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, November 7, 2019

UST’s Chabi Yo is UAAP MVP; Ateneo with no players in Mythical 5

UST’s Chabi Yo is UAAP MVP; Ateneo with no players in Mythical 5
by rick olivares

Prior the do-or-die match between Far Eastern University and the University of Santo Tomas last Wednesday, November 6, the individual awards were handed out. UST’s Soulemane Chabi Yo was named the league’s Most Valuable Player while La Salle’s Justine Baltazar and Jamie Malonzo, the University of the East’s Rey Suerte, and the University of the Philippines’ Kobe Paras joined him in the Mythical Five selection. The Growling Tigers’ Mark Nonoy was feted the Rookie of the Year Ward.

Chabi Yo is the eighth UST player to win a MVP plum. Previous winners include Valentino Rosabal (1963), Gary Artajos (1969), Dennis Espino (1993-94), Chris Cantonjos (1995), Jervy Cruz (2007), and Dylan Ababou (2009).

UST’s previous Rookie of the Year awardees include Rosabal (1961), Gerard Francisco (1995), and Jeric Teng (2009).

Conspicuously missing from any award were any Ateneo Blue Eagles. And truthfully, they do not mind. They are after all, aspiring for the bigger prize which is a third straight UAAP championship.

For the Ateneo squad, there is an element of déjà vu.

In 2010, when the Blue Eagles were gunning for their first ever UAAP three-peat (they accomplished that once in the NCAA), they finished second in the elimination round with a 10-4 record and had no player in the Mythical Five team. Named to the five were league MVP RR Garcia along with his teammate Aldrech Ramos including UE’s Paul Lee and Ken Acibar and NU’s Jean Mbe.

En route to the finals, Ateneo waylaid FEU with pint-sized point guard Emman Monfort putting the clamps on Garcia.

Last season, Ateneo which went 12-2 (15-2 overall) in the elimination round did not place a single player in the Mythical Team. Listed about the season’s best five were UP’s Bright Akhuetie and Juan Gomez de Liaño, UE’s Alvin Pasaol, La Salle’s Baltazar, and Adamson’s Jerrick Ahanmisi. Ateneo’s Angelo Kouame though was named as the UAAP’s Rookie of the Year.

Interestingly, each time this happened, a UE Red Warrior was in the five with their team finishing at the tier. In Season 73, they finished sixth with a 6-8 record. Last season, UE was in last place with a 1-13 slate. This season, they finished seventh with a 4-10 record.

It must be stressed that every play deserved to be named to those teams while receiving accolades. It just so happens that Ateneo did not bag any individual awards then but did so in other years. 

Furthermore, it remains to be seen if Ateneo will bag their third straight tile and 11th UAAP crown (to go with the 14 they won in the NCAA) to go with the third three-peat in school history.

UST advances, FEU falters in a season true to form

UST advances, FEU falters in a season true to form
by rick olivares

The University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers eliminated the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 81-71, from the march to the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball championship.

The game for all intents and purposes mirrored exactly the two teams’ seasons. UST won by the long ball while FEU started off the wrong foot, rallied, then fell short.

The Tamaraws looked the same during the summer. There is talent on that team no doubt. But some played well while others didn’t. I thought the fact that they didn’t have their team complete for the summer onwards didn’t help as there were injuries. Others like Hubert Cani never got into the groove of the season. Barkley Eboña wasn’t consistent and Tuffin only found his range in the second round. Rey Bienes and Alec Stockton were huge in the preseason and struggled come the UAAP. 

As I have postulated time and again, you need the veterans to pull through because it is too much to ask the newbies to carry you and as good as Royce Alforque and Xyrus Torres were, at the end, their game had gone south.

That third quarter rally by FEU when they put up 28 points on the board was incandescent. What a fightback from 26 points down. But their rally fizzled out when they misfired on their remaining possessions of the quarter while UST hit two big triples. That blunted their momentum and they reverted to struggling come the fourth.

I like Patrick Tchuente and think that he will only get better. He has surprised me with some of his moves that I previously didn’t see. Assuming he returns, in my opinion, he will be better. However, those missed closed stabs and missed defensive boards also hurt the team. Had he made one or two of them, it could have been a different ballgame.

They stopped UST’s Soulemane Chabi Yo, the league Most Valuable Player by holding him to six second half points after he scored 19 in the first half. At the end of it all, that 26-point balloon was too huge a balloon to overcome. FEU owned the second half although UST made the timely stops and shots.

Some might disagree with me here, but I must point out that as difficult as this year was for Feu, their head coach Olsen Racela did a great job. Imagine losing the quality of players they had, but they still made the Final Four. Had they gotten into a rhythm early on, they might have done much differently. And this second round, they were a tough nut to crack.

Tough nuts can only take so much bombardment from the outside.

It was UST’s three-point shooting – I must stress timely marksmanship -- and the superb play by Renzo Subido that also allowed the Growling Tigers to win this.

You also have to give a lot of credit to UST head coach Aldin Ayo. Watching him on the sidelines, even amidst that furious rally by FEU, he remained calm. I think what the coach radiates will feed off on the players. If the coach is the panicked sort, his players will be on the edge. I thought that UST was calm and composed. 

Yes, nerves were touched and the game got chippy somewhere along the way. But that is the nature of a do-or-die game. It will not even be remembered for that. It is a mere footnote. At the end of it all, one can point to UST’s shooting and FEU’s late rally as the defining moments of the game.

It was also tough to see FEU players like Kimlee Bayquin and Hubert Cani tearing up by match’s end. The season never went the way it should have for them as individuals. Bayquin and also graduating player Wendell Comboy may have a title to be remembered by, but it is tough for Cani who had such a bright future but had so many missteps along the way after coming out of high school. 

On the other hand, UST veteran Zach Huang and Renzo Subido get to play another day. And that is all they and their supporters ever asked for.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Jordan and Lauren Heading: A tag team couple for Philippine sports

Jordan and Lauren Heading: A tag team couple for Philippine sports
by rick olivares

At first glance, you’d think that Jordan and Lauren Heading look out of place inside the quiet confines of a coffee shop along Katipunan Avenue. 

Both stand at 6’2” so they stand out. Jordan with his long hair and Jamaican reggae-themed shirt looks like he’d be quite at home on the beach or in a reggae dance hall. His wife, Lauren (they have been married for a bit over four months now), looks like she’s ready to jump out a gym.

“Actually, I love the beach,” bared Jordan with a huge smile. “And I can play a ukulele too.”

“Jordan’s mother (Salvacion, who was in Manila for a few weeks) played the tour guide for us and had us riding jeepneys, tricycles, and tasting the local fare,” shared Lauren. “We can’t wait to see more.”

Filipino sports fans will be seeing more of this couple soon. 

Jordan recently signed up for Jimmy Alapag’s Alab Pilipinas squad while Lauren, is in the process of deciding which Premier Volleyball League squad she should sign up with (there are three vying for the services of this Division II All-American volleyball player. In the midst of all these, they are getting acclimated to the sights and sounds of their new home.

Jordan was born in Adelaide to an Australian father, Tim, and a Filipino mother. He played for Batang Gilas under Olsen Racela in the 2011 Fiba Under-16 Championships in Vietnam that finished fourth. Among his teammates then were Isaac Go, Andrei Caracut, and Hubert Cani who are all in their final playing year in college basketball. 

Lauren hails from Seattle, Washington, USA. Both went to school at California Baptist University in Riverside, California, where they met. Jordan took up Kinesiology while Lauren took up Graphic Design. They both starred for their respective teams with Jordan, the CBU Lancers’ starting point guard -- also named as a member of the Academic All-Pacific West five team – while Lauren played outside hitter and was a beast on both ends of the court.

Lauren most recently played her first stint of professional volleyball with German side, ProWin Volleys TV Holz. “It was a learning experience. I had no expectations because you don’t hear a lot. You don’t get feedback about playing pro volleyball or the lifestyle.
It was lower level volleyball that placed a lot of pressure on me. In the US we play like 35-40 games in three months. In Europe, we played 28 games in nine months. The plus side, is I got to travel to Paris, Amsterdam, and places like that. It was a great experience. Now here in the Philippines, it will be another.”

After Jordan’s Batang Gilas stint, he always knew that he would return to the Philippines someday. 

“When I played for Batang Gilas in 2011, I enjoyed my time here so much and I wanted to come back and play. I wasn’t sure when but it was always in the cards. Some doors closed and others opened, so here I am.”

In Alab, he will rejoin his old Batang Gilas teammate, Caracut. “I am really looking forward this new phase in my career.”

Lauren as well could possibly don the Philippine colors as she could possibly receive a Philippine passport (by virtue of marriage to Jordan who got his Philippine passport before the age of 16). “That would be nice, but first of all, I have to prove myself out here as well,” she said.

“We both do,” chimed in Jordan.

The two then walked out into the hot and humid Friday morning along traffic-ridden Katipunan Avenue. 

It’s all part of getting acclimated to their new home.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Building Baldwin’s Ateneo teams

Building Baldwin’s Ateneo teams
by rick olivares

Building a champion not only means the ability to recruit, but to deal with adversity on and off the court (such as the cycle of graduation, injuries, and casualties due to academics), and to coach. Yes, having an all-star line-up doesn’t guarantee success. It helps, but as the saying goes, “the ball is round.”

Let’s take a look at how Thomas Anthony “Tab” Baldwin has done in his four years with the Ateneo Blue Eagles by the numbers and charts.

Loss of Players to injury, academics, graduation, transfer out, or opting out of their eligibility based on previous UAAP roster
Rookies, Team B call-ups, transferees, returnees
Homegrown (Either from the Ateneo Grade School or High School players) number
Arvin Tolentino, Jerie Pingoy, Hubert Cani, John Apacible, Clint Doliguez
Raffy Verano, Jolo Mendoza, Shaun Ildefonso, Jawaun White, Jme Escaler
Adrian Wong, GBoy Babilonia, Shaun Ildefonso, Jme Escaler
Gian Mamuyac, Tyler Tio, Troy Mallillin, BJ Andrade
Chibueze Ikeh, Troy Mallillin, Kris Porter, Jawaun White, Vince Tolentino 
William Navarro, SJ Belangel, Adrian Wong, Matthew Daves, Angelo Kouame

Raffy Verano, Jolo Mendoza, Aaron Black, Anton Asistio
Pat Maagdenberg, Gio Chiu, Jason Credo, Troy Mallillin

Before Tab Baldwin (3rd Place)
Year 1 – UAAP 2nd Place
Year 2 – UAAP champion, Champions League champion
Year 3 – Filoil Preseason Cup champion, BBI champion, City Hoops champion, UAAP champion
Year 4 – D-League champion

Let’s take a look at the improvement of his teams over the years.

70.9 (3rd)
44.8 (4th)
14.2 (2nd)
4.3 (last)
4.5 (2nd)
85.2 (2nd)
45.4 (3rd)
17.6 (3rd)
5.4 (7th)
3.3 (5th)
80.6 (1st)
47.4 (1st)
15.6 (2nd)
6.3 (2nd)
5.4 (1st)
76.8 (2nd)
48.3 (3rd)
16.9 (1st)
6.2 (2nd)
7.1 (1st)

Fastbreak Points
2nd Chance Points
Turnover Points
Free Throws
6.0 (last)
12.1 (2nd)
14.7 (6th)
250/374 (2nd)
9.1 (last)
15.5 (2nd)
13.7 (7th)
327/467 (3rd)
9.7 (6th)
15.5 (1st)
15.6 (2nd)
228/322 (3rd)
12.2 (3rd)
18.9 (1st)
21.7 (1st)
165/233 (1st)

And lastly, how they rank on both offense and defense.
Team Rank Offense
Team Ranks Defense

The question at this point is, “Will they win it all again?” They are in the finals, but they still have to win two more games.

And let’s take a look at the previous champions – their five-peat squads and how they also accomplished that given their adversity quotient of sorts.

Let’s also see how those five-peat teams of Norman Black did.
Loss of Players to injury, academics, graduation, transfer out, or opting out of their eligibility based on previous UAAP roster
Rookies, Team B call-ups, transferees, returnees
Homegrown (Either from the Ateneo Grade School or High School players) number
Ford Arao, Emman Monfort, Zion Laterre, Ken Barracoso, Martin Quimson, 
Ryan Buenafe, Nico Salva, Justin Chua, Vince Burke, Tonino Gonzaga
Mike Baldos, Yuri Escueta, Chris Tiu, Jobe Nkemakolam
Emman Monfort, Chris de Chavez, Frank Golla, Juami Tiongson
5 (six if you include Emman Monfort from Ateneo de Iloilo)
Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Nonoy Baclao, Jai Reyes, Oping Sumalinog, Vince Burke 
Jeric Estrada, Carlo Balmaceda, Arthur dela Cruz, JP Erram, Jumbo Escueta
5 (seven if you include Monfort and Ateneo de Cagayan’s JP Erram)
Carlo Balmaceda, Chris de Chavez, Arthur dela Cruz, Eric Salamat, Jumbo Escueta, Ryan Buenafe
Gwyne Capacio, Von Pessumal, BJ Cipriano, Kiefer Ravena, Greg Slaughter, Oping Sumalinog
6 (eight if you include Monfort and Erram)
Bacon Austria, Kirk Long, Emman Monfort, BJ Cipriano, Jeric Estrada (they also lost JP Erram for the rest of the campaign to a knee injury late in the second round)
GBoy Babilonia, Isaac Lim, Ryan Buenafe, Kris Porter, Nico Elorde
6 (seven if you include Erram)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

On Ateneo's elimination round sweep: Temper that exhilaration. It isn’t done yet.

Yet despite the giddiness that an Atenean can feel, it should be tempered. It isn’t done by a longshot. There are two more wins that need to be earned. A sweep doesn’t mean anything if one doesn’t bring home the trophy.

Temper that exhilaration. It isn’t done yet.
by rick olivares

There is a sense of exhilaration at seeing the Ateneo Blue Eagles sweep the elimination round for the first time in its UAAP history after that 86-64 win over the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons. They have come close on three occasions – 1987, 2011, 2012, and most recently in 2017. Each time though, they won the championship.

This is charting new ground more so since this awards the team an automatic finals slot. The downside though is there isn’t any thrice-to-beat advantage and there is the long lay-off. We have seen it affect the Blue Eaglets each time they have accomplished that feat. But while one must learn from those lessons, one does not place their faith in such things. At this point, how they come out is also within their control. 

Yet despite the giddiness that an Atenean can feel, it should be tempered. It isn’t done by a longshot. There are two more wins that need to be earned. A sweep doesn’t mean anything if one doesn’t bring back the trophy.

Having defeated every challenge this year, the fear aside from rust is a sense of complacency.

Ateneo cage history has shown that can be one’s downfall.

This 2019 is actually the 80th year Ateneo teams have gone out for athletic battle using the moniker “Blue Eagles.” In 1939, the Ateneo Blue Eagles swept the elimination round, 8-0, but lost in the finals to La Salle (for their first NCAA title).

Former Ateneo star, Primitivo Martinez was the coach that season and come the finals, he opted to start his second unit rather than his usual five. It was a huge mistake as the Green Archers rang up a huge lead. By the time Ateneo woke from its slumber, the rally fell short, losing 27-23. Ateneo averaged 35.5 points per game back then but were held to 23 points. 

In 1977, Ateneo was one win away from sweeping the elimination round and that meant back then an outright championship. There was one last game to play against San Beda. Three Blue Eagles were called up to the national team. While they were told they can release one, the other two opted to go abroad leaving an Ateneo team a bit depleted against a strong Red Lions team. San Beda won and now there was a best-of-three finals that Ateneo lost in Game Three. Yes, it was that infamous closed door match.

The coaching staff has enough veterans to know about not seizing the moment (anyone remember the second round loss to NU during the 2007 campaign). Hopefully, they will be ready come the finals.

But what can be taken from this win right now?

For one, it puts a huge damper on UP and everyone else’s designs. Fourteen times they tried to get that win, but 14 teams they were beat back; some in a most disparaging manner. 

Second, you have other players now finding their groove. Am talking about SJ Belangel, Isaac Go, and Angelo Kouame. 

Belangel has come a long way from his Blue Eaglet days when he said he couldn’t win one despite his talent. He did win a juniors title and now one seniors chip as well. He is gunning for a second in the collegiate ranks. 

Third, there is the seamless return of William Navarro to the team after getting knocked out by Nick Abanto. He finished with 13 points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals against one turnover. That is very good considering he was out for two games. 

Fourth, it is denying the UP coaching staff a win. You do not want a former coach and former players getting a win over you. Look reputations too are on the line here whether they admit it or not. Bragging rights as well. That is just how it is; unfair or not.

And fifth and last, it is how this team has dealt with adversity. During Tab Baldwin’s first year, he lost a bunch of players due to academics yet they still made the finals. That underscored what Baldwin has done for the team.

This season, in addition to losing Anton Asistio to graduation, Aaron Black opted out of his final playing year. Then Jolo Mendoza and Raffy Verano were knocked out as well due to academics. 

Talk about next man up.

I remember last season as saying that Will Navarro in the starting five was good. Someone remarked if I thought that was a better move than Raffy Verano in there. 

Each player brings something. Verano has his toughness and willingness to do the dirty work. Plus, he can pass. Will is more athletic, can shoot, and play multiple positions on both ends of the floor. 

If anything. It once more underscores the work that the coaching staff has done to mine the talents of their players despite others being star-studded. 

On that note, their biggest work will be done in the next two weeks or so as they prepare the team for its endgame.

Temper that celebration. This isn’t done yet.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

My Monday column October 28 in Business Mirror One last time, Blue.

One last time, Blue.
by rick olivares

My father, Danny Olivares, is hoping to watch one more game of the Ateneo Blue Eagles. This one is this coming Wednesday, October 30 when the two-time defending champions take on the University of the Philippines.

However, at the Mall of Asia Arena is Pasay City? At his condition where he has been greatly slowed down by a series of strokes? It is possible, but it would be difficult. Getting there and back all the way to the house would wear him out.

Some 20 of his Ateneo batchmates (Grade School ’54, High School ’58, and College ’62) are going as part of their Diamond Jubilee celebration. 

That is quite a storied class. Actor and comedian Noel Trinidad, Mahar Mangahas of the Social Weather Station, Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, noted US immigration lawyer Ted Laguatan, former Secretary of Education DJ De Jesus, Butch Bonoan of Better Than Ice Cream, banker Vic Barrios, Jess dela Fuente of IBM, footballer, national team player and sports official Johnny Romualdez, basketball champ and coach Dodie Agcaoili, former Jesuit Ed Garcia who now works as a life coach, Tonito Quirino who was the son of President Quirino, my Tito Vlady Olivares who put up Our Lady of Fatima U but now calls NYC home, and others.

I even dated the daughter of one of his classmates. Hindi kami nagkatuluyan kasi na torpe ako.

His Ateneo classmates who have moved on into the great hereafter who I was good friends with include former Blue Eagle Boogie Pamintuan who was a NCAA champ -- teammates with Ed Ocampo and Paquito Diaz who went on to become an actor -- and my neighbour during my younger years, sportscaster Joe Cantada who was an amateur boxing champ for Ateneo and who would give me PBA tickets (he also mentored me as a young sportswriter for the Journal group and the Philippine Daily Inquirer), Ronnie Alejandro who made a name for himself in New York as a writer and who I did odd jobs for in Greenwich Village, actor and comedian Subas Herrero, comedian Gary Lising, broadcaster Manolo "Manok" Lopez who I worked with at Solar Sports, and others.

During my father’s batch’s time in school (both at the Padre Faura and Loyola Heights campuses), they experienced four NCAA championships – 1953-54, 57-58, and 1961.

“It was a smaller campus then with a smaller student population,” said my dad. “Aside from knowing each other, we all celebrating the championships. When I was in grade school, high school, and college. Those were the good old days as they call it.”

I used to sit and listen in amazement to his stories of cheering at the old Rizal Memorial Coliseum. My first taste of a NCAA title came when I was in the Ateneo grade school when the Blue Eagles won the 1975-76 titles. When I got to high school, my batch won a juniors championship during our senior year. Then in college came the school’s first UAAP crowns in 1987 and 1988.

I got to see some of those games by that 1970s team that featured future pros Steve Watson, Joy Carpio, Padim Israel, and Bambi Kabigting. My uncle Johnny Tañedo took me to some of those games. During those UAAP title years, I’d go with my dad.

While he was never an athlete (unlike his kids), he enjoyed watching the games. Even when he physically did not go to the games, he’d watch them on television.

My passion for sports (not just Ateneo sports) also comes from him (along with an uncle who fostered the love of baseball in me). During the launch of the Ateneo five-peat book (titled “Five”) that I wrote at the Ayala Museum, my father was so proud of a connection I had made to our alma mater. It was actually my second book about the Blue Eagles with The 18th Banner coincidentally being my first and the first of the vie-peat titles. So in a way, Five was like the perfect bookend. 

There’s 11 Days in August that is about Gilas Pilipinas’ successful 2013 Fiba Asia campaign, A NU Champion that recounts the 2015 NU Bulldogs’ UAAP title season, Rise which tells of the NU Pep Squad’s three-peat in the Cheer Dance Championships, and contributing to Philippine Football: It’s Past, Its Future and Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan The Maestro of Philippine Basketball. I am currently working on Golden, that is recount the stories of the Xavier School Golden Stallions.

Except for my unfinished book, my father has copies of everything I have written. And that bring s me back to the upcoming game.

Early this October, three of my father’s batchmates wrote current Ateneo University Athletics Director Emmanuel Fernandez inquiring about the possibility of getting block seating for the match. Personally, I think it is cool. Their batch is extremely close to one another. They regularly hold reunions and go out of their way to help other batchmates of theirs who aren’t well. 

“It’s not like this is our last hurrah,” said Ed Garcia who now works with the student-athletes of FEU. “It is just reliving the days of our youth. It would be nice to watch again though not in the bleachers. Lower box, upper box is good where it isn’t too painful on the knees. While our reunions have bigger numbers I think for the Ateneo-UP game, we can only bring in 20 from our batch.”

My dad would like to watch with his classmates. Yell, cheer, and sing one more time. However, it doesn’t look possible given his health condition. As much as I want him to go (and be with him), it is best that he stay from home and watch on television. He grudgingly agreed.

“But I’ll be there in spirit,” he smiled.