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.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Who Is Ryan Buenafe?

Ryan Buenafe walked onto the patron section of the Araneta Coliseum. It was a small-sized crowd that came to witness a game with the resurgent Coca Cola Tigers. No one minded the backpack-carrying youngster who just arrived from school at San Sebastian via the LRT. In the meantime his cousin Ronjay was torching Red Bull with a dazzling array of trifectas and drives to the basket.

It was the last five minutes of the game and Buenafe took in the game intently as an aunt offered him some drinks.

It's the calm before the storm; the quiet anonymity before he sets foot in the college game where after helping lead the San Sebastian Staglets to three straight NCAA Junior titles. He is expected to carry whatever college he decides to play for.

But for now, he is a fan. Ronjay's dad played for Letran. His cousin was a star for the Emilio Aguinaldo Generals. As for Ryan... for the moment he'd rather think about how the Los Angeles Lakers swept their summer of discontent under the rug to play great basketball in the National Basketball Association. He confesses to being a Kobe Bryant fan and that were the Black Mamba to switch teams, Buenafe would readily switch his allegiance to the new club as well.

Ryan doesn't try to play like Kobe, but he tries to play a complete game on both ends of the court. It certainly helped that when he was smaller than his current height of 6'4" that he played point guard (he nearly played for PCU but chose San Sebastian instead). It helped with his court vision and sense. Now that he's taller, he's working on his post skills and shooting range. "Sinusubukan ko lang mag-improve ng laro," admitted the player with a penchant for putting up gaudy numbers in the NCAA Juniors Division. "Marami pa tayong matututunan."

He admits to feeling the pressure of being recruited by practically everyone. He isn't a household name just yet save for the rabid hoops junkies. He does get the occasional "hello" in malls that he feels embarrased about -- "Hindi naman tayo artista," he says. In fact, he enjoys the lack of attention being inside the Araneta Coliseum. He promises to give much thought to the college of choice when the school year winds down. But for now it's enjoying the show before he joins it and being a part of those tournaments at home and abroad. It's a mantra for him, "Kailaingan ko pa mag-improve."

"That's insane," laughs Eric Salamat his old teammate when I told him about Ryan's comments. "How much better can he get?"

Apparently, he's already plenty good enough. Not since Paolo Mendoza was tearing up the nets while in UPIS has there been a much-coveted player. One scout likes his skills and court savvy. "He's like a man playing among the boys," says this scout from the U-Belt area.

Says his San Sebastian coach Raymond Valenzona, "Kahit nung unang championship nung nandyan pa sila Salamat at (UE's Paul) Lee, meron na siyang playing time. Magaling na talaga at advanced ang basketball IQ para sa edad niya."

As it is there are at least three UAAP schools and two NCAA teams vying for his services. One even went as far as to ask his high school coach to ask him to wear the other school's t-shirt. Another has offered him the moon and the stars. Make no mistake, if he doesn't suit up for a UAAP team he's staying at San Sebastian. He says that there's no way he's going to move to another NCAA team. "Kung ganun lang, dito na ako sa Recoletos," he pronounces dashing any hopes of NCAA rivals to steal one from the rebuilding Stags. "Sana sa Stags na lang siya pero desisyon niya yun."

When Paolo Mendoza moved up to the senior ranks, he was still a gifted scorer, but clearly it wasn't enough to tow the Maroons to a title. One veteran coach thinks that it won't be the case with Buenafe. "He will no doubt go to a good team and make them great. He can score in many ways, but what will make him dangerous is he will make the game easier for everyone. That's how good he is."

Ronjay Buenafe exits the Coca Cola locker room with some hearty congratulations from PBA officials and well-wishers. Ryan looks on approvingly; proud that his cousin rose from being a practice player to a regular on one of the league's hottest teams. Ronjay puts his arm around Ryan and the two exit the southgate for dinner.

1 comment:

  1. It's been 3 years since this was published, but it still gives me goosebumps until now :)

    "He will no doubt go to a good team and make them great. He can score in many ways, but what will make him dangerous is he will make the game easier for everyone. That's how good he is."

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