Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

From Madrid: A first person account of the Supercopa match between Madrid vs Barca

Exclusive report from Enrique Romero-Salas, ex-midfielder for Green Archers United on the Supercopa match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

MADRID – I was seated in the area of the "ultra sur" which is known for a chanting insults towards Barca more than anything. I attached a picture of their flag that covered our view when the game started.

Since the first leg was 3-2, which should have been 3-1 except for the huge error from goalkeeper Barca Victor Valdes at the 85th minute which gave Madrid a good advantage for the second leg. The game started out like it always does until Javier Mascherano committed an error trying to clear the ball which ended up with a one-on-one situation for Gonzalo Higuain whose shot went between the legs of Valdes. 1-0 RM.

A few minutes later Cristiano Ronaldo got the better of Gerard Pique with a fancy flick that lead to another one-on-one situation with Valdes. Ronaldo scored.

Down 2-0 early in the game really put Barca in a tough position which became tougher shortly after when Adriano received a red card for bringing Cristiano down (in a situation that would have led to another one on one). They replaced Alexis with Montoya, who played in Adriano's position as a right defender. This left Barcelona with fewer attacking options and with only Pedro left making most of the cuts. Leo Messi was pushed down to the midfield where they often played possession although not as dominant as the first leg but capable with only ten men but still the Real Madrid defense was tight and they had a much bigger advantage physically. The game was going really well for Madrid and they could have been up by four goals with a couple more good opportunities well saved. But just before the half ends, Messi pulled one back by scoring a beautiful free kick around the wall and past Casillas, just like that Barca needed one more goal to win the trophy. The second half was a more open game with attempts coming from both ends, unlike the first which was dominated by Real Madrid.

There were clear cut chances early in the second half from Pedro and another from Jordi Alba but Iker Casillas protected the goal really well. Real Madrid's counter attack was very effective in this game. Most of which came from the defense. Pepe, in particular, really made good passes while being a monster on defense.

Gonzalo Higuain came closest for Real who's attempt hit the post in yet another one-on-one with Valdes. Then it was Sami Khedira's turn to have a one-on-one after dribbling past three defenders but Valdes was good with his save.

An extra time attempt from Montoya could have given Barca the victory but Iker made it look easy. This game also saw Luka Modric and Alex Song debut for Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. They were rivals in the English Premier League with Tottenham and Arsenal and in La Liga, they still find themselves on opposing sides. That’s how it ended, 2-1 to Real which won it by away goals. 

What went wrong for Barca?

This is a lesson for Barcelona's defense which cannot mistakes like this if they want to beat Real Madrid. The absence of Puyol and Dani Alves made this more difficult. Being down ten men early, they had less options on the attack and with the position they were in, they needed a miracle to win. Cesc Fabregas did not play and David Villa is just fresh from a long injury. Although it is still amazing how they can keep that ball with one less person but that type of play did not work because Real was constantly on the counter. They had Pedro and Messi trying to go against much larger players and they had to do it repeatedly because they lacked options. Andres Iniesta was really superb but could not produce today.  

What did Madrid do correctly?

Madrid has a very solid back line with Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Arbeloa. None of them made errors. When you have big men like this bumping much smaller players it makes it really hard to challenge them. That type of defense plus the speed and talent on that counter attack lead by Cristiano is will be a force this year and in the next few. Much credit to their long balls today which were very effective. 


I got in touch with Kicks Romero-Salas who I know has relocated to Spain. He filed this exclusive Supercopa report for Bleachers' Brew. Thanks, Kicks! Most appreciate this.

Five things I told my dad after the Ateneo-FEU game

Five things I told my dad after the Ateneo-FEU game
by rick olivares

Enough of La Salle, the real rivalry in the last decade has been Ateneo-FEU.
There are only eight schools in the UAAP and at one time or another, rivalries will break out. They aren’t exclusive to traditional rivals. It’s easy to say UE versus FEU or Ateneo versus La Salle as they are either bound by geography or history. In the 1990s, it was actually La Salle and UST as they constantly played one another in the finals.

Ateneo has had a long and tempestuous relationship with FEU. When the Blue Eagles were gunning for a three-peat in 1989, it was the Tamaraws under Johnny Abbarientos and Vic Pablo that nailed the final coffin on Ateneo with a devastating second round defeat at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum. Ten years later, Ateneo had the twice-to-beat advantage over FEU in the Final Four but the Tams took it in two straight. In 2003, when the boys in blue were going for a back-to-back, Arwind Santos and company stopped them cold.

In 2009, the Tamaraws had built a strong team with Mark Barroca, Reil Cervantes, Aldrech Ramos, Mac Baracael, Paul Sanga and company but Paul Lee and the UE Red Warriors sent them packing.

The following season, the Tamaraws swept the elimination round series against Ateneo but come the finals, they were thoroughly routed. The two teams also met in the Champions League, the Fr. Martin Cup and University Games finals of that year. Each time, the Blue Eagles came out winners. The next year, FEU was undefeated in FilOIl play and Ateneo sent them packing in the quarterfinals en route to the title. And just this summer, it was the same – Ateneo ousted an undefeated FEU team.

The acrimony has spilled on to the board and the football pitch.

That’s it in a nutshell but in between there have been incidents, words, accusations, claims etc.

Mixed Martial Arts or boxing should be added to the sports calendar of the UAAP.
In fact, make those sports mandatory. After watching FEU play like San Sebastian, I am not sure I went to a basketball game or a skit right out of the Three Stooges. It’s one thing to play physical, a sure fire way to disrupt a finesse team but to throw punches and hurl body fluids is well… I leave it to you to fill in the blanks.

In the first round match between FEU and NU, the Bringas brothers (you can throw in Carl Cruz into the mix) tried to get into Emmanuel Mbe’s head prompting the latter to retaliate. The brothers also followed the Cameroonian all the way to the tunnel at the Araneta Coliseum to see if they could exact their pound of flesh. With the game all but wrapped up for NU, Ray Parks went up to me (I was seated at near the row reserved for the UAAP board members) and said, “Pardon my language but those #@!*)#&> don’t deserve to win!” The reigning league MVP was downright pissed.

I am surprised that one of their coaches was eager to pick a fight.
For a while, I thought I was watching San Sebastian try to bludgeon San Beda into submission. Only this game was in the UAAP.

The Bringas brothers, college basketball’s version of The Bruise Brothers (Alaska’s Ricky Relosa and Yoyoy Villamin once upon a time), were in their best behavior in the first round Ateneo-FEU encounter. This time around, well, it seemed as if they wanted to make up for lost opportunity. It’s a bloody shame because both a terrific basketball players. I remember Coach Bert Flores calling out Arvie Bringas to stop the extra-curricular activity in a previous match because they needed him in the game and perhaps the next one.

However, it wasn’t just the two. There were others and some from an unlikely source.

In the final minute of play, if you were at the Mall of Asia Arena you will have noticed assistant coach Ronald Magtulis (Incidentally one of my fave players of FEU during his time) was staring down at Ateneo’s bench and mumbling some words their way. When the final buzzer sounded and the two teams went towards each other for the post-game handshake, I was surprised that he went to Ateneo assistant Sandy Arespacochaga to pick a fight.

Ronald Magtulis (to Sandy Arespacochaga): #&@#!!!0
Sandy Arespacochaga (to Ronald Magtulis): Pare, wag naman ganyan.
Nico Salva (to Ronald Magtulis): Sabihin mo sa mga player mo na ayusin nila laro nila.
Ronald Magtulis to Nico Salva: Ganyan talaga ang basketbol. Ganyan talaga.

I am shocked that FEU officials have allowed this to happen. The Tamaraws have never been known to be a dirty team until this season. Is that any surprise that the Bringas Brothers are like the Brothers of Destruction? Now that spitting episode cost you a game against – NU.

The last time I saw two coaches try to get to each other was two years ago during a FilOil match between Letran and San Beda. It was so shocking that then Red Lions head coach Frankie Lim, who is never one to back down from a confrontation, played the peacemaker.

Now why the post-match incident happened I will never understand. Whoever was wrong, the coaches must draw the line and rein everyone in. Not exacerbate matters.

I too am shocked that the referees have let go so much. I am not in favor of ticky tacky calls (and with these refs you never know what you are getting) but does rough and dirty play equate to manhood? Maybe UAAP, it’s time to introduce MMA or boxing in the list of annual sports.

Dude that kind of style went out with Isiah Thomas and his Detroit Pistons’ dirty play. And Thomas didn’t make the Dream Team.

I wonder if the battle cry is, “If you can’t beat them, beat them up.”

JP Erram and Juami Tiongson are currently my students!
Proud teach! In my Journalism class in Ateneo, the two of them (Erram and Tiongson) constantly participate and voice out their thoughts and opinions on the variety of subjects that we discuss. Many would think that the jocks would be timid in class. But not so in mine. In fact, I try to maintain a highly interactive class. So it is now surprise for me that the two of them have stepped up and made significant contributions to the team.

I followed the Blue Eagles all the way to Roxas City in last year’s University Games and it was the two who really lead the way. I even wrote about those games!

My dad said, “Don’t let up on them in class.”

Hahaha. I won’t. But I doubt they will slack off.

And lastly, dad, there’s no substitute to watching the games live.
We caught the replay of the match on television last night and well, it looked quiet, sanitized, and well, tame. The cameras caught a few things but not everything that went on. If you talk to the media photographers who sat on the sidelines, they will tell you that they saw every punch, elbow, knee, and then some.

I think I got a preview of tomorrow (Friday’s) One Fighting Championship.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kaya vs. Kaya

While working on the upcoming Manila Football Cup with Armand del Rosario and Eddie Mallari, I broached the idea of doing a Kaya alumni match against the current squad. Both Armand and Ed liked the idea that will serve not only as a treat to Kaya fans but also to share the club's rich history.

Kaya was founded in 1996 by Rudy del Rosario (no relation to Armand and Anton), Bob Kovacs, and John Rey Bela-Ong. The club at the time had Empire East as a corporate sponsor but they pulled out right before a football tournament. The club was without a name and Rudy, being a huge fan of reggae music, was staring at a Bob Marley album in front of him and his wondered aloud if "Kaya" (the title of the 1978 Bob Marley and the Wailers album that came after the masterful "Exodus") were apt. The guys liked it and a club was born. 

The alumni vs current squad game should have former Kaya stalwarts like Rudy del Rosario, Marco Nieto, Freddy Gonzalez, and Rely San Agustin to name a few playing against the current squad of Nate Burkey, Prince Boley, Saba Garmaroudi etc. 

The match will be played at the BGC turf this September 9, 2012. It will be a tune up game too right before the kick off of the new UFL season. Will have more details for you as this progresses. But man, imagine this. Kaya vs Kaya. This could be the start of an annual thing. And if this works, then how about Kaya alumni vs Loyola alumni? Here we go.

I want this shirt!

Want this before Brian Scalabrine joins Tom Thibodeau's coaching staff in Chicago this season. The White Mamba lives!

Rajon Rondo in town

This appears in

Rondo in town
by rick olivares

There’s really not much that is new in basketball. The only thing that changes are the stars who play the game. But the niftiest thing about the game is when you have a legitimate NBA superstar like Boston Celtic Rajon Rondo come to town and teach some kids his moves and little trade secrets.

Event organizer Danii San Agustin, the better half of my colleague, former Solar Sports marketing manager, and Ateneo Football League organizer, Rely San Agustin, noted that Rondo seemed to be coming around. You see the Celtic’s starting point guard is a quiet and reserved person. He didn’t talk much in his first day in Manila last Monday where in his only public appearance, he got a shave. He didn’t talk much save for the questions asked his way by television host Boyet Sison.

But on Tuesday, August 28, in the a two-hour skills clinic he conducted at the playground of the Ronac Art Gallery along Ortigas Avenue, Pasig, he was jovial, talkative, and charming, noted Danii.

His friend, Coach Douglas Bibby (cousin of NBA star Mike Bibby) was more succinct in his observation, “He (Rajon) is in his element.”

Rondo, wearing Air Jordan VIIs, took some of the bright young stars from the NCAA and the UAAP where some professional coaches and players also took part in running. He even made an unscheduled and impromptu question and answer with the media. Three questions and I got to ask one of them. Of course, I had all sort of Boston Celtic-related questions but when Danii passed me the microphone, I froze and simply asked, “Will we see you play again for the US national team?’

His answer was: “Yes, it’s an honor and if I am all right and healthy then I will.”

I thanked him for his answer and he looked at me and replied, “You’re welcome.”

In the briefest of exchanges, I saw a young man respectful of his place no matter what his status in life is at the moment. I also saw a NBA superstar who wasn’t shy in doing pushups (his team during the skills clinic lost every time out to the group handled by Coach Bibby). Rondo patiently pulled aside charges like La Salle’s Thomas Torres and Jose Rizal University’s Nate Matute to learn how to properly use their body in shielding the ball against a defender and making those wrong foot layups and drop steps.

“It’s like a dream,” said Jett Vidal, star for University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in the NCAA. “I only watch him on television and here he is, not much taller than all of us, teaching us how he plays in the NBA. It’s something I will try to do when I play and something I will remember forever.”

But Rondo is wrapping up his summer vacation before heads back to Boston to get ready for the new season. An intensely private person, the trip to Manila isn’t all basketball. He’s visiting San Juan National High School in Barangay Corazon de Jesus in San Juan where he will put the finishing touches on a court refurbishing project by sponsor Red Bull. And to wrap up his Manila trip, he'll be dropping by the Ateneo-FEU game later today.

When asked what if he heard of how basketball crazy the Philippines is, he smiled and said, “Yes, that and how pretty the women here are as well.”

The Gracie brothers: It’s not just a fight. It’s for legacy.

With Rolles, Igor, and Gregor Gracie.

It’s not just a fight. It’s for legacy.
The three Gracie brothers, Rolles, Igor, and Gregor prepare to uphold family tradition when they take on tough opponents in One Fighting Championship: Pride of a Nation this Friday. By Rick Olivares.

Three Incredible Hulks surround me. They are actually Rolles, Igor, and Gregor Gracie, grandsons of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Carlos Gracie.

The three brothers have come to the Elite Gym in Pasong Tamo, Makati City to train for their upcoming matches in the inaugural One Fighting Championship event in Manila, Friday, August 31 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Introductions are made with the few journalists present. The brothers hand out hearty handshakes. As I clasp their hands, I know there is strength and power in them. I can feel it in the grip.

After the pleasantries, the brothers step a few paces back, converse in Portuguese then commence stretching exercises that include roll-ups and curls.

There’s a small window for an interview and I head for the king Hulk, Rolles Gracie. Well he does look the most massive as he stands at 6’3” and has broad shoulders. Even in a game of American football he would still look out of place. He doesn’t look like an athlete but a war machine.

He smiles at the description. “It sounds good but there are people bigger than me.”

Hardly the haughty line one would expect from Mixed Martial Arts royalty. The three brothers aren’t at all especially for transplanted Brazilians who have made New York their home for the past seven years.

Now we have two things in common to talk about – Mixed Martial Arts and New York that they have come to profess their love for. “The greatest city in the world,” accentuates Igor. And it’s a perfect fit all right as the brothers, third generation scions in MMA’s Royal Family have made the Empire State their home (others have made California their home).

Rolles, at 32 and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor in New Jersey, USA, admits to the pressure of being a Gracie. “Sometimes, I get the feeling that my opponent is not just fighting me but my grandfather, Carlos, or my Uncle Royce.”

He pauses for a moment, “Every one wants to beat us. But that is life. I fight for my family and for myself. And the fans.”

I wonder how Brazil has made a name for itself in football, volleyball, Formula 1 racing, and MMA. “Many use sports as a way out of poverty. It’s what drives us as a people. We have tremendous national pride,” explains Rolles with fervor. “Brazilians do not only become good at something but we put our style in them.”

Rolles was referring to the stylish football that Brazilians espouse. It isn’t so much as winning a match but winning with flair, hence, the beautiful game. In MMA, there’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as Japanese immigrant and Jiu-Jitsu master Esai Maeda taught Carlos Gracie and eventually his son, Helio, by whom transformed some of the moves to create their version of the martial art. “And we are heirs to that legacy.”

All three profess excitement in taking part in the very first One Fighting Championship event in Manila. “You hear many good things about Manila. People here are said to be great MMA fans and we want to be a part in that atmosphere,” said Gregor.

“We are fighting in a place where they had that famous Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight,” piped in Igor.

Rolles, who sports a 6-1 record, will be up against popular Australian heavyweight Tony Bonello (16 wins, one-draw, one-no contest, and one-loss) who studied MMA under Carlson Gracie in Brazil. “We will have familiar styles so this will be a huge test,” noted Rolles.

Igor, who is 32 years old and has five wins and two losses, will stake his four-win streak on the line against Korean KO specialist Jung Hwan Cha.

Twenty-five year-old Gregor will go up against Australian Nicholas Mann, the current Universal Reality Combat Championship Light Heavyweight Champion who sports a 4-1 record. Mann will have the “homecourt” advantage as all his four wins have been in URCC events in Manila. “I like the odds already,” smiled Gregor. “Challenges are what MMA is all about. You do not have time for fear. If I did, I would be doing something else.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Where to, Liverpool?

Where to, Liverpool?
by rick olivares

Is it more acceptable that Manchester City wins the Premier League over Manchester United?

Do you worry that the Barclays trophy isn’t leaving the Manchester area any time soon?

I am not overly concerned about any of that. I am more worried about rising above the worst ever season by Liverpool since 1954. I am more concerned that we didn’t really have great signings over the summer that will lift the team out of its collective funk. I am more concerned with what the hell Brendan Rodgers was thinking when he tried to offload Andy Carroll that he was in danger of messing up a player who began to play better as the season progressed that his fine form carried all the way to the Euros. I am more concerned that we cannot beat the West Bromwich Albions of this world so what chance against the champs and last year’s second placers. Oh, yeah. We gifted City with a late goal.

I am also wondering if Brendan Rodgers is the second coming of Brian Clough.

Well, it is a little different because the Leeds that Clough joined were previous champions although their style of play can be best described as “dirty.” If Rodgers is said to be a genius this is where he gets to prove it. With a big club.

Liverpool hasn’t been champions in over a generation or two and the only thing that can best be described as dirty is the morass of the disastrous Hicks-Gillette ownership that continued to plague the team up to today.

It beggars my imagination how the club’s bosses jettisoned Kenny Dalglish and Steve Clarke in spite of winning one cup and making the finals of another. Of course, the target of a Champions League slot was missed by a mile and Stewart Downing was a massive bust. So Fenway Sports Group brings in Rodgers and once more “Wot! We’re in a rebuilding mode.”

I understand that change is always good but the club has been rebuilding ad infinitum.

I remember when Liverpool fans used to taunt Chelsea of having “no history”. The sad thing for Reds fans is well, we are ancient history. You cannot keep trumpeting the past because Anfield is turning quickly into Jurassic Park. We’ve not really won much since the advent of the Premier League in terms of major silverware. In the club’s worst season since 1954, this should teach us some humility.

While Downing didn’t amount to anything and it is quite obvious that Steven Gerrard and Jaime Carragher on their last legs, there is a silver lining (Welcome to Anfield, Joe Allen and Oussama Assaidi. Hope you survive the experience.)

The partnership of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel is this generation’s version of John Arne Riise and Sami Hyypia. Glen Johnson helps but the defense is hardly air tight. Last year saw the best form of Agger (as he was largely injury free) and that continued all the way to the Euros.

Lucas Leiva, formerly maligned and now considered a huge part in the Reds’ plans, is back after a crippling injury.

Rodgers will also have the services of some world-class players in Luis Suarez, Pepe Reina, Agger, and well, let us hope here Fabio Borini and Nuri Sahin.

The last Italian and Real Madrid expat to play in Liverpool both flopped. That was Alberto Aquilani and Raul Morientes. So there are hopes that Borini and Sahin contribute to Liverpool’s fortunes.

It’s funny how Liverpool wants to transport Swansealona to Anfield. Everyone wants to copy Barcelona’s game from Chelsea to the entire world. Can’t pry Pep Guardiola (who could possibly end up in either Manchester United, Chelsea or even Arsenal after this season depending on the fortunes of the three clubs), then there’s a bargain basement Barca-play alike who got his tutelage under Jose Mourinho of all (and that does sound weird).

I’m not jumping up and down with the new signings (while the previous year's summer recruits were all on the bench a sure sign that they are not in Rodgers' plans). Sure there's talent and potential. Really. But who knows? Liverpool can just turn things around (although I suspect that it will take them another year as they must sign some key players to really fit the system that Rodgers wants to play.

Does Liverpool have the personnel to play the short passing game? The jury’s still out after two games. As Rodgers said, there will be some bleeding before it gets good. Let’s just hope that the blood shed doesn’t drop them into the relegation zone.


You will learn a lot more from watching the games than simply reading football sites. And you call yourselves fans.  Please. Funny how many people now diss last season's batch of signings post-fall and all. Hindsight is 20/20. Put your money where your mouth is.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Five questions that need answering by the Ateneo Blue Eagles after eight games.

Five questions that need answering by the Ateneo Blue Eagles after eight games.
by rick olivares

I missed the second round Ateneo-UP game because I was at an event where I am heavily involved (the Clear Dream Match) so I asked people whose views and opinions I greatly value so I had a better understanding of the Blue Eagles’ struggles in that match. I wish I had a chance to watch the replay but I missed that as well.

But after eight matches, this here needs some pointing out and answering.

Can the Blue Eagles win it all again?
Of course, they can. They are at a robust 7-1, tops in the league thus far with FEU, UST, La Salle and NU right behind. Are any of those teams a lock to make the Final Four? Not at all.

Ateneo 7-1
FEU 6-2
UST 7-2
La Salle 5-3
NU 5-4
UE 1-7
Adamson 1-8
UP 1-7*

FEU is a much better team than initially advertised. They finally have the low-post presence they did not have last year with the addition of Anthony Hargrove and Arvie Bringas.

UST. These guys are a tough nut to crack. They have a small rotation but these guys deliver. The x-factor for them is the play of Aljon Mariano who like La Salle’s Jeron Teng knows how to use his body when going in for a drive.

La Salle. They have picked it up of late and can only get better. And to be led by a rookie in Jeron Teng who can only get better? Incredible!

NU. Pre-season faves to book a finals seat are fading. And they still have to play three more upper tier squads in the second round. They can actually miss the boat with their underwhelming play.

Astute basketball observers have noticed that the Red Warriors, never mind if they are in the dumps, had a different look to them during their last game even if they lost to La Salle. It is said that it is attributed to the coaching change. I feel bad for Jerry Codinera but this team should pick it up soon.

Adamson. Even without Alex Nuyles and the other players they’ve lost from the previous season, they hang tough. Leo Austria has some upcoming studs in Jericho Cruz, Janses Rios, Ryan Monteclaro, Michael Agustin, and Don Trollano. Under-sized in height but not in heart.

UP. Could very well end the season winless after it looks like their earlier victory will be overturned for using an ineligible player in Chris Ball. Ball’s okay except that his paperwork has not been fixed which beggars me. He’s been with the team since the other year so how come it has not been fixed? Hate to say this but heads should roll on this.

Is Ateneo a lock to book a Final Four seat? Sure but their record notwithstanding, they cannot afford a loss because it will drop them into a tie with the next couple of teams. Any combination of losses can hurt their standing. I certainly hate their penchant for playing Jekyll and Hyde. They get up for the good teams and wait to be threatened before they turn on the jets against the lower tier squads. It will not happen everyday when you can turn it on. Witness the loss to UST.

The bench has been erratic with their play as have some players. Yet in spite of that, they are top offensive and defensive team.

Ateneo has averaged 74.2 points and surrendered 64.0 on the defensive end.

We’re a few games away from locking up a twice-to-beat advantage slot. And that is the first objective. We’ll take it from there once we’ve achieved that.

Is there anything that I think that the team should address?
Yes, there are two things.

First, it’s some people looking too much for their own shot. When you have the Buddha in the lane as Phil Jackson once said, you feed the Buddha. And that is Greg Slaughter. It’s been two years and some cannot seem to get it in their head that when you have a massive center like that you go to him. As it is, Ateneo leads the points in the pain category with 38.3 (that was through seven matches as I was unable to get the numbers for the last match). When you go inside that means you have greater chances to score and to go to the line.

It is this same logic that one team fails to understand why they do not get the calls. When you keep bombarding from the outside who is going to foul you? 

Back to getting shots, this was something that Jai Reyes understood later on and it helped him become a more lethal player as he took shots in the flow and learned to facilitate for higher percentage shots.

Juami Tiongson and Ryan Buenafe (eighth and tenth respectively) are two Ateneans with over 20 assists in the tournament so far. It’s a good sign that the first and second units have facilitators on offense. And when you think about it, the starting five of Ateneo has three players who can pass that ball in Greg Slaughter, Kiefer Ravena, and Tiongson (add Tonino Gonzaga to that number when he starts).

Sharing the rock has been on of the hallmarks of the past title teams. There is no reason why it will not work again.

Second, it’s the production from the three-spot or small forward position. That has been manned by committee with Oping Sumalinog, Ryan Buenafe, and Tonino Gonzaga.

Ryan averages 5.1 points per outing while Zags and Oping chip in 4.5 and 3.5. That’s a total of 11.1 points. The thing is, Ryan is much better than that. Ditto with Zags and Oping. They have to be more consistent with their production because it eases the load on Greg Slaughter and Nico Salva.

How does Greg Slaughter stack against the league’s top centers?

In the updated individual standings, Greg is only eighth overall and the second center behind UST’s Karim Abdul who is in fifth place.

Greg is second in scoring and fourth in rebounding. He is tops though in shot blocks. You can say that the stats are underwhelming. But

As it is, NU’s Ray Parks is leading in the statistical race for Most Valuable Player. At this point, any Blue Eagles in the running are in the bottom of the top ten. Now it has to be impressed that the individual awards aren’t important – and I do mean impressed into their heads – and that the title is more important. It was like this during the three-peat when we hardly picked up any post-season awards. But at the end of the day, the title was way sweeter.

The Big Fella has to be aware of the help defense coming from the weak side. I am surprised that there is a lack of communication when it comes to this. Greg has to quickly pass out of that double team or else he’ll get bottled up.

And one more thing he has to understand – he will not see the end of the hacking, holding, tripping, and endless mind games the others will employ against him. I spoke to him about this against FEU and he handled it fine. I was surprised to hear that he fell for Raul Soyud’s physical game last time around. When he gets bothered he’s out of the game. Grin and bear it, Greg. Just make them pay on the offensive and defensive end.

Now the onus is on the officiating to make sure the game is played the right way. Watching Sunday’s games, I can only say, “What on earth are these guys calling?”

Will Tonino Gonzaga ever find his lost jump shot?
This is the second time that I am mentioned Gonzaga as a key point.

He was supposed to be this year’s supersub but has alternately wafted being defensive stopper and fireman. His value is immeasurable because he does a lot of things that do not show on the stat sheet. I noticed that he is rushing his jump shot (that includes his three pointer). Parang gigil. Instead of being relaxed and taking the shot in the flow of things like he did last year, his release and jump are erratic.

Case in point: Zags shot at 41.1% accuracy clip last year. This year, he’s at 32%.

I have been monitoring Zags closely and we’ve had conversations about it. I believe it’s the wrist action. But I have no doubt, he’ll find the range and play more consistently down the stretch.

He scored 10 points against UP in the last outing. That’s a tournament high so far. Let’s see if that gets him untracked.

Who needs to step it up?
Everyone! But Nico Elorde and Juami Tiongson have to hit those jumpers to keep defenses honest. JP Erram needs more playing time. Von Pessumal has to produce when he gets his minutes. And if Justin Chua and Frank Golla can contribute mightily then that will see us rolling.

Eight down and six left to play.