the outside. 

Kyle Neypes had his moments too. Rev Diputado was a solid pick up for mightily contributed especially from trifecta country.

If they had ceiling last season, this year they don't. Rookie Tzaddy Rangel who is as tall as Aroga at 6'7" will play backstop at the slot. Neypes at 6'4" could slide in or even Salim who stands 6'3". 

Over at the backcourt, the Bulldogs are solid at both guard positions. There's Alolino, Diputado, Celda, Pao Javelona, and Alejandro.

Their concern is on the wing. It is hoped that rookie Nico Abatayo could reprise the role of Khobuntin the year before where he was a slasher who could also hit the outside shot.  Khobuntin's plus side too was his ability to rebound and play great defense. The returning Jeff Javillionar who is back after missing last season with a knee injury will be counted on to also fill that role (aside from being a defender on the opposing team's top scorer).

I say that another title will heavily depend on Aroga's ability to stay on the floor for crucial stretches and to provide a lot of scoring and defense. If he does so especially if he attacks the opposing center and gets him in foul trouble, NU will be tough to beat.



UE Red Warriors
Head coach: Derrick Pumaren who is on his second year with the team and who once played for both UE and DLSU.
UAAP Season 77 record: 9-6 including Playoffs

Losses: Dan Alberto, Bong Galanza, Daryll Guiang, Ivan Hernandez, Gino Jumao-as, Charles Mammie, Moustapha Arafat, Mark Olayon, and Roi Sumang.

Holdovers: Edgar Charcos, Steven Cudal, RR De Leon, Clark Derige, Chris Javier, Renz Palma, and Paul Varilla.

Newcomers: Nick Abanto, Edson Batiller, Shannon Gagate, Joshua Gonzales, Philip Manalang, Ralph Penuela, Jordan Sta. Ana, Jason Varilla, and Fran Yu.

Team breakdown
Man, like NU and Adamson, they lost a lot of key players. And that's practically a lot of their offense and defense. Now this team? They can play defense. The problem is translating the forced turnovers into points. Finishing was a problem all summer. Their two best players - Renz Palma and Paul Varilla are talented but were very inconsistent in their scoring and contributions. Head coach Derrick Pumaren says that his team is more or less at 80% of where they want to be and they have adjusted their offensive woes.

Witness, Jordan Sta. Ana. Late of NU in high school (who was recruited out of Colegio de San Benildo in Antipolo), Sta. Ana had his moments during the summer and he could be just that scoring guard they need to replace Roi Sumang's (who was never comfortable with Pumaren's system) scoring. 

Edson Batiler, who they recruited out of Holy Trinity College out of General Santos City could be another source for points. Like the rest of his teammates, consistency, is the challenge. 

UE filled up the point guard position by adding NU's Philip Manalang and Chiang Kai Shek's Fran Yu. Both are hard-nosed defenders who can shoot and pass. You can't take them for granted or they will burn you.

The big challenge is for Javier, De Leon, Cudal and Gagate to patrol that lane. They need to not only score but to rebound and provide defense. If they can't do that then they will place so much pressure on the guards and the wingmen to score and defend. You can get away with that in high school but not in college where players are taller.

They were supposed to parade Betrand Awana at center and this behemoth suited up for them in the summer leagues. He was a rim protector whose scoring was an adventure.  He's out of the lineup now after Pumaren cut him  for an attitude problem. And we all know that Manong Derrick is a stickler for discipline. So that gives UE less size inside. 

So the Red Warriors, with their African adventure in shambles (after all that was spent and wasted on Charles Mammie, Moustapha Arafat, and now Awana) will play all-Filipino. It is time for Chris Javier, their captain, to live up to his promise. He has been on and off. Mostly off. In the latter stages of this summer's tourneys, he began to play better. Here's hoping he can continue that into what is his final UAAP season.

This team could pull some surprises. 


UP Fighting Maroons
Head coach: Rensy Bajar who played for San Beda in the NCAA
Season 77 record: 1-13

Losses: Darwish Bederi, Carlo Escalambre, Mo Gingerich, Nomer Gonzales, Kyles Lao, Martin Pascual, and Mikee Reyes.

Holdovers: Agustini Amar, Henry Asilum, Diego Dario, JR Gallarza, Andrew Harris, Mark Juruena, Jarrell Lim, Jet Manuel, Dave Moralde, and Gelo Vito.

It used to be, "next year again." A battle cry almost as ubiquitous as "UP Fight!" Now it looks like yes, this could be the year where they move up from the lower half of the UAAP standings to challenge for a Final Four slot.

Yes, that is how bold they are to make that announcement. No more, "get out of the cellar" or "win more games than the previous season." They want to crowd the big boys. And they are loaded with seasoned veterans and talented newcomers who make for a hungry bunch. And first year coach Rensy Bajar minced no words -- Final Four or bust (more so since they are hosts this season).

They won the Filsports Basketball Association and that in itself is something as they went up against taller and older players. They needed that to toughen up.

Having said that, you cannot take the Maroons lightly. These guys found a style that they were comfortable with -- frenetic-paced and physical basketball. These guys are like the G-State Warriors as they have loads of scorers who can bombard from the outside. Even with Kyles Lao on the mend after an ACL tear, they've got Manuel, Gallarza, Dario, Desiderio, and Moralde. Heck, Mark Juruena and Jarrell Lim can also hit the outside shot. 

They have some exciting newcomers in Jan Jaboneta and Pio Longa who add to their Ateneo de Cebu alumni alongside Henry Asilum. Jaboneta is a fearless attacker who can rebound and hit some shots. Longa is a long range threat. 

Personally, I think the addition of Jaboneta is huge. He is a physical player blessed with scoring gifts and a nose for the ball. I thought that the Maroons took a cue from his play aside from the return of Desiderio who despite standing 5'10" likes to post up opposing guards. 

Jaboneta and Moralde are players who like to drive inside and that adds another dimension to their game.

Speaking of inside players, Cheick Kone who at 6'9" is being tabbed to correct their rim protector woes. And this Burkina Faso (formerly called Upper Volta) national got better as the summer wore on. He'll man the slot with the energetic Gelo Vito and Andrew Harris to play backup. 

They made a lot of noise in the pre-season and they backed it up. For sure, come UAAP Season 78, no one can take them lightly. 



UST Growling Tigers
Head coach: Bong dela Cruz who is in his second year. He also played for Adamson in the UAAP.
Season 77 record: 5-9

Losses: Regie Basibas, Levi dela Cruz, Alfren Gayosa, Kim Lo, Jan Macasaet, Aljon Mariano, Paolo Pe, and Raymart Sablan.

Holdovers: Karim Abdul, Ed Daquioag, Jeepy Faundo, Kevin Ferrer, Kent Lao, Sheak Sherriff, Henri Subido, and Louie Vigil.

Newcomers: Osama Said Adburasad, Justin Araña, Mario Bonleon, Enrique Caunan, Jan Rey Garrido, Zach Huang, and Kyle Suarez.

Team breakdown: 
They ran into all sorts of problems last season, the departure of studs from the previous years, injuries, poor defense, an even more anaemic offence, and adjusting to a new coach. They only had two wins where they finished with a comfortable lead. A few of their wins were squeakers. Their losses were either by five points or much much more. 

This year, they have bettered themselves, although health is still a key issue. Karim Abdul who is on his final year, missed a lot of pre-season games due to injury. Ditto with Renzo Subido. Coach Bong says his crew is healthy and that is a relief for the UST faithful who missed them in action for the most part of the pre-season.

All the more, this is now Kevin Ferrer's team. Last season, he tried to do more by playing leader and doing other things for the team. He even deferred to other teammates as evidence by his willingness to pass the ball. Sometimes that back fired as he needed to take charge on the court by scoring. 

Now, Kevin's more comfortable now with that role especially with other players to back him up in the scoring chores. Expect him to go out with a bang in his final UAAP season.

Bong dela Cruz also expects a lot from the rapidly improving Kent Lao to pick up from where Aljon Mariano left off in terms of scoring, leadership, and rebounding. Lao was integral to their fortunes during the summer. "He makes good decisions with the ball," remarked dela Cruz. "I like his game intelligence."

They also have another long range artist in Louie Vigil who began to show why he was a much ballyhooed player coming out of JRU in high school. He just needs to be consistent.

Ed Daquioag is another player who can create and score for his team. His willingness to attack the basket is crucial as it helps free up Karim for some dime drops while finding teammates open on the perimeter. Kyle Suarez, who transferred from UP should also provide the same. It would be interesting to see if he has improved on his jumpshot that was suspect in high school in Ateneo and his one year at UP.

Mario Bonleon adds a lot of scoring and that is an understatement. Sometimes, he forgets that he has teammates and can be unconscious when firing away.  But he should add to their punch. 

Zach Huang, one of the many Ateneo de Cebu alums now in the UAAP (there are six at the moment), is a smart player who can only get better as he soaks in his UAAP experience. Even at 6'3", Huang can rebound and play defense. 

Another new face is Enrique Caunan who could be the second coming of Melo Afuang; a utility player who does the dirty work. From all indications during the summer, Coach Bong will tap him from time to time to play the role of defensive stopper and a rebounder.

Jon Sheriff should what he could do as he was handed the PG slot. He has become a reliable player with a decent mid-range jumper, good defensive instincts with a willingness to find an open teammate.

Any dreams of a return to the Final Four or beyond rest on Karim Abdul's broad shoulders. He is one who can battle NU's Alfred Aroga toe-to-toe. If he can win out on that battle or even neutralise the NU big man, his teammates will have more than a fighting chance to win.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An exclusive interview with Hubert Cani (after he learned the news that he can suit up for Ateneo)

This appears on philstar.com

An exclusive interview with Hubert Cani
by rick olivares

After the UAAP Board decided to allow Ateneo’s Hubert Cani to suit up this Season 78 (National University was the only school to vote against their former high school standout from playing), we spoke with the Blue Eagle point guard over the phone.

Rick: How did you feel when you heard the news that you could play come UAAP Season 78 this weekend?

Hubert: Nung una ko marinig yung balita kanina sobrang saya ko. Bago lumabas yung desisyon, hindi ako mapakali. Ninenerbyos. Kaya sobra akong nagpapasalamat sa mga tumulong from Sen. Cayetano to Congresman Puno at sa marami hindi lang sa akin ‘to pati na rin yung lahat ng student-athlete.

Rick: Last season, nag-sit out ka from playing UAAP basketball. Masakit ba yung experience na yun? Or did it motivate you?

Hubert: Nung first year ko sa Ateneo, ginamit ko yung time ko mag-adjust sa Ateneo culture. Lalo na mahigpit sa studies. Sa court naman, ginamit ko yung time ko to improve on my skills and use it as motivation so when I can play, makatulong ako sa Ateneo. Na-frustrate din ako pero tinulungan ako ng parents ko at yung mga teammates ko. Syempre, napapanood mo sila maglaro tapos nandun ka sa tabi hindi ka makatulong. 

Rick: A few weeks ako, nag-desisyon yung UAAP Eligibility Committee na hindi ka palaruin. Na-down ka ba sa balita na yun?

Hubert: Na-down ako pero kasi akala ko makakalaro na ako pero may mga obstacles pa. Di tulad last year, medyo natanggap ko kahit masakit. Nung isang linggo, ang hirap. Nawawalan ako ng focus. But yung mga coaches at teammates ko ay hindi ako pinabayaan. Lagi nila sinasabiTna kailangan ready ako. Tutulungan naman ako ng Ateneo.

Rick: Going back to the decision not to play for NU but go to Ateneo, how did that happen?

Rick: Unang una sa NU tignan mo yung point guard position, they had Gelo Alolino, Rev Diputado, Pao Javelona. Wala naman nagsabi hindi ako makakalaro. Yung point guard situation ng Ateneo, medyo kulang so parang best-fit for me. And lagi mo maririnig na malaking bagay yung education. Pero kasama sa desisyon yun.

Rick: Yung ibang mga nakalaban mo nung high school teammate mo na sa Ateneo seniors — sila Jerie Pingoy, Matthew and Mike Nieto, at Aaron Black. Kumusta kayo so far?

Hubert: Malaking bagay kasi sila rin yung mga tumutulong sa akin sa pag-adjust sa Ateneo.

Rick: You will be the first NU high school player to suit up for an Ateneo team in the UAAP. How does that sound for you?

Hubert: Malaking bagay yun para sa program ng NU na yung mga player nire-recruit na ng iba. Para sa akin, masaya ako. Pero mas magiging masaya ko kung makatulong ako sa pagbigay ng championship sa Ateneo.

Monday, August 31, 2015

(Ideas) On defending the dribble-drive offense

On defending the dribble-drive offense
by rick olivares

While watching Taiwan play the Philippines last night in the William Jones Cup opener, I thought that they were in shambles defensively. I don't think they are too disciplined defensively and rely on their bigs like Quincy Jones and Tsing Wen-Ting to crowd the lane. They had moments but I thought their huge third period rally was also due to poor execution by the Philippines.

The offense is a thinking man's game and you need smart players to run it. To defend it, you need to even be smarter.

How does one defend the dribble-drive offense especially one run by the best point guard in Asia -- Jayson Castro?

First of all, these are ideas and not hard and fast rules by a coach. I have been doing my own studying of the game (watching a lot of games and practices of teams who run this). These are merely my observations.

You apply a lot of pressure on the ball handler. Make him cough up that ball and use up a lot of that shot clock count. To do that you need someone with the speed, size and strength to match up against Castro. I don't think Taiwan had that.

If you can be physical as what the referees will allow, do so. Bump here and there but not too much. Just enough to throw the opposing guard off his rhythm.

Defensive players have to switch off on every hand off and provide help defense. Every player must recognize not only where his man is but also the movement of opposing players. The idea of the dribble drive is to attack, create space, and find the open man. 

Play some zone. A 2-3 zone maybe even a 3-2 zone with the perimeter moving around like a shield will provide immediate protection from the drive.

When the ball is swung to one side, try to pressure the offensive team into keeping the ball there as opposed to moving it around. As the shot clock winds down, they will probably not take the best shot available. 

Having a very good rim protector helps too. Some one like Hamed Haddadi. 

Of course, it is all easier said that done. Am curious how Korea will play the Philippines knowing what they know.


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ADDITIONAL READING:

On the Philippines' win over Taiwan

The Gilas Pilipinas "kids" are all right


This appears on abs-cbnnews.com




The Gilas “kids” are all right
by rick olivares

Pardon cribbing the title classic song from the Who but it is most apt. 

The 77-69 win by the Philippines over Taiwan to open their William Jones Cup campaign is massive.

Why? Because this is a team in transition. It wasn’t pretty but there are seldom pretty games. You do not learn much from blowouts. Games like Taiwan are where teams learn and build character. You hear coaches and players say that a lot but it is what it is. And teams, especially one that is undergoing manpower changes, need to play in big games. Forget the losses in their exhibition games. You’d rather lose those than the ones that really count.

And you have to give credit to Taiwan… they’ve got a good team. They aren’t the most athletic but they’re good.

Here are my first-game impressions.

The “kids” stood tall
Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva literally made massive impacts. 

Terrence finished with a team-high 18 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 steals. Abueva on the other hand finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block that went uncredited. We had some bad calls and we were even robbed of some stats.

Both provided hustle, firepower, and swagger. As I Tweeted, Taiwan and everyone else have not seen anyone like Calvin… small by international standards but terrible in more ways than one. I love the swagger. That tip of his away from the basket — that was sweet. The sort of playground move that he perfected as a youngster in Pampanga. 

I’ll say this though for Calvin… when he gets that ball you can’t wait to see what he will do with it. That’s a compliment that I reserve for the likes of Jayson Castro. What a talent.

Moala Tautuaa had a creditable outing. He was obviously getting his baptism of fire in a competition like this and he will no doubt perform better. Some of the fouls called against him are at most contestable. But that is international basketball for you. Tautuaa finished with 4 points and 9 rebounds.

The Philippines races to a 47-31 halftime lead with their offense and defense clicking. Taiwan responded in the third period by being aggressive and with Quincy Davis owning the lane. They levelled the count at 54-all that had their crowd rocking. Now this is what I liked the best — the Filipinos' response to the rally with Abueva and Romeo attacking the basket and big shots by Jayson Castro.

Grade: A

The best point guard in Asia lived up to his billing
16 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 steals. None bigger than snatching away Taiwan’s last gasp attempt to tie the match in the endgame.

He was solid and it was his frenetic pace (along with Abueva) in the second period that gave the Philippines its lead. His ability to get in the lane poses so many problems for the opposition as he creates space and defensive switches.

When he returned to the fray after Taiwan’s comeback, he wasn’t able to get a handle on the game but he eventually did. 

Grade: B

The bigs performed creditably
You can look at this two ways — our bigs aren’t big enough and they performed well given the circumstances. Tautuaa and Asi Taulava fouled out. Marc Pingris and Sonny Thoss were in foul trouble. But the four collectively hauled down 26 of the team’s 44 rebounds; the same number as Taiwan yet they didn’t lose anyone to fouls.

On the offensive end, they were a little wanting but the international game has always favored the wingmen and guards. Nevertheless, if they can a little more they’d also ease the pressure on the guards.

Grade: C

The offense won this game
The offense was great in the even number periods and I thought this was what won the game more than the defense. Sure, there were three huge steals in the endgame but it was the willingness to attack in the interior again and be aggressive that helped swing the momentum back in the Philippines’ favor.

However, during that third quarter Taiwan blitz, the nationals mysteriously settled for going one-on-one and taking outside shots.

Grade: B- 

The defense was on and off but it showed up in the endgame
We were even on rebounds with 44 each and in both the offensive and defensive boards categories, 16:16 and 28:28. The Filipinos had a lot of more steals 14:4 and that made the difference especially in the endgame. 

Taiwan blocked more shots 4:1 (it should be 4:2) but that’s fine. At least at that point the team was attacking the basket.

Is the lack of ceiling a concern? Yes, it is. But it’s the first game. The team is learning to play together and adjust to new teammates and the inconsistencies of international calls (so what else is new when it is the same domestically).

Grade: C-

Summary
Good effort and fantastic response in a hostile environment. I loved how the team responded to head coach Tab Baldwin’s instructions especially in the endgame. They played smart basketball. Sure we lost our heads for a mad 10 minutes but that happens. In the end, its still a satisfying win.

Good job, team!



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ADDITIONAL READING:

Ideas on defending the dribble-drive offense