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, May 5, 2016

The Perpetual Help Altas’ Nosa Omorogbe: The accidental coach.

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The Perpetual Help Altas’ Nosa Omorogbe: The accidental coach.
by rick olivares

Meet the University of Perpetual Help’s accidental basketball player turned accidental basketball coach… Nosa Omorogbe.

The 26-year old Nigerian, who donned the colors of the Perpetual Help Altas from 2012-13, was not even supposed to go to the Philippines.

“I was looking to study and play in the United States but my visa was denied. And this after I got a scholarship already,” recounted Omorogbe. “However, a Filipino I knew back in Nigeria told me about the opportunity to study and play in the Philippines so I went here.”

Omorogbe first got in touch with then-FEU coach Glenn Capacio who told him to come over. However, upon arrival, Capacio instead sent him to Perpetual Help. The Nigerian wasn’t upset in the change of schools. “I didn’t think it was a downgrade. First and foremost, I had to study and get a diploma,” he emphasized. “My father was very strict about getting an education. I loved sports but even as a youngster, it was all about getting a diploma.”

Mission accomplished. Recently, Nosa received his Masters Degree in Business Administration and planned on going back to Nigeria to work when the coaching offer came his way.

“And to think, basketball wasn’t even my first sport.”

Omorogbe grew up playing football, the national sport in Nigeria. “I played striker back home and would daydream about being the next Ronaldo (the bald-headed version),” recalled Nosa with a smile. “I was a Real Madrid fan and would never miss a game on television. That was the time of the Galacticos — Zidane, Raul, Figo, Beckham.”

As fate would have it, rather than glory on the football pitch, Nosa received a different calling. “Everyone said that because of my height — he stands 6’4” — I should be playing basketball,” he shared. “Now in my country, Hakeem Olajuwon is a hero. He helped bring a lot of prominence to Nigeria. So it wasn’t such a bad switch. In fact, it was easy.”

But the transition to NCAA style basketball wasn’t as smooth. In his rookie season with the Altas in 2012, opponents would take all sorts of cheap shots at him to take away his game. “Luckily, I am a very patient man,” he laughed. “But it is my nature. I do not like to fight. I’m quiet and prefer to think and talk. Even when I would get elbowed or punched, I said nothing.”

That NCAA season, the Altas, in Aric Del Rosario’s first year, finished the elimination round with an 11-8 record. They defeated Jose Rizal University in the playoff for the fourth spot in the Final Four where they were in turn bounced by eventual champion, San Beda, 56-54. Omorogbe averaged 9.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals against 3.2 turnovers that season. “While it was a great feeling to make it to the Final Four with no expectations, it still hurt to lose,” said Omorogbe.

The following season, with Omorogbe norming 15.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 3.67 steals an outing, the Altas returned to the Final Four yet were sent quickly packing once more by San Beda. This time, with an even worse beat down as they lost, 70-51. “That really hurt,” underscored Omorogbe. “More so because I was done with my college career. I thought that we were better as a team that season but unfortunately, San Beda was just too good."

Now, as head coach, Omorogbe has inherited a team that is very good despite losing the incredible Scottie Thompson. “Scott was good. Very talented. But sometimes, our players would wait for him to do something rather than become a part of the offense. Now I am changing this. Everyone must be involved,” said the first year head coach. “But the most challenging part is coaching my former teammates.”

“I have to swallow a lot of my pride,” said Omorogbe with a smile. “You see the age difference isn’t much. Some of them are my former teammates. At first they would try to take liberties with me. When they saw I was strict about it, now they don’t talk to me. Oh, the hardship!”

Fortunately for Omorogbe, a familiar face is sitting beside him on the bench. When he first came over and served his residency, Boris Aldeguer was the head coach. Aldeguer’s assistant, Jimwell Gican took over the year before Omorogbe began playing. Now, Gican, is back with the Altas and is working alongside his former player who is now the coach.

“Complicated, isn’t it,” said Omorogbe by way of telling his challenges. “Now, I study a lot of basketball ever since I got the job. All I watch every day is basketball."

“Initially, when the school’s management asked if I could coach the team, I said, ‘No. I am fine as an assistant.' I also told them that I don’t want people to think that I am the reason that coach Aric (Del Rosario) is not the coach anymore. I didn’t want to be perceived as a power hungry person. After a while, the school’s management came back and asked again if I will take the position; it took a while for me to say yes.”

In his coaching debut, he steered the Altas to the finals of the Fr. Martin Cup where they lost to the loaded Arellano Chiefs. During his Filoil Flying V Premier Cup debut against UP, his Altas won rather comfortably, 73-61, after posting a 20-point lead. “It’s good but we haven’t proved anything,” said the Nigerian. “The test for us is in the NCAA. But it’s also good because this is where we learn and grow as a team. This is where we gain our confidence."

The upcoming NCAA season should be very competitive with every team gunning for champion Letran’s crown as they have lost big names from their roster. 

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