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, April 18, 2012

Ateneo Blue Eagles: The Drive for Five Pre-season Part 2: Insurance

This appears in

The Drive for Five
Pre-season Part 2: Insurance
by rick olivares pic by carl sta. ana

San Juan Arena
FilOil Flying V Pre-Season Cup

The Ateneo Blue Eagles were off. Hardly surprising since it is their only second game of the pre-season. The blues’ shooting percentage said it all – 37% while the Perpetual Help Altas shot were even worse at 30%.

The game that followed – the Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers and the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals – saw both teams shoot at a similar 37% and 32% clip.

Against the Altas who played with their customary spunk and aggressiveness, the Blue Eagles appeared slow and out of sync. Staring at the face of a 12-point deficit to start the fourth quarter, the Altas came charging back with four three-point plays and one traditional three-pointer by Jett Vidal to notch the count at 60-all.

The Man in the Middle
In the face of a searing rally by Aric del Rosario’s team, Ateneo went to its meal ticket – Greg Slaughter. And for the second consecutive match in the tournament, the seven-foot center came up with the clutch points to put away it dogged foe. Slaughter scored eight points in the payoff period including two free throws three seconds to eke out a 62-60 win.

Slaughter tallied 13 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks. For the second consecutive match as Ateneo groped for form, the Big Fella came through. He did the same against Letran with 14 points, 15 boards and 3 rejections.

Even in a team bristling with offensive weaponry, the Big Fella is insurance. He gives Ateneo a fighting chance every game.

When Slaughter donned the Blue Eagles’ jersey last season, some wondered if his presence stunted Justin Chua’s growth. Chua had come around well during the three-peat and many had expected him to take a quantum leap the following year just as Doug Kramer, Ford Arao, and Rabeh Al-Hussaini did before him. Chua struggled at first but as soon as he adjusted to his new role as coming in for Slaughter, he began to play better.

There was this conversation between the Chicago Bulls’ bench players when one Michael Jeffrey Jordan gave up trying to hit curve balls in exchange for nailing jumpshots in a much-ballyhooed return in 1995.

Steve Kerr: Does Phil (Jackson, then head coach of the Bulls) start Michael? He hasn’t been here for 60-65 games…

Jud Buechler: Steve, there’s a general rule -- when you have your own statue outside the stadium you don’t come off the bench.

It is the same thing for seven-footers. Especially one who has won three CESAFI titles for the University of Visayas before taking his game to Smart Gilas Pilipinas and eventually to Ateneo.

The pre-season is just what it is -- the pre-season. Teams come in rusty from the lack of real competition and it shows on the court. In fact, teams are allowed to change line-ups up to the third game of the tournament so coaches can try out combinations and players.

The Man on the Sidelines
The team isn’t the only one that is undergoing fine-tuning. There’s the ongoing search for the replacement of head coach Norman Black who is moving back to the Philippine Basketball Association after the UAAP tournament.

According to search committee head Edward Go, the group tasked to mind this most difficult task will begin their interviews of candidates within the next week or two. The 36th head coach in the history of Ateneo’s men’s basketball team will be announced before Season 75 tips-off for the simple reason that he can begin in earnest observe the team as it undertakes its ‘Drive for Five.’

The success of Black aside from his peers – Franz Pumaren formerly La Salle head coach, Alfredo Jarencio with the University of Santo Tomas, Frankie Lim with San Beda College, Ato Agustin for San Sebastian, and Leo Austria with Adamson has shown that the era of the big name coach is here to stay. The pro pedigree, while not a must in the search for the next Ateneo coach, has immense value.

Gerry Esplana, who is in his second year coaching the rebuilding Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals, confirmed that his pro career (that saw him play for Sta. Lucia and Shell where he won a title before he hug up his sneakers) helps in recruiting.

The ability to recruit is one of three criteria posed in the selection of the head coach. The other two are leadership and motivational skills and his basketball acumen.

“There are pros and cons to announcing the search for the head coach,” acknowledged Go. “But you see, before we announced it, we consulted everyone, Norman included. We are looking at the big and long-term picture including the transition from this season to the next. It’s a break-in period with the team’s best interests in mind. That way the players get to know him ahead of time and vice versa. Its insurance to keep the program rolling.”

The Man in Waiting
Chris Newsome has been patiently practicing with the Ateneo team for over a year now while serving out the requisite two-year residency period for overseas recruits. Newsome came over after a three-year stint with New Mexico Highlands University, a US Division II school to try out for the national team and for Ateneo with a career in the PBA in mind.  

“It’s not an easy wait,” he said while watching the Blue Eagles struggle against the Altas. Newsome was previously announced to begin playing with Team A despite not being able to suit up for the UAAP season just yet. “You really have to be mentally strong to go about it. But I do get a chance to train with the team on a regular basis and that helps me adapt to the system and the style of play.”

Over the years, the Blue Eagles have begun to lose many vital components to their title teams. The end of Season 75 will see the largest departure of players due to graduation – Slaughter, Nico Salva, Justin Chua, Oping Sumalinog, Tonino Gonzaga, and possibly Ryan Buenafe who might opt not to play his final year of eligibility.

Newsome is tabbed to fill out the slasher and defender type as defined by Kirk Long. “It will be a new different team for sure,” added Newsome. “There will be some players left over from the championship teams and that is as good as a building block as any. As for me, I just hope to do my share.


Here's Part 1!


  1. Nangangapa pa Admu. Sana mag jell sila on time para sa UAAP season.

  2. Rick, I didn't see Chris Newsome in the Team Glory Be roster. Is he still in Ateneo?