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.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Philippine National Basketball Team: The mission is a gold medal

The mission is a gold medal
The Philippine National Basketball Team to the Southeast Asian Games in on a mission.
by rick olivares

Jake Pascual is like a kid inside the world’s biggest toy store. There’s excitement and pure joy that is evident in his eyes. Wait ‘til you see the smile. The San Beda Red Lions’ tough-as-nails forward is in the middle of a huddle of the Philippine National Basketball Team to the Southeast Asian Games. He started out as one of the 30 hopefuls for roster of 12. Now the pool has been pared down to 15 with four practice players.

Pascual says that as soon as he receives his national team jersey, he will wear it to the mall. “With pride,” he said emphatically.

The journey of this national team began in January 2011 at Ateneo de Manila University’s Moro Lorenzo Sports Center, home of the Blue Eagles. With head coach Norman Black, assistants Glenn Capacio and Gene Afable, thus began the task of forming a squad that would pick up the reins from Smart Gilas Pilipinas that was expected to end its three-year stint pending qualification to the 2012 London Olympics.

The practices helped make this team of star players from different schools and different leagues bond together. Some couldn’t help but see a parallel between the youthful dynamism and fraternity of college stars. The contingent from San Beda and San Sebastian are probably the best example of the thawing of a frosty relationship. The Stags’ Ronald Pascual and Ian Sangalang were hanging out with the Red Lions’ Garvo Lanete and Jake Pascual. “Sa NCAA lang ‘yan,” explained the Stags’ Pascual. “Syempre lahat gusto manalo. Pero sa national team – bayan ‘to. Isang kulay lang kami.”

The nationals practice at Moro, Philsports, and the San Juan Arena. “Wherever there’s a place that can accommodate us,” said Black.

For the hoopsters who do not play for Black in the Blue Eagles, there’s an eagerness to play and learn from his tutelage. And after every practice and every meeting, they coming away knowing that the American mentor is more than a coach, he is a teacher in every sense of the word.

“No wonder Ateneo keeps winning,” expressed one player who refused to be named. “It’s easy to play for him and to work hard because he leads by example.”

The pool thus far – Ateneo’s Emman Monfort, Nico Salva, Greg Slaughter, Kiefer Ravena, and Chris Newsome; Far Eastern University’s Ryan Roose Garcia; University of Santo Tomas’ Jeric Teng; National University’s Ray Parks; San Sebastian’s Pascual and Sangalang; San Beda’s Lanete and Pascual; Smart Gilas’ Chris Tiu; and NLEX’s Chris Ellis and Clifford Hodge – routinely scrimmage with practice players Justin Chua, JR Buensuceso, Keith Jensen, and Jeric Fortuna.

There are also familiar faces on the side from Gilas’ ballboys and physical therapist Albert Rolle (who also worked with the Adamson University Soaring Falcons for a couple of years under Leo Austria). Joining Rolle on the side is trainer Bernie Bonoan.

No team captain has been named yet but in huddles, Tiu, leads the team in prayer. Said the former Gilas captain after, "You can see the desire of these guys to play for the country. Some of them have D-League teams but they are also here because it means a lot to represent your country."

The team has shooting, speed, passing wizards, height, and athleticism. On that last quality, make that awesome dunking power. There’s Parks with his hops. And there’s Ellis and Hodge who seem intent on bringing the snap back ring down. Ronald Pascual can float and hang forever but when he jams it is a cruel reminder of the violence of the slam dunk. Ravena throws the ball against the board and jumps high up to stuff it home. And there’s Salva who can flush it down some.

“I’d love to see these guys duke it out in a slam dunk contest,” said Bonoan who has worked with some teams but is in awe with this national squad.

Black allows his boys to express themselves on the court, but as it was with his San Miguel and Ateneo squads, a premium is placed on defense.

“Can’t win a game without playing defense,” underscored the multi-titled coach. The team gets ready for some defensive drills.

Soon, the team will be pared down from 15 to 12. The coaching staff will undertake the painful selection process of cutting three players. Black wishes he could take all 15 of them but the tournament only allows 12 to suit up for flag and country. Discipline is one key factor. With NCAA games and school still not yet done for some, it is important that they let the coaching staff know in advance of their unavailability to attend practice. Failure to do so indicates a lack of interest and obviously incurs some demerit in the selection process.

“I am focused,” enthused Jake Pascual. “Our goal – is a gold for the country.”

The Smart Gilas National Team broke their huddles to "Pilipinas... Awoo!" This team's version is: "Pilipinas... Mabuhay!!!" Whether this team will morph into Smart Gilas Version 2.0 is anybody's guess.


  1. Awesome read, as usual, sir Rick!

  2. Rick, nice read. This is the prelude of what the people will expect in Gilas 2. Go Team Pilipinas. btw, follow my own blog at

  3. Sir hindi po ko trainer ng team si Coach Bernie po ung trainier and conditioning coach and Physical Therapist po ko ng Sinag National Basketball Team.

    Nice article Sir!!!

    Albert Rolle

  4. nice article sir rick. please update us from time to time with Sinag. after gilas. i'll follow closely this team up until gilas2. nice video also. salamat.

  5. Thanks for the clarification, Doc Albert! And thanks for liking it. See you next week.