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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bulldog down

Manfred James Dandan was relieved of his head coach duties with NU today. A source said that the long-time NU coach was going to be axed last weekend but Typhoon Ondoy but it was to take effect today on the last day of September. When I asked Dandan if any reason was given for his sacking, he said he wasn't informed of any. 


In my opinion, the decision to axe Dandan was more or less formalized when they were ran off the court by the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the second round. After that match, I spoke with two ranking NU officials who were taking shots at Dandan outside the locker room. While they weren't expected to contend for the Final Four, they didn't expect to be pounded that bad all throughout. 

A former national coach is said to be the leading candidate to replace Dandan on the sidelines.

----

On a personal note: thanks, coach! See you around.

Press Con for Pinoy Basketbol Kakampi Ninyo

The charity basketball game on October 5 for the victims of Typhoon Ondoy is on. Japeth Aguilar and CJ Giles will suit up for Smart Gilas while Powerade RP will have Kelly Williams, Ryan Reyes, and Wynne Arboleda replacing Arwind Santos, Jared Dillinger, Mick Pennisi, and Ranidel De Ocampo who will all be out of the country during that day.


The winners of each charity match will donate PhP 100,000 each while the losing team will donate PhP 50,000 each. 

Ring Side and Patron tickets are priced at P200. Lower Box at P100 and Upper Box A at P50. The bleacher and Upper B sections will be free to the public if they donate old shoes. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Win #101 went thataway!


And the Yankees keep on rolling even with most of their starters on the bench for a day off. Robinson Cano belted a grand slam in the seventh inning to break open the 8-2 win over the Kansas City Royals.

Great pitching by Chad Gaudin to earn his second win of the year for the pinstriped team. 

He was backed up by NY's big bats as they racked up 12 hits. Now it's up to Manager Joe Girardi if Gaudin gets a starter's spot in the post-season.

Pinoy Basketbol Kakampi Ninyo

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas has organized a fund-raising event called "Pinoy Basketbol Kakampi Ninyo" for the victims of Typhoon Ondoy. The two-game event will pit a combined NCAA and UAAP selection that will go up against a team composed of players from the PBL and Liga Pilipinas. The main game will feature Smart Gilas Pilipinas versus Powerade Team Pilipinas. The games will be held at the Araneta Coliseum on Monday October 5, 2009 at the Araneta Coliseum. 

All ticket sales will be coursed through ABS CBN Foundation and go to the victims of one of the worst disasters to hit the Philippines in decades. SBP is also requesting for donations of old rubber shoes from all the leagues involved that will likewise be given to the victims.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bleachers' Brew #176 Hard Rain

Hard Rain
by rick olivares

I was watching the New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox in the first match of a three-game series at the New Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox tacked in two runs when David Ortiz smacked a Joba Chamberlain pitch to the left stands to bring the score to 5-3 still in favor of the Yankees when I became distracted with the downpour that intensified. All I knew was that it began to rain at 4am and the heavy rains were hardly anything new.

I peered out of my door to look outside. Nothing our neighborhood drainage system can handle I thought to myself so I went back inside. 

The Yankees got two runs back in the bottom of the inning when Alex Rodriguez came through with a runner in scoring position. Just when I let out a cry of triumph I heard some shouting. I thought that my neighbor had joined me in early celebration but I immediately dismissed that because I was the only baseball fan in the compound. I cheered because what was at stake was New York’s magic number of four wins before they could clinch the American League East division title; their first in the House that George (Steinbrenner) Built. It was more than a win because it was also at the expense of the Red Sox who owned them since their victory over the Yankees in 2004 that spurred them to a World Series title that year and in 2007. 

Except that my neighbors’ cries weren’t the celebratory kind but ones of horror.

I quickly ran out to find out the cause and it was my turn to let out a yelp of shock. The water had quickly risen to alarming levels. My first action was to call up my parents who lived some 20 minutes away for help. Then I began to grab valuables and important papers. 

It had rained hard before and area flooded a bit but it was nothing like this. 

I live far from any river or lake but the street where I live in Quezon City is like a catch basin and in hindsight it doesn’t seem like a good idea to be living in such a place. 

I quickly gathered more of my belongings and placed them atop tables, cabinets, and the kitchen sink. My dog barked nervously and retreated inside my room for higher ground. 

As I nervously gathered precious belongings, I glanced at my television that showed the Yankees tacking on one more run for insurance to go up at 8-3. I quickly pulled the plug and placed the television set on top of the higher work desk where my computers were.

By now the water had climbed up and seeped into my room. My father called and reminded me to shut down the electrical power. “Oh, yeah,” I sheepishly but nervously replied.” 
I looked out once more out of the window and saw that the waters rose to hip level. And I’m already somewhat tall at 5’11” and the last time I had to wade floodwaters this deep was to carry a former girlfriend as we left UST during one particularly bad downpour. 

I said a quick prayer for help from above. Not one of my family could reach me because all roads from Katipunan Avenue if not flooded were clogged with cars unable to pass through the side roads.

I didn’t panic because I could swim. The concern was more for a few of my belongings – those valuables and my extensive body of work that had taken me years to put together – that I wanted to save. I waded the waters for about 300 meters first to bring my dog and then my immediate valuables to a neighbor’s van. Some of my neighbors who lived in the higher areas helped out; some didn’t. Why they didn’t help out I have no idea. I was able to make several trips but after a while the water was up to my chest and the rest of my belongings were all floating around in my room. 

I put my hands to my head and broke down. It was so insane. I had seen this in movies from Christian Slater’s Hard Rain and Titanic. Scenes from a flooded New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina flashed through my head. I knew that this wasn’t some isolated incident and that other areas were probably just as affected or maybe even worse. 

Shivering in the cold, I waved the white flag of surrender. I took one last look at the apartment that I had called home for two years with all my books, papers, and appliances floating about. I wiped the tears from my eyes -- not that it was obvious that I cried -- and swam out. 

I sought shelter inside my neighbor’s van. His own home was under water and he still offered to bring me over to my parents’ place. But we had to wait a couple of hours for the rains to subside and the traffic to loosen up. 

Twelve hours after the first rains well, I was back in my parents’ house near Ateneo. I sat down and tried to make sense of what just happened. I showered first and changed into warm clothes. I looked at the things I managed to salvage. Some of the things I thought I saved by handing over to neighbors for help never found their way to the van. That made me even feel worse. 

In nearby Olandes, I heard that the whole community was nearly wiped out. I put on a raincoat and went out with my brother to find out how we could be of help. 

I spoke with a few Philippine Marines who used a pump boat to rescue an elderly woman who could not move and was trapped on the roof of her home. People could not enter because the road leading to the community was under six feet of water. The amphibious vehicles could not enter without further damaging the houses in the area. 

It was one huge disaster area and the rains though lesser in intensity was still falling. Then before my cellphone – that had its signal fluctuating all throughout – conked out, I received a text message from a friend in New York. It read: “Theeeee Yaaaankeeees wiiiiiiiiinnn!!!” 

I laughed out loud and my brother and neighbors looked at me quizzically. 

“That’s the first bit of good news I received all day,” I said cryptically without bothering to explain.

The rain fell and covered the tears in my eyes.

One to go before New York Wraps Up the AL East Division title


Redemption is at hand for the Bronx Bombers.

Quiet, business-like, and steady.

And to think that Alex Rodriguez had a quiet year (even if he's got great stats once more).


Friday, September 25, 2009

Halikinu Radio Episode 12

The Finals Preview Episode of Halikinu Radio. Portia Silva was busy with school work so student assistant Aussy Aportadera subbed for her.

Our second batch of Blue Eagles to guest on the show included Kirk Long, Bacon Austria, and Justin Chua. We hope to get Ryan Buenafe, Eric Salamat, and Nonoy Baclao in one of our remaining episodes.

Our second batch of guests for the show included Blue Babble Battalion coach Randall and captains Marty and Sari Campos seen here with Mhel and myself.

Aussy, Chuck, and Martin take in the comments of the Ateneo Men's Golf Team who were our first batch of guests on the show.

Golf represent! Betcha ya didn't know we had a golf team and they've been performing well of late. Good luck in your next tourney, guys!

Ripped Hearts

Three months ago, the season loked bright. The FEU Tamaraws, the big bad and talented Tams were ripe enough to snatch away the crown from the Blue Eagles. If there was any lessons to be learned from the Opening Day loss, it was back to the drawing board.


Except who knew that the season would turn out this way?

If the end of Season 71 at the hands of La Salle was heartbreaking then how painful is this?

The twice to beat advantage they worked so hard for didn't matter against the hungry UE Red Warriors.

The Tamaraws head into the offseason granted a reprieve because of the sacking of Mark Barroca. If there were questions surrounding that controversy imagine how much more it is now after the Warriors delivered the endgame killer blows for a 78-72 win and 2-0 sweep.

Summer doesn't have to wait for discontent.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ateneo Blue Eaglets: The Power of Names and 94 Feet of Defense


(This was my preview for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets in Blueblood magazine prior to Season 72)
The Power of Names and 94 Feet of Defense
The Ateneo Blue Eaglets on Defending the Crown
by rick olivares

The knock on the Ateneo High School is that it doesn’t breed tall players anymore. The days when it produced tall, serviceable or dominating centers like Mike Facundo, Alex Araneta, Danny Francisco, and Rico Santiago one after the other have passed on to urban myth. Occasionally there has been a Rico Villanueva or Paolo Bugia to pass through the hallowed corridors but they are few and far in between.

Despite that, the high school basketball team has made a championship appearance an annual birthright making them the yardstick of which UAAP Junior caging is measured.

Ja Story Behind the Name and Game
And behind the Blue Eaglets’ recent dominance is a coach who may be – with all due respect to him – small in stature but carries a big stick. And once you understand that then you will come to understand the team even more.

Mike Jarin ironically grew up a fan of Los Angeles Lakers’ supercenter Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “That was a time before the centers were literally the centers of attraction of the NBA game,” revealed the bespectacled coach. “The game was then opening up to guards and forwards like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan but the conventional wisdom was you needed your franchise center to win.”

“When I was growing up, everyone kept calling me “Jarin” like they do in school. And my name is “Mike” but everyone knew I was a Jabbar fan so they called me “Jarin Abdul Jabbar” and that was eventually shorted to “Jamike.”

Jarin loved basketball except that he wasn’t blessed with the height so whether he was son the subdivision or San Beda Red Cubs team, he found himself at the end of the bench. “Sitting on the bench gave me a very clear view what was happening on the court.”

It was while sitting on the bench – first as a player and second as an assistant -- where Jarin formed many of his coaching philosophies. “I learned from some of the best in the game: Douglas Chonlok, Ato Badolato, Joe Lipa, Ricky Dandan, Joel Banal, Sandy Arespacochaga, and Norman Black. Sandy likes a fast game. Joel is a wizard with numbers. With Norman it’s the inside game and defense. And having been there and done that, well, no one sits. Everyone plays. And that’s not just because I know what’s it’s like but we’re going to need everyone because we play 94 feet of defense for the full 40 minutes.”

As they showed it last season against the much taller teams of Far Eastern University and Adamson University, physical size doesn’t matter. It was the size of their fighting heart.

With regards to the Jabbar allusion, Jarin added, “We may be small, but we certainly play big.”

Succinctly summed up, the Blue Eaglets live by a mantra that “speed kills” and that “we force opponents to play our game.”

The keepers of the flame
For Ateneo to defend the crown this new season, everyone will have step up more so since they lost Juami Tiongson, Jayvee Dumrique, Kevin Gamboa, and Ivan Enriquez to graduation.

Unlike others, Ateneo does not recruit players for its basketball program. The players come from its mass grade school and high school base. And the cycle continues with four new faces: Luis Singco, Sandro Daez, Aldrin Ungson, and Lambert Tenorio; the latter LA’s younger sibling.

The homegrown pride is a huge factor in team’s make up; something the coaching staff that includes former Blue Eagle Marco Benitez to count on when the going gets tough.

As for the veterans, assistant coach Joe Silva, himself a former Ateneo player, likes the continuous improvement of forwards Ael Banal and Von Pessumal aside from forward-center Paolo Romero. “But” noted Silva, “If (guard) Kiefer Ravena plays defense, then we’ll be tougher.”

The team’s second unit is actually strong enough to be another team’s first five. In fact, the coaching staff is even toying with the idea of starting the second unit of Tim Capacio at center, Romero and Pessumal at the forward position and Ice Reyes and Singco at guard. And just when opponents have had enough of them, they can then bring on their true starting unit of Al Bugarin at center, Chuckie Dumrique and Ravena at guard, and Banal and Paolo Pe at the forward line.

“Laban lang kami this year,” said Silva who refused to predict a second straight crown. “It will not be easy. Zobel is not only taller but they are hungry. And UST and FEU will be contenders as well.”

The Endgame
As appealing as it is to further immortalize themselves in Ateneo sports lore, Jarin is quick to explain the crux of his coaching. “The idea of Jesuit sports is to use the game to mold kids into better men. It sounds corny, however you want to put it, but there are values to be learned such as giving it your all and working as a team. We would love to form a team and give it that one big fight. And at the end of the day, if we win a championship, then that is a bonus.”

And in Jarin’s 11 years with the high school team, he’s won 6 championships, the most by any coach in Ateneo history. “And when you add the two as an assistant to the college team… that’s not bad. Not bad at all,” the coach smiled.

Be that as it may, aside from the 94 feet of defense, does Jamike Jarin have any secret plan to win his 7th Juniors crown?

“Yup. Score more baskets than our foes.”

Wanna play bowling and have pizza on Tuesdays?

Hi. We're planning an Ateneo alumni bowling tournament this coming October 6-November 3, 2009. It will be Tuesdays at Paeng's Skybowl at Robinson's Galleria. Game days are every Tuesday from 7-10pm. We chose the venue so it's in the middle for those coming from Quezon City and Makati. The venue can only accomodate 10 teams of six players each (three/four male and 2 female). No pros and cheating ha -- it's just for fun and a way to unwind and make some new friends. If it's successful then we'll have a bigger tournament. Call the AAA at 926-6067 for more details or send me email. We have 2 teams already on board so we're looking for eight more.

Gilas players to join 3-on-3 Vietnam tourney

Gilas players to join 3-on-3 Vietnam tourney
by rick olivares

Five members of the Smart Gilas Men’s National team will be representing the Philippines in the Asian Indoor 3-on-3 Championships from October 30 to November 8, 2009 at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Gilas mainstays Rey Francis Guevarra, Jason Ballesteros, Dylan Simon Ababou, and Joseph Evans Casio have been penciled in for the competition that will involve 45 countries. Gilas mentor Rajko Toroman will coach the team. Former FEU Tamaraw Andy Mark Barroca and controversial Philippine Basketball Association draftee Japeth Aguilar were considered but their names were submitted late.

New York Diary: Summer Day at the Park


(This is an old entry from my New York Diary that is an excerpt from its collected volume that I am selling to friends in very limited quantities this Christmas).

Dear Mom & Dad:

Today was hot and humid. I poured the contents of my mineral water bottle onto my hands and splashed the cool water onto my face, hair, then took in a last swig before I tossed the empty pep bottle into the nearby trash bin. That refreshed me even if only for a few minutes.

I took the day off from work. I had made plenty a penny over the past month. As usual, I divvied the bills into the envelopes that I’ve labeled: “savings,” “rent,” “daily expenses,” “money to be sent home,” and “miscellaneous.”

As much as possible I exchange my well-worn greenbacks for crisp new bills. I reasoned that having new bills makes it harder for me to dip into my savings to splurge. I have to be very conscious of my expenses. After all, I’m saving up to buy a house.

Like Awee’s house in Jersey City that I thought that it was simply elegant. I’d love to have one like that. And in a nice neighborhood too. But I love Uncle Vinnie’s house up in Mercer. Now that is real living. Straight out American Home.

My envelope marked “miscellaneous” is where I get money to buy my “luho” – compact discs, dvds, books, comic books, and sports gear. It’s also where I dip into if I want to go out of town and travel.

Obviously one job isn’t enough so I’ve taken on some part time work for a few hours. And it’s not bad. I sometimes work as a coat checker at the Trump Tower where I make anywhere from a hundred bucks to a hunnert plus fifty a night. It’s indoors where there’s airconditioning. It sure beats running pizza delivery around Midtown Manhattan. That’s not bad actually but I feel that my Bangladeshi workmates always try to put one over me and work the best beats for the best tips. But sometimes, it has its perks.

One time I brought over some pizza to this ritzy condo unit just around the corner of East 49th and Fifth and the people inside were playing strip poker! And they were in the middle of it. They knew I could see them. I guess its part of the tease. There is a God! Bwahahaha.

Like I said, I have to do extra work if I want all this stuff and to go places. I make good money with the extra work so I could afford to take an extra day off and just be out in the city such as today. After a damned winter, this is a most welcome summer.

They just released this new gadget called an ipod and it costs a lot but it’s not bad because it saves me the trouble of carrying my discman around. I went through my second discman in the span of six months. Not that I’m clumsy but I broke one when I slipped on the ice last winter.

I spent the morning at the museum and lunch with my friends Sam and Suborna – that pretty pretty Indian chick I was telling you about -- at Taco Bell. Well, we had to take Suborna out because she was depressed that her boyfriend left her for someone else. She is positively crushed and I thought I’d cheer her up. I know Sam likes her so I asked him to come along after all, three’s company during times like these.

Suborna or Sue for short is lovely with deep brown eyes that melt you away. She could compete for Ms. Universe if she wishes. Except that she likes sappy loves songs. Her saving grace though is she loves acid jazz. She’s hung up on a jerk so it’s our duty to clear her mind.

We’re watching the Nets later. We got tickets and have good seats. We’re using my flat mate Cruiser’s brand new SUV. He bought his car using literally hard earned cash. Money he saved in cans of Pringles. From tips from his extra work and in wrinkled bills and new ones! The dealer thought it was hilarious too as he brought out several cans of cash in various denominations and where it took a while to count and recount before the sale was consummated.

You remember Cruiser, right? He’s the only Filipino in my barkada here. Works at a bank then pumps gas at night for extra dough. And we both root for the Yankees so it’s always fun for us to watch games together whether at home or at the Stadium. Most of my friends here aren’t baseball or hockey fans. They like basketball and football which is cool, of course. It’s not bad because I sometimes welcome the solitude especially when I go to Long Island to watch hockey coz I’m the only Islanders fan they know. Bwahahaha.

Anyways, there’s five of us and it should be fun. I hope the Nets win but they look so woefully thin against the deep and talented San Antonio Spurs. If it weren’t for Jason Kidd this crew wouldn’t even find their way out of the turnpike. But if the Nets’ starting five holds up then they’ve got a chance. The only player I like on the Spurs is their whirling dervish or a swingman Manu Ginobili. I know you like Kobe Bryant’s game; dad and Manu can be like that too. Hard to root for the Wets though coz I’m too much of an Eastern guy. The drive from Manhattan isn’t that far. We’ll make it in an hour as long as we beat the rush hour traffic. Making it early means that we have a chance to check out Giants stuff.

While at Central Park, I showed Sam and Sue my hideaway at the Terrace. I know that it’s one of the most photographed and filmed places at the Park but I just love it here. I go here to read a book, write, listen to my music, and watch people about to get married and be photographed, and scope these musicians and performers. I haven’t written any poetry since college? But when I go here I’m compelled to do so. I wrote one the other week – a paean to the loveless. I’m too much of a hopeless romantic. Bwahaha. I can hear the melody of Lennon-McCartney in my head.

We had hotdogs and as much as I love them I still cannot stand the Sauer kraut. I swear! And I do better kebabs than this.

I know that you can’t get the music of today but I’m sending you a mp3 of a song I love to death. It’s Ivy’s “Point of View.” It’s kinda weird especially for a place like Central Park in the summer but it’s like our soundtrack for today with our rescue mission for Sue. I caught the band Ivy at the Village a few months back and it shook me to my very core. To be up close and personal with one of my all-time fave bands is a highlight in my life here. I hope you listen to the mp3… it has me swirling like an old 45 vinyl single.

Sure is hot. Whew! You know naman how I am so fussy about being clean all the time. Bwahahaha.

This is the part where I feel like I’m Huck Finn – kicking my shoes off and sitting down on the grass and watching the world go by. I’ve got my friends here but there are times I like being alone. I like to think, think, and dream. Don’t you just love this place? It’s so beautiful.

Oh, I forgot. The other day there were these two gay people caught by television cams banging each other on top of one of the trees in the park! Can you believe that! They wouldn’t go down and the cops and firemen had to bring them down. Lots of weirdos here too. Bwahahaha. They should have gotten a room. I know it’s hot now that it’s summer but this is ridiculous.

Thanks by the way for sending that Rivermaya CD and pictures of the family. You don’t have to send me any foodstuffs because you can pretty much get anything you want here. Tell Rob, I bought him a Playboy magazine with WWE Divas in it. Hahahaha. It’s not a joke, mom so don’t toss that out.

We stayed for more than an hour here chatting. Talking about life, lost loves, and whether Jennifer Aniston is hot (I think she is). Bwahaha. The fountain of the Angels of the Waters lent a nice splash to us in this heat. Gotta go.

Next time I’ll stay longer – I usually do that when I’m alone. But we gotta wash up and prep for the road trip to Jersey. We’re off to the game, folks.

Will write again. Hope all is well in your side of the world.

Love,
Rick


My notes today:
I worked two jobs in a single day then. Got a day job at midtown in marketing company then alternated as a coat checker or a staff member at Virgin Records in Times Square. After a bit, I dropped the latter two and went back to working in a restaurant on weekends. That kept me grounded and humble so that no matter how good I thought I was at my day job.

As for Jennifer Aniston being hot, it’s a long and running joke/question I ask when I interview applicants. Even up today. It’s the clincher question. Just ask my student assistants. Hahahaha.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Yankees Return to the Playoffs

Sac fly. Slide. Run. 6-5 win. Hello, playoffs. The New York Yankees are back after missing it all last year; an embarrassing finish to their final year in the old Stadium. At 96-56, they just neeed a couple more wins to secure the AL East flag and the farther they advance they'll have home field advantage including the World Series if they make it that far. The Bronx Bombers fly back home from the West Coast to take on the Boston Red Sox, their tormentor of recent years. Let's go, Yankees!

This should shut them the hell up


Okay here is the official answer from CHED.

Nice try.

See you on the basketball court.

Wednesday Morning Blues Part 1

I’m trying to stay coherent. No sleep for over 24 hours. I’m stressed, worried, and a little pissed. My father refuses to let us feel bad by showing he’s okay. He suffered a stroke right after he got back from a prayer meeting at Santuario de San Antonio and how he even drove himself to the hospital I have no idea! I was at a party when I received word and immediately tore onto the streets to get to the hospital. I was afraid because this was the third time and God knows how many more lives my dad has.

I guess when you’re older you start thinking of your mortality and having written that, I understood why people can be vain as they try to reclaim those younger days when they were kings or queens. In the hospital because of my father, I once more saw the plight of others and how wanting our healthcare program is in our country. It’s a huge debate in the US and here people scrape by because the system doesn’t work for them. It’s a thought that remained with me as I sat outside.

I hate hospitals. They are a place of suffering (and of healing as well to be fair). I guess that was borne out of a phobia I developed when I was confined during my childhood days.

In the lobby, the hospital guards were listening to the interviews and speeches by madmen named Lacson and Estrada as they hurled accusations against one another. I wondered aloud why they continue to listen when no one is going to jail or will be prosecuted when the dog and pony show is done. It’s all for show. To sell newspapers. To get people to watch TV. It’s got more twists and turns than a Korean telenovela. And like pro basketball here, we are taken for a ride. The guards nodded in agreement. One spat on the pavement and cursed our lawmakers. My venom was obviously infectious.

But I am not pleased with the infection. That wasn’t even my intent.

I skimmed through the newspaper and read the news. Yesterday I got wind of news that new accusations at Jobe Nkemakolam’s eligibility were to be released to the trad media the today. The funny thing is it leaked by an FEU representative to the media. Whether they are pissed at what I wrote (The Blame Game) or it’s to detract from the Mark Barroca issue, I couldn’t help but think how they bungled the whole thing once more.

For one, it’s an old issue that was thrown out the window. Isn’t this a case of Double Jeopardy? This is a matter that is best discussed indoors and with the UAAP Board and if found to be true then a statement should be issued to the media. Not vice versa. The timing smacks of maliciousness and deviousness. What to distract from the Mark Barroca incident? And so close to the Finals? Isn’t there a new UAAP rule where if no one contests the eligibility of a player prior to the start of the competition then any protest will be thrown out the window? Someone obviously has a short memory.

But since when did the UAAP Board make sense? The tournament is 72 years old yet they cannot get the rules right. Every year there’s some rule change and controversy. And it isn’t even rocket science. The sideshows take as much headline space as the actual games. Isn’t that bad comedy?

Then there’s Japeth Aguilar not being allowed to play in the PBA. That much I understand. But he will face severe sanctions for what? Again there are no rules regarding sanctioning a player not signing up with the club that drafted him. What of those drafted not signed? He can sit out two years. But anything more than that well…

Those are the things made known to the public but there are a lot of things that are all off the record. Think about it? This is a club that let go of its best player in Arwind Santos. We’ve seen a revolving door of players through the years. So do clubs like them have any real long-term program? They buy and sell players because they don’t have the money to sustain things. They serve as the middle team for the San Miguel teams when they need to trade players. That’s what is wrong when you have several clubs belonging to one company. Conspiracy theories and endless rumor mongering abound. It’s like that Rage Against the Machine song, “Take the power back.” This case should be analyzed more from a mere act of snobbery. It goes deeper.

Real basketball is in the college game. The pros? Well, that’s entertainment.

And that brings me back to the sideshow carnival that seems to come with every UAAP season. I remember writing about what subplots will develop when the tournament gets underway and wow…. it’s really something else, isn’t it?

Whichever television station wins the UAAP bid for next year there’s your campaign –- 8 Teams. 100 stories. Bwahahaha.

When I met up with Mark Barroca the day before they left for Singapore, he climbed over to where we were seated and while drenched with sweat he quickly shared his unhappiness. But he was looking forward to the trip to Singapore. Suddenly it was like the Mark I befriended in the weeks leading to Jakarta and the two weeks we were there. It wasn't the sullen and forlorn player who sobbed all night long as he left the FEU campus a few days ago. He yakked about a lot of things… yes, he believes the Cleveland Cavaliers will win it all this year. He likes the Celtics to figure in the title race but LeBron is on a mission.

When he spoke of FEU, well, he hopes they win the title but he is clearly not happy with some people. But when someone (not me) ventured that the Tamaraws winning will justify his removal, he seemed taken aback. Not once did he even consider that. Then he said that from hereon it’s all about finishing his studies and playing for the national team.

As far as the Jobe issue is concerned whoever spun this differently bungled things once more.

After the UAAP basketball season is over, I will set the record straight on another person accused of throwing a game. And you’ll be shocked. That’s why these things are dangerous.

Sleep yet has to come to me. Hope my dad’s okay.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NYTD Blue

The New York Giants won their second straight game in the new NFL season to go 2-0. Kicker Lawrence Tynes booted in the game winning field goal as time expired as the Giants beat home team Dallas Cowboys 33-31 in Arlington, Texas. Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lebron James, who is a Cowboys fan, played some pigskin on the field after the match.



Ateneo Blue Eagles Game #15 The Knockout


The Knockout
Ateneo 81 vs. UST 64
by rick olivares


Jeric Fortuna brought the ball down the court and signaled the play. There was a grim look on his face as his UST side stared at a 19-point deficit 63-44 at the start of the fourth and final quarter of Game 1 of their Final Four match-up with Ateneo.

The sophomore point guard passed the ball to teammate Dylan Ababou who was at the apex of the three-point arc. And the new yet uncrowned league MVP rifled a three-point shot with Blue Eagle forward Oping Sumalinog draped all over him. The shot hit the front rim and the Blue Eagles switched to attack mode.

Once UST got the ball back, Fortuna this time swung the ball over to Khasim Mirza who launched one from the right side of the three-point arc. The shot that clanked off the side iron and Ateneo cleared the brick. Mirza shook his head and motioned to himself for a better follow through.

That was the story of the game for the Number Four seed.

They 2009 Tigers liked to overpower foes with their high-octane offense that was predicated on a relentless aerial bombardment. And when up against Ateneo, it was also vital to their game plan to keep the rebounding battle close and to take Ateneo center Rabeh Al-Hussaini out of the equation early on if only to give them a fighting chance. They even had Fortuna reprising Japs Cuan by driving inside on the Big Fella early in the game.

And if getting into the slotman’s head was part of their defensive scheme, the Blue Eagles preferred to take the fight out for their foe with some good old-fashioned hard-nosed defense. They went at UST right at the beginning.

They started it out with suffocating D predicated on blocks and steals.

When Ateneo captain Nonoy Baclao blocked Ababou’s first attempt -- an undergoal stab from the right side -- it sent a message that this year’s King Tiger was going to have a hand in his face all game long. True enough, he scored 19 points but that was from 6-18 shooting. Six of those points were courtesy of two open shots -- the only ones he had all game long when the Ateneans failed to switch during the pick and roll.

When Eric Salamat pilfered Fortuna’s pocket on UST’s next possession, he inspired his teammates to play like free safeties picking off the opposing quarterback’s passes.

While Ateneo tallied only 4 blocks all match long, they altered a great many shots including one where Ryan Buenafe forced Teng, this year’s Rookie of the Year, into an awkward trey attempt that he dropped off at the last moment to Allein Maliksi. Oping Sumalinog easily picked off the weak entry pass.

Ateneo’s defense didn’t just fuel a win to the school’s sixth Finals appearance this decade but it rewrote the record books.

The Loyola Heights squad finished with 13 steals, the highest Final Four total since the UAAP computerized its statistics in 2003. Salamat and Sumalinog each swiped away four balls. As a team, they forced UST’s prolific offense into 27.5% field goal shooting; the lowest in Final Four history (the previous low was 29.3% by La Salle versus Ateneo in 2003). That in your face defense also translated into 23 fast break points; another Final Four achievement that topped the previous high of 20 recorded by La Salle against FEU last year.

The Tigers are not the sort of team to rally from a deficit as they didn’t have the bench to backstop their topscorers in Ababou, Mirza, and Teng. With Darrell Green off the squad for disciplinary reasons, it further depleted UST’s dependable players. And it didn’t help their cause that the starters misfired all game long.

Their starting unit attempted 35 times from La La Land and only connected on 9; the majority of them when the game was long decided.

Early in the season, it was Ateneo’s second unit that played the fireman’s role. Since the team got its juggernaut game going, it has been the starting five that has putting away foes.

When the España team could only induce one foul from Al-Hussaini (in the very first minute) in the first quarter that spelled trouble for UST. It meant that Ateneo had the luxury of fielding the center at their convenience. And it allowed Baclao to chase Ababou to the perimeter and the guards could gamble a bit because there was someone to clear the loose change. Perhaps more importantly, it meant that UST would have to decide whether to double Al-Hussaini or gamble with single coverage in order to blanket Ateneo’s shooters.

Either way, it didn’t work. They were pounded from inside and out.

“We wanted to jump on them right away,” Norman Black would later say. “Eric just really set the tone for us with his defense. We got a lot of transition baskets because of our blocks and steals.”

While Salamat, Sumalinog, and Baclao were taking care of business with blocks and steals, Jai Reyes and Ryan Buenafe torched the Tigers with 50% shooting from three-point land as they hit 5 of 10 attempts. What made the shots even bigger was that they squelched UST’s rallies.

After Buenafe hit the last of his treys to make it 63-44 at the end of three quarters, Mirza who only hit 2 of 8 similar shots, threw up his arms as if to say, “What else can I do?”

Reyes was spectacular as he bucked the physical defense of UST by hitting huge shots en route to a team high 17 points to go with 8 rebounds.

“I think that’s the best way to answer back, di ba?” said Reyes who now has an opportunity to duplicate the feat of his uncle Jun who led Ateneo to back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988. “Our defense just really did it for us.”


Ateneo 81Reyes 17, Buenafe 15, Al-Hussaini 14, Baclao 13, Salamat 6, Long 6, Chua 6, Sumalinog 2, Austria 2, Monfort 0, Gonzaga 0, Golla 0

UST 64Ababou 19, Mirza 14, Teng 10, Bautista 9, Fortuna 7, Afuang 4, Camus 1, Maliksi 0, Aytona 0

Monday, September 21, 2009

Smart Gilas, a haven for basketball refugees, gets ready for new challenges


Smart Gilas, a haven for basketball refugees, gets ready for new challenges
by rick olivares

Rajko Toroman has coached in the World and European Championships, the FIBA Asia Championships, and the Summer Olympics -- the cream de la crème of basketball tournaments – yet he looks forward to coaching the Smart Gilas Pilipinas Men’s National Team in the upcoming Philippine Basketball Association All-Filipino Conference. “It’s nice. I look forward to it. Especially since you’ll find the best basketball in the country there and it is a crucial part in our mission to qualify for the Olympics,” he said after team practice at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City.

The Gilas Team in recent days has become a haven for refugees from other leagues. Chester Jarrel Giles, the former Los Angeles Laker draftee who is undergoing a naturalization process for the Philippines arrived 15 days ago after his prospects of making the Denver Nuggets line-up didn’t look too good.

Japeth Aguilar, the PBA’s Number One over-all pick during the 2009 Rookie Draft, has attended a few of the national team’s practices after the arriving from a quick vacation in the United States. Aguilar has spurned pro club Burger King in favor of suiting up for the national squad citing a desire to represent his country. His decision has sparked a firestorm of controversy that is still unresolved to this day and with the league set to start its 35th season that is only three weeks away.

And most recently, Andy Mark Barroca, the former Far Eastern University Tamaraw who was removed from the squad following game throwing allegations after a loss to Ateneo de Manila that decided the number seed for the ongoing Final Four series in the UAAP, has joined the squad. Although heartbroken about the accusation, Barroca has found the refuge with the national team; an enjoyment he has made no bones about since he hooked up with Gilas last year.

In the last two days, Gilas scrimmaged with a Liga Pilipinas team and PBA club Red Bull where he scored 15 and 14 points respectively. “Masakit,” he described of the incident that still haunts him from the moment he wakes up. “Pero tuloy pa rin ang buhay. Buti na lang may Smart Gilas.”

The national team is leaving Tuesday morning for a tune-up game against the Singapore Slingers this coming Wednesday and will be back in the Philippines the following day.

The nationals, still missing its collegiate stars still seeing action in the UAAP, NCAA, and CESAFI will have in its tune up roster skippers Chris Tiu and Barroca, Jayvee Casio, Mac Baracael, Jason Ballesteros, Magi Sison, Aguilar, Giles, and a pair of 24-year old Fil-Australians Sebastian Salinas and Matthew Schmechtig. “Dylan Ababou was supposed to join the team,” said Gilas Team Manager Butch Antonio. “But he still has classes that he cannot afford to miss.”

The players missing from the line-up include Letran’s Rey Guevarra and RJ Jazul, FEU’s Aldrech Ramos and Ric Cawaling, and the University of Visayas’ Greg Slaughter. The national squad is also hoping that after the college wars are over this October, the University of the East’s Paul Lee, Ateneo de Manila’s Rabeh Al-Hussaini, and the University of Cebu’s Junmar Fajardo. “We will talk to them after the college season is done,” disclosed Toroman who believes that the three will complete the line-up and give them the flexibility to compete in international competitions.

The Serbian mentor was happy for Ababou named the Most Valuable Player for the 72nd Season of the UAAP. “He is one of our main weapons and is a special player.” As much as Toroman likes Al-Hussaini, he believes that the best player on the title hungry Blue Eagles is power forward Nonoy Baclao. “He does so many things on the floor that do not show in the stat sheet. He is a complete player.”

Despite the wave of controversy that surrounds some of its players, the mood and atmosphere in the team is one of excitement. “Syempre excited ako,” beamed Casio who has added a wicked crossover to his arsenal of moves.

Barroca for one can’t wait to see action. He watched FEU’s Final Four game in tears and wishes he could help his former team. But the point guard who intends to graduate from his Recreational Management course at FEU next year, is looking at the PBA stint and national duty with much anticipation. “Tapos na yung para sa school. Para sa bayan naman ‘to.”

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bleachers' Brew #175: The Blame Game

The Blame Game
by rick olivares

“With the object of improving team chemistry, the FEU Tamaraws have decided to play our Final Four game today without Mark Barroca. The basis of the decision is that we considered opinion of coaches and players that team chemistry was flat. So we had to do something and it is the coaches’ prerogative. We supported that decision. We have to stand by it. We have the statistics and the statistics don’t lie.”

That was what Far Eastern University Tamaraws team manager Anton Montinola said about the school’s decision to remove star point guard Andy Mark Barroca from their roster in an interview yesterday.

On the strength of its pre-season performances and the showing of its national players in tournaments abroad, the Tamaraws were seeded by many quarters as the team that could knock down the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles from its lofty UAAP perch. When they lost in a close match to Ateneo in the Fil Oil league, many said, “Wait until they have their nationals in tow then we’d all see who was top dog.”

Only they lost to Ateneo 63-59 in the season opener and 74-73 in the elimination round ender.

Had they beaten Ateneo by five points then they would have wrapped up the number one seed even if tied with the defending champs at 12-2 by virtue of the quotient system. But they didn’t as they fell to 11-3 and were bracketed in the Final Four with a red hot UE squad that earlier handed them their worst defeat of the year at 87-72.

The loss to Ateneo didn’t just cost them the number one seed but also Andy Mark Barroca. The star guard was a casualty of “team chemistry” which is poor euphemism for being suspected of foul play. Except that is an understatement as well. They believe he did and wanted to axe him as far back as the Cheer Dance Competition. What – a text message that he had deliberately played below par convinced them? I don’t need a text to tell me that there are players who play well in the first quarter then disappear during crunch time just as there are practice players and big game players.

It’s so easy for FEU to blame their athletes. In fact, they’ve made a habit out of it. Remember when the squad was blown up after missing out the Final Four in 2006? Not good enough to win.

How about their twin losses in juniors and seniors football in Season 71?

After their opening day loss as defending champions in Men’s football, they were given a severe dressing down by team management after the game and told to pack up their belongings if they didn’t shape up. They would lose two more matches before they found their groove (they ultimately fell to UP in the finals).

When their juniors team lost to the Ateneo High School booters 2-nil in the finals, they were told “thank you for your one or two years of service to FEU but you will be evaluated for your performance.” The bottom line was some would be replaced by better players. The last time I checked, this was high school sports not the pros. These kids were plucked from all over the country to play in Manila then they would be discarded just like that? The football association of Sta. Barbara in Iloilo is so upset with FEU about this that they are hesitant to send any more of their kids to Manila.

Does the saying “win at all costs” come to mind?

In recent years, FEU has made the headlines for all the wrong reasons – the 2006 blow-up, the removal of JR Gerilla in 2007 (that was warranted), the Mac Baracael slay try in 2008, the infamous Women’s Football Team attack on a football referee, and now the Barroca incident of 2009. I haven’t even counted the juniors and seniors football issues. And wait, there’s that idiotic Soc Rivera Rule that they proposed (and was affirmed by the UAAP board) after several of their high school players decided to play for other squads.

But back to their basketball team… since their first round ending match against the UE Red Warriors, they have struggled. In that tiff, they raced to an 18-point lead only to see it evaporate quickly as their Recto rivals ratcheted up their defense. The Recto team’s rally fell short and FEU survived with a 76-72 win.

However, the cracks on the wall became evident. Since then they struggled against UST, NU (early in the game until they took over midway in the game), Adamson, and La Salle. And there were loses to UE and Ateneo.

If you compare FEU’s schedule with Ateneo’s (and with UE and UST’s), they had a more favorable one.

Ateneo played three games in the space of eight days, took a week off, played another series of matches then had another week off. Team officials privately bristled at the schedule. After losing to UP in Week Three after a weeklong lull, the Blue Eagle coaching staff managed their time between games better.

For the Tamaraws, they had enough rest between matches. The only time they played with a day’s rest they faced Adamson on a Thursday and NU on a Saturday (but that’s the Bulldogs, right?). When Pipo Noundou got injured there wasn’t enough time between games to get him back in circulation.

FEU averaged 73.1 points in the first round and surrendered only 61.6 to opponents. And when their struggles started in the second round, their scoring dipped to 64.7 while foes put up 62.4 against them. Their turnovers were up to the 19 in the second as opposed to the 15.8 in the first leg and their rebounding numbers dipped slightly from 45.1 in the first to the 44.7 in the second.

During the second round encounter with Ateneo, they were up against the hottest team in the league that had a 9-game win streak going and were playing much better. From 69.3 points per game average in the first round, the Loyola Heights squad put up 77.7 in the second round.

Ateneo was tops in two-point and three-point field goal percentage, second in free throws made, number one in assists and blocked shots, and well, the best defensive unit in the league.

To say that bad chemistry cost the Tams the match is a slap to the Blue Eagles. In the second round game with the FEU, Ateneo erased an 11-point and 18-point deficit faster than it takes a jeep to reach Morayta from Legarda.

Yes, FEU. The numbers don’t lie. You’ve been playing bad.

In the season opening loss to Ateneo, their bench only contributed 14 points to the Blues’ 27. That somewhat changed Tams’ Coach Glenn Capacio’s plan of handing the ball to RR Garcia with Barroca playing the two-spot. In their following match against La Salle, they had Garcia come off the bench to add some scoring sock. They compiled 26 points to DLSU’s 27 as they won 65-51. The formula also worked against Adamson, UP, and other teams. Barroca in the meantime started alongside Casey Caluag, Jens Knuttel and Chris Exciminiano platooning at the point. Yet looking at the latter three, you could fit all their stats into Barroca’s left shoe and he’d still have plenty of points and assists to share. Even with reduced minutes in his final two matches for FEU, the national teamer finished with 38 assists to Garcia’s 36. So who was the point guard here? Or are we looking at turnovers in the clutch?

By their third to last game of the eliminations, he was off the bench where he began his slide. And he isn’t the only one – Noundou’s and Ric Cawaling’s numbers are slightly down from their first round showing.

Barroca needs the ball to be effective. He did work well at times with Garcia alongside him. But having watched him for three years now, he will never be mistaken for a catch and shoot player like former Tamaraw Benedict Fernandez. Were there lofty expectations after his sterling performances with Oracle and Smart Gilas?

Yes, but look at his teammates at Oracle – there were players from NU and La Salle who loved the transition game. With Gilas, the fast-paced offense was a perfect fit for Barroca’s game as opposed to the half court set that FEU prefers.

If his performances of late were suspicious, I could name you a couple of former Tams who played some mighty suspicious matches. Maybe he did it. Maybe he didn’t. But the last time I checked, a person is innocent until proven guilty.

And maybe before they point fingers, they should take a long hard look at themselves and where their program is going.



-------

It wasn't easy to write this. I have many friends at FEU and it really burns to take them to task for this. Mr. Montinola called me over at halftime of the Ateneo-UST Final Four match we talked for a bit. I went to the media room after and really felt bad. But I have to write and say this.



Then this text message from Mark Barroca via Ed Ponceja:
Ako po ay lubos na nalulungkot sapagkat hindi na ako makakapaglaro sa FEU at sa UAAP. Ganoon pa man nirerespeto ko po ang desisyon ng FEU para sa sabi po nilang kapakanan ng team at ng unibersidad. Nais ko lang po na malaman ng lahat na malinis po ang konsensya ko, at wala po akong alam na maling ginawa. Eto po ang aking mensahe: 1. Sa aking mahal na coach at minamahal na teammates, kung di ko naabot ang inaasahan niyo sa akin, 2 kay Sir Anton Montinola at sa FEU, bigyan nyo po ako ng pagkakataon tapusin ang aking pag-aaral sa FEU bilang skolar dahil ito po ang aking banal na pangako sa aking ina nung ako po ay lumisan sa Zamboanga para makipagsapalaran sa Maynila, 3. Sa SBP, bigyan nyo po ako ng pagkakataon na maglaro sa Smart Gilas Pilipinas para makapagsilbi sa bayan. Ito lang po ang aking ninanais ngayon, at sana wag naman ako pigilan nino man, 4. Good luck at prayers po sa FEU sa final four, 5. Wala pong Mark Barroca kung walang pagkakataon na ibinigay sa akin gang fen a makakapaglaro sa uaap. Bilang pagtatapos, ako po ay 23 gulang lamang but I will and must move on. Matatag naman ang akin kalooban ngayon, at naniniwala ako sa pagsubok na ito, ay magiging mas mabuti akong player. Hindi po ako aayaw, hindi po ako titigil magsumikap.

More of my thoughts on the FEU-Barroca incident

When I was watching the FEU-UE Final Four match yesterday, I felt bad. Not just for Mark Barroca but the team, its coaches, management, and its students. I'm friends with many of them and it gives me no pleasure to take shots at them. I disagree with many of their policies and it's nothing personal.

Regarding the game, I thought they were tentative early on. They came back but come crunch time you could see how different they were. What -- if they play bad or commit an error benta na?

Hearing Anton Montinola and Mark Molina yesterday, I felt even worse. Yes, they were hurt. Double whammy because their team lost. And that gives no one pleasure save for UE or the other teams because on a pure basketball sense, it's not their problem. But go beyond that there's more to life than basketball.

I blame FEU for mishandling things. They handled it poorly. If they think that the players all blame Andy then what do you want them to say? Not presenting a united front will see them off on a one way ticket out of Morayta. I spoke with two of them yesterday and they were so nervous. They kept turning their heads looking around if anyone saw them talking. I understood and released them And will not quote them even anonymously.

About a dozen FEU students spoke with me after the game with some at the South Gate as I chatted with Mac Baracael. Everyone one of them don't believe the allegations (if there is then why isn't it vigorously pursued?). Some are classmates and see him all the time. Of course we don't know what people are up to 24/7. But still...

As he left the FEU campus for the last time picked up by three people, he sobbed long and hard into the night. His mother was right, he said. He should have never gone to Manila. But when you're upset you tend to say things that we don't mean, half mean, or really mean. He found his place in Manila and is ready to get back on track.

He will join the Smart Gilas team when they leave for Singapore to play the Singapore Slingers in an exhibition match. His teammates on the national team are giving him space and they don't talk about it. They'd rather talk about more pleasant things. But clearly, they can't wait to get back on court.

Some asked me if I thought that management was covering up shortcomings. I said I don't think so. I think that they have been paranoid about a lot of things. I don't think they engage in anything unlawful and rather than look at the flaws in their system they are quick to blame.

I blame the UAAP too for this. Its officials talk amongst themselves na si ganito benta, si ganyan benta. Alam niyo naman pala eh so why aren't you doing anything about it?

The obsession to win has made schools resort to unscrupulous practices where certain people are absolved of any blame. Pity Bader Malabes who packed his bags and left for Bahrain. I never liked him as a player but I certainly don't think he deserved the kind of treatment he got from different quarters considering he helped give their school a championship. And the same with many of his teammates who are at a crossroads as what to do and where to go. They are out of the spotlight now because of this incident between Mark Barroca and FEU.

On a basketball level, I don't give a crap because the signs are clear, you suck and they take it out on you. So who wants to play for someone who blames you for a loss? Keep it going I say and send your players to us. We're more than happy to accommodate them. But this goes beyond basketball and if we stop the yelling and taunting, we should realize that many of them are kids so much younger than you and me. Kids or young adults who have been thrust into the cold and real world that exists outside their school.

There are no winners here. We're only losers in different ways.

Liverpool in third spot

Fernando Torres scored a brace to help Liverpool to a 3-2 win over West Ham United for their fourth straight win that put them squarely in third place in the English Premier League. The away win at Uptown Park was huge because the Spanish striker is back on track (although their defense has been somewhat spotty as Glen Johnson and Jamie Carragher haven't meshed well).

Dirk Kuyt scored also in LFC's win over the Hammers.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Official Statement from FEU

Prior to the FEU-UE Final Four match, this terse statement was issued by FEU to the media:

"With the object of improving team chemistry the FEU Tamaraws have decided to play our Final Four game today without Mark Barroca."

After the 84-74 loss by FEU Team Manager Anton Montinola and Athletic Director Mark Molina said that Barroca will no longer play for the Tamaraws. He can still go to school and graduate next October as they will not take away his scholarship.

Barroca is now back with Smart Gilas and began practicing with them as of yesterday as they get ready for their PBA stint. He is no longer on campus but bunking in Smart Gilas quarters.

FEU officials support the move to Smart Gilas and are in touch with them everyday.

Here's the video of the interview. You might want to turn up the volume because there were no microphones available.




Rebound on Hardball

The regular writers of Rebound magazine made a guest appearnce in the Friday September 18 episode of Hardball on Studio 23/ANC. We were there to promote the second issue of Rebound but primarily discussed the upcoming UAAP Final Four. In the dressing room pa lang, laugh trip na. Grabe. We really had a good time on the show.
Speaking of the second issue of Rebound, there are a couple of features that have Mark Barroca. An excellent profile by Sid Ventura, a short piece where I breakdown his crossover, and a story that discusses FEU's problems. Very timely.
Rebound columnist and Hardball host Bill Velasco asked former NCAA courtside reporter cassie Umali about her thoughts on the F4. That sort of caught her by surprise since she does sales for the mag. But she did pick out Ateneo to win. Hahahaha.

The producers divided us into two groups. The first batch that went on were Mike Yu, editor-in-chief of Rebound, Cassie, and myself. We talked about the Ateneo-UST match-up. And there was Boyet Sison (thanks for the kind words) and Bill Velasco for hardball.

Making a point on the Ateneo-UST match-up.

The second group included Mike Abasolo, Chris Soler, and Sid Ventura who discussed their thoughts on the FEU-UE match and the Mark Barroca incident.

Sid Ventura here stressed a point why he thinks UE will advance over FEU.

After the appearance on Hardball, we repaired to Rebound editor Kenneth Ti's place in New Manila for dinner and to plan for the third and final issue of 2009. It's the championship issue and we got some great content for all college hoop fans. It's going to be out by mid-November.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Halikinu Radio Episode 11

Episode 11 already! One of our guests was supposed to be the Blue Babble Battalion but they couldn't make it. But we did have the Ateneo Women's Beach Volleyball Team (Jessica Morado, Asia Urquico, and Sharah So from left to right in the photo below) and veteran broadcaster and journalist Sev Sarmenta (who is a mentor of sorts). We're really happy to be able to accomodate all these other teams to give them their time in the sun. had sniffles again. Damn.



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Random thoughts

After I put down my thoughts on Mark Barroca, I must have been ambushed by about two dozen people asking questions about it. Two in the know chided me for that. The sad thing about this is how prevalent the situation is for many teams. You would be shocked to know who has been accused over the past few years and if you listen to that, you'd ask, "Why?" Or even, "how?" Personally, I mutter some expletives and feel bad about the game.


Recently, I was graciously allowed inside the briefing room for the referees and was privy to the selection of refs, the pre and post game analyes and even a tongue lashing by Commish Joe Lipa on the refs and table officials for two botched calls. It was revealing and made me understand a few things.


With all of this, I wonder why there isn't a more concerted effort to fix things. People always tell me that they are doing something about it. But I've been hearing that for so long. It reminds me of government officials who once said that when the flyovers and MRTs are in place, we will see less traffic.


On to something else...


Years ago, during an off-season match, I got on Sandy Arespacochaga's case when he fielded an unusual line-up during an Ateneo match versus San Beda. I was a few rows behind the bench and my comments were heard not just by the players but by those within earshot. I apologized after the match and have not done that since. When I see others do that now, I find it most shameful and distasteful. I must admit that there are times when I question strategies by coaches but like anything else, at times they are proven right and sometimes wrong. So I've learned to curb my comments except during the rare times that the coaches ask my opinion (after thew matches of course). One coach even used a suggestion and it was a relief to know that it worked. But I'm not going to let that get to my head.


I cussed at the refs and opposing opponents one time that the son of a schoolmate uttered the same words one time much to my shame and embarrassment. I've refrained from that since. After all, the games now are a family affair and you will never know who you will be making an impression on.


Sitting down courtside, you have a different perspective on what goes on in the court. Like the players, you aren't really aware of the crowd but are focused on what goes on the game. There's an apparent peace at the center of the storm and I like it. It has allowed me to sit back and look at things differently. It has given mean opportunity to capture snippets of conversation between players, coaches, referees and officials or even with fans.


There was a priceless bit of conversation I heard between Rico Maierhofer and Peejay Barua from last year that four of us heard. There was Leo Canuday talking to Kirk Long, San Sebastian's Jimbo Aquino and his defender from Perpetual Help, Elmer Espiritu and Pari Llagas on guarding Pipo Noundou, and more.


I'll be back for more of my thoughts.

When two tribes go to war (not from Frankie Goes to Hollywood)

I'm not really a huge fan of Four Four Two. It's okay but World Soccer or Champions is much better in terms of substance, content, and writing.

Anyways, the September issue has a nice feature on the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Of course you can only do somuch in the space of a few pages but for those not well-steeped into the history between the two clubs, then it's a good read.

And with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Camp Nou, you'll be thrilled to know there's a feature on the rivalry between Sweden and Denmark. Worth a buy for the fan. And the pictures are plenty good.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Coke Blue




New formula? Not exactly. Jollibee has this new promo where you can avail of a special edition Coca Cola bottle wrapped in the colors of your alma mater. That goes without saying that covers all eight UAAP schools.

Take that

After scoring to help his new team Manchester City beat his old squad Arsenal 4-2, striker Emmanuel Adebayor ran the length of the field to taunt fans of the Gunners. Arsenal had the last laugh as the Football Association (of England) fined and suspended Adebayor in their next match. Up next for Man City... crossing town to Old Trafford to play Manchester United.

The Drive for Five

The Drive for Five
A Preview of the Ateneo-UST Final Four Match

by rick olivares

It would be easy to say that the upcoming Ateneo-UST Final Four encounter will be easy pickings for the defending champs. But it’s not. In the two Ateneo-UST games in the eliminations, there are a few things that the Blue Eagles should remember:
- in both games we started slow
- and in both games, Rabeh Al-Hussaini was in foul trouble. And although we won, UST forward-center Melo Afuang got his goat by getting him to commit silly fouls and sit on the bench. Afuang in the meantime, with his unathletic body, scored on a trey and some timely baskets.

The game will largely depend on Al-Hussaini’s broad shoulders. Anytime the Big Fella suits up, he gives the blue and white an opportunity to win. Incredibly, there’s so much room for growth for the 6’7” slotman.

Last year, he was the x-factor that no foe counted on to deliver. The opposing defenses were geared towards stopping Chris Tiu, Eric Salamat, and Jai Reyes. The points inside provided by Al-Hussaini and eventual Rookie of the Year Ryan Buenafe expanded Ateneo’s game and made them almost unbeatable.

This year, despite the microwavable tendencies of Emman Monfort, the reinvention of Kirk Long into a defensive player, and the rapid improvement of Nico Salva, their ability to consistently put up points on the board is suspect. Long may have had his breakout game against the Tigers but the loss of Salva to suspension will hurt Ateneo as he has played well in both matches versus UST.

In the two wins (93-77 and 80-70), Ateneo averaged 86.5 points while UST 73.7.

Both wins were contrasting victories.

In the first game, UST tried to torch us from the outside and they were successful in the early going until we showed them that our gunners have better range. Pido Jarencio’s boys attempted 30 shots from beyond the arc and made only 10 for 33.3% while Norman Black’s wards found the bottom of the net 11 out of 24 times for 45.8%.

That didn’t change in the return bout as UST launched 28 and made only 3 as opposed to our 8-25 shooting.

And they adjusted very well in the second match and took the game inside the lane. There they outscored Ateneo 34-28.

If they lost the fastbreak point battle in the first round – it was a slim margin 10-12 – they got back in the second round by outscoring us 12-9.

Defensively, the Tigers played better as they blanketed Emman Monfort who was held scoreless in 13 minutes of action after he topscored for Ateneo with 20 in the first round encounter and held Ryan Buenafe to a big fat egg (the super soph had 14 points, 5 boards and 2 blocks in the first round encounter).

The Tigers, in both outings with Ateneo, got stellar performances every time out by three players: newly crowned MVP Dylan Ababou, Khasim Mirza, and Allein Maliksi. Maliksi is the only one of the troika who plays under 20 minutes because of foul trouble, if he is able to stay in the game, he will give us trouble because of his speed and hops inside.

UST isn’t a team that plays team ball as they play a pro-style one-on-one game with plenty of isolations. But if they are predictable, then more so for Ateneo which has two money plays – the low post where the rock is dumped to Rabeh Al-Hussaini who if he cannot find the space to operate will pass out to an open teammate, and the pick and roll where Eric Salamat or Ryan Buenafe try to break down their man then drive or dish to an open man.

But there’s a building confidence with the Blue Eagles. After staving off tough battles with La Salle and UE, the champs, prohibitive favorites to wrap up their second consecutive title under Norman Black, have increasingly developed a killer instinct as they skewered La Salle, UE, NU, and UP in the second round. They’ve also showed an amazing resilience borne out of repeated close encounters since Black took over. Their comeback wins against Adamson and FEU have shown their mental fortitude; one that should serve them well in the UAAP’s second season.

But any key to an Ateneo victory will have to go through the man in the middle. Al-Hussaini may say that the championship is truly the goal more than winning any individual accolades. But losing the MVP Award to Ababou who would not have been mentioned in the category’s breath had he been suspended earlier in the season for throwing a punch, will serve as plenty of motivation for the graduating big man.

Speaking of motivation, there remains that 2006 Finals loss to UST. There are four holdovers from the Ateneo squad that played in the title game – Al-Hussaini, Jai Reyes, Eric Salamat, and Emman Monfort – and the entire coaching staff who would love nothing more than to drive another dagger into the hearts of their España rivals en route to a championship.

When you speak of coaches, there is also Jarencio, who coached that UST champion team. He is an old-school coach who learned many of the tricks of the trade while playing under Sonny Jaworski in the PBA. And he has employed those mind games with Ateneo to limited success. The former King Goldie (as the Tigers were formerly known) will undoubtedly play that hand once more against Al-Hussaini. A win will stave off his detractors back in their campus.

Ateneo’s rebounding edge isn’t much. In the two encounters, Ateneo averaged 44 boards while UST 43.5. A lot of that had to do with Al-Hussaini sitting down for long stretches due to foul trouble. And without Nico Salva whose 4-carom average against UST will be missed due to a suspension, the onus is on others like Oping Sumalinog and Justin Chua to pick up the slack.

For all of Al-Hussaini’s scoring prowess and ability to change the opponent’s game plan with his presence on the court, let it not be said that Ateneo is a one-man show. In the first round encounter, Monfort was the surprise package. And in the second engagement, it was the Kirk Long show. Both wins were secured with some huge three-point shooting, a traditional UST strength. If the Blue Eagles go to the court of last resort, they will not be found wanting.

Just as Ateneo hit its stride in the second round, so did Eric Salamat, Jai Reyes, and Ryan Buenafe who all have found their range. And team captain, Nonoy Baclao, is finally healthy in the homestretch.

Many say that the series will be close. That’s entirely possible.

But this is the time of the year where the Blue Eagles have picked up on their game.

Last season, they played two hotly contested matches with the UE Red Warriors. Come the Final Four, the Blue Eagles flicked on the killswitch and dealt UE a humiliating loss that ended the Dindo Pumaren era in Recto.

With another title on the line, the warning shots have been fired.

Now come get some.

UAAP Final Four & Finals Sked

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
FEU Gym
Women’s Playoff for 2nd 2pm DLSU vs AdU

Saturday, September 19, 2009
San Juan Arena
Women’s Final Four 9am AdU vs DLSU
Women’s Final Four 10:45am UST vs FEU
Junior’s Final Four 12:30pm FEU vs DLSU
Junior’s Final Four 2:15pm ADMU vs UST

Saturday, September 19, 2009
Araneta Coliseum
Men’s Final Four 3:30pm UE vs FEU

Sunday, September 20, 2009
Araneta Coliseum
Men’s Final Four 3:30pm UST vs ADMU

Thursday, September 24, 2009 Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Araneta Coliseum Men's Final Four if neccessary
San Juan Arena Women and Junior’s Final Four if necessary

Sunday, September 27, 2009 Saturday, September 26, 2009
Araneta Coliseum
Men's Final

San Juan Arena
2pm Women’s Final
4pm Junior’s Final

Thursday, October 1, 2009 Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Araneta Coliseum
Men's Final

San Juan Arena 2pm Women’s Finals
4pm Junior’s Final

Sunday, October 4, 2009 Saturday, October 3, 2009
Araneta Coliseum
Men's Final if neccessary

San Juan Arena Women and Junior’s Finals if necessary

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Here's to Mark Barroca...

Several people asked me what I thought about the accusations that FEU's Mark Barroca has been throwing games. I answered every time out that I'd be really surprised if he does. And if he did, I'd be very cross at him.

But I know that he doesn't and never will.

He was on FEU's Team B with his current batch of teammates when their 2006 squad was blown up in the off season. That team was blown up because management felt it wasn't good enough to challenge for a title. It was deemed that the players on Team B were not only better than the UAAP team but ready to contend for a title in the years to come. It was only in 2007 when JR Gerilla was thrown off the team and Jeff Chan forever banished from the Morayta campus. And Barroca, like the others were there when Mac Baracael was nearly killed.

Don't tell me that those lessons aren't learned. He is signed to Smart Gilas and Oracle. He knows he is set if he plays his cards right. While in Jakarta with the Smart Gilas team I was privy to one session where the players openly talked and teased one another about basketball; game fixing included. I thought that Mark gave a very passionate diatribe on shady dealings and being unhappy about losing. I thought it was rare for an athlete especially one who isn't very good at expressing himself to wax eloquent. And I respected him more for that.

He is so excited about the future. In fact, of the Tamaraws team, it is only him and Aldrech Ramos with a sterling class attendance record. He really wants to move up and learn. Before I packed my bags ahead of the team and left for Manila, he sought my advice because he wanted to ask his girlfriend togo to Corregidor. He wanted to know more about the island fortress from me. How he knew that I've been there twice I'll never know. I don't think he even goes here to Bleachers' Brew.

The reason why he was very successful with Smart Gilas and Oracle is that he has the ball in his hands all the time. He plays lots of minutes and clearly wants the ball come crunch time. With FEU, it's another story. Glenn Capacio said prior to the start of the current season, he'd give the ball to RR Garcia while turning Barroca into a shooting guard. How many point guards do they have -- five or six? Barroca will never be the shooting guard that Ben Fernandez is. Plain and simple, iba yung laro.

On a lighter note, Capacio also joked that he is the only one to be able to stop Barroca; something he jests about even in the presence of his prized guard.

The truth is Barroca finds FEU's offense (even before the arrival of Garcia) to be restrictive. Having said that, he totally enjoys playing for Gilas. It's hard for him to be effective when the ball is in Garcia's hands. I've seen him play bad games for FEU, Oracle, and Gilas and he always bounces back. I've been inside their locker room and at their practice and have made many friends on their team. I may not know as much as the others but from what I know, it isn't so.

At the start of the season, I was worried that he would suffer from fatigue. I even voiced that concern to their trainer on several occasions. During the summer, he was playing and practicing for FEU, Oracle, and Gilas. I wondered if he would one day collapse from exhaustion. In Jakarta, after matches his arm would be real sore. In fact prior to one game, he couldn't lift his arms because they were leaden. One time an opponent from Kuwait took a shot at him. He was already in pain yet he was taking shots from a guy he can twist like a pretzel six ways 'til Sunday without breaking a sweat. Obviously binawian niya ng mas matindi (it almost sparked a rumble). Siya rin yung tinitira ng kalaban and they geared their defense to stopping him.

I understand that FEU officials are meeting right now -- around noon time of this post -- to deliberate on his case. If this is true (and I know he has not admitted to anything) then it's really disappointing. But this Tamaraws team are like brothers having been together solidly for three years now. I know that JR Cawaling is upset at the accusations hurled against his teammate. It's totally not fair.

Like I said, I don't believe it and so do many others. If it does turn out to be true, then how crushing is that? He would be a great ham artist. I just hope this is resolved because this isn't simply one person's future but could also affect their program once more. I mean why would someone want to play for a school that blames players after they have a bad game? You should see that school in Taft. They're doing a good job of that.

By the same token, players on other squads are reported to be doing some shady things. Even in Ateneo, over the years, there rumors of players (just a few mind you) who were throwing games. But they were just that. Rumors. Although some will say otherwise but never show a shred of evidence.

Man, all this is making my head spin.
Good luck with it, Mark.