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

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bleachers' Brew #373 The basketball Zen of David Zamar

This appears in the Monday, May 20, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.

The Basketball Zen of David Zamar
by rick olivares

The University of the East Red Warriors crushed the University of Santo Tomas 85-68 last Saturday in the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup.

Of course, it’s the pre-season and the ultimate result will be the upcoming UAAP tournament. But that is why this tournament is played, it prepares a team for that grind and the war to come that tips off a little over one month from now.

I thought that UE gave UST a dose of its own medicine in hammering out a victory for a 4-2 slate and into solo third of Group B of the summer tournament.

The Red Warriors are tall, long, and athletic. Plus, they can do their own version of shock and awe when they’re on. Just like the Growling Tigers.

And perhaps just like UE head coach David ‘Boycie’ Zamar’s past UE teams.

Not the first batch of Red Warriors he coached from 2001-03 that included had James Yap, Ronald Tubid, Paolo Hubalde, and Arnold Booker who rained shots from the outside to down foes. They couldn’t force the action inside as their centers -- Jhayson Alminario and Jay Arr Estrada – were hardly of the stud center type.

What I am referring to are those teams he played with back when UE was simply called ‘the Warriors’ (sans the ‘red’).

Zamar was a tall point guard for UE at around 5’10”. That enabled him to see above his opposite number. The players he went up against back then included Alfrancis Chua (today’s Barangay Ginebra coach who once suited up for UST), Eric Altamirano (now coaching National University who was then the court general for the University of the Philippines), Louie Alas (now an assistant coach for Alaska and who once played for Adamson University), and Pido Jarencio (the former UST Glowing Goldie star who now coaches his alma mater).

As a player, Zamar’s teammates included Allan Caidic, George Ella, Conrado Barile, and Vilmer BaƱares, and Carlos Fermin to snipe from the outside. The dominant Jerry Codinera patrolled the lane for them. He was a part of the 1985 UAAP championship squad of UE and he went on to lead the Warriors to two more UAAP Finals stints. Unfortunately, each time, UE came away with a runner-up finish; first to UP and then to Ateneo.

Now in his second go-around as bench tactician, Zamar looks to inculcate three things that he brought with him from UE’s last title team – discipline, resiliency, and defense.

This team has that same make up the squads he played with – a sound point guard in Roi Sumang, a platoon of outside shooters in Jay Arr Sumido, Ralf Olivarez, Lord Casajeros or even Jai Flores. He has the centers now to rebound in Chris Javier and Charles Mammie. In Sumang, he has that feared player who can take over a game ala Caidic.

Discipline. This is the second time this pre-season he benched Sierra Leone native Charles Mammie for being late. “Discipline is important,” Zamar clearly enunciated. “No one is above the rules. Not Sumang. Not my veterans like Adrian Santos. So the same applies to Charles. To (Mario) Bonleon. To (Gino) Jumao-as.”

During the match against UST, Zamar sent in freshman Jumao-as with a little over six minutes to play and with UE leading 80-60. Jumao-as, the former San Sebastian High School star immediately turned the ball over twice and each time, the Tigers scored.

Fearing a UST run, Zamar lifted the rookie from the game much to the rookie’s dismay who angrily pulled out his jersey. The head coach immediately got on the rookie’s case as Jumao-as tried to explain and be contrite in his apology. “What he did was a sign of disrespect for the team and not me. Kung galing kayo sa ibang team kung saan superstar kayo, eh, dito hindi kayo superstar. You’re on the wrong team at baka pwede kayo magpalit ng coach as early as now.”

Just as Zamar was in an apoplectic fit, Jumao-as was apologetic. “Tumatangap naman tayo ng apologies,” relents the coach. “But there are consequences.”

The Red Warriors tactician played on a team of winners; one that went to four consecutive UAAP finals (where they won two championships). It wasn’t sheer talent that brought them there year after year. It was discipline and respect. “One thing that all the players should know is – no one is above the team. I am responsible for the team. This is an institution we represent. It boils down to formation.”

When the Growling Tigers embarked on their expected rally, the 16-point lead shrunk down to three, 57-54 and with time down to 2:33 in the third period after Aljon Mariano hit two free throws.

“I have to remind the players that we were second to the last in the last year. We cannot be complacent. We cannot be contented. We have to be realistic. This team – UST is a finalist. Tamabakan mo ng 20 o 30, babalik yan. We saw it. You saw it. Nagkataon we caught them off-guard. Yung chance na yun we took our opportunity. They’ve been there for four, five years. We have to work harder. If you show respect to the game it will show you back respect. And I believe in that.”

The Red Warriors dug deep and dropped a fiery 11-2 run in the next three minutes to take the starch out of UST. With four minutes left and UE’s lead hiked to 21, Growling Tigers head coach Pido Jarencio emptied his bench.

“We need this kind of game,” says Zamar. “This will teach us to be resilient and tough. Na hindi lang sila kayang sumagot; kami rin marunong. Napakita rin namin that we can play good defense.”

Furthermore, the Red Warriors won without Mammie playing a single minute. “Hindi mo masabi kung ano mangyayari sa UAAP. So right now mabuti na marunong silang tumayo sa sarili nilang paa,” clarifies the coach.

When the match officials sound off the opening whistle, Zamar puts on his game face that is in all seriousness. Off the court, he is gregarious and refreshingly candid in the manner of how he deals with his players, the media, and fans.

He makes no bones about his team’s championship aspirations. “Every year, kahit mahina yung team mo, you have to aim for the championship. Bakit pa tayo maglalaro kung hindi tayo magcha-champion? Wala naman pumapasok sa UAAP at nagsasabi, ‘goal ko mag-sixth place.’ You have to turn your players into believers.”

Zamar knows that it isn’t only about basketball but also personal formation. With over two decades worth of basketball knowledge, he hopes to impart what he’s learned to his wards and to give back to his alma mater a championship not celebrated in these parts since he donned the red and white.

“Nahihirapan din ako mag-compete sa recruiting ng mga Ateneo, La Salle, at NU,’ he admits. “Pero madali din sa akin kasi now we are able to change the face of UE basketball into a winning one. Now we have discipline and this an opportunity hindi lang para maglaro but to also get an education. Hindi naman lahat nagpupunta ng Ateneo, La Salle, at NU so meron din sa amin. We will make do with what we have. Basta hard work lang ay mabibiyayaan ka.”

Now, with a full pre-season of preparation after coming on board for the second round of Season 75, David ‘Boycie’ Zamar and his team of Red Warriors who are tagged as contenders, begin the earnest if not arduous task of leading their alma mater back to its glory days.

“Masarap na may challenges,” he concludes. “Ganyan talaga ang buhay.”

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