|Team manager Joey Guillermo and assistant coach Bennett Palad address the players before practice.|
The Flying V Davao Thunders: It’s time.
by rick olivares
Forming a basketball team is never easy. The financial aspect and the logistics side, there’s the matter of putting a team together with time not on your side.
It’s a precious commodity. And for many of the basketball players, team hopefuls for the Flying V Davao Thunders for the newly-formed Country Wide Basketball League, the heir to the now defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association, time is something they have and do not have.
It’s a rainy Thursday night and some 25 hopefuls descended on the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan. The proposed Davao team of Ateneo and La Salle alums has hit a snag. With that premise, the team cannot form a competitive one as many of the good ones are either in the PBA, waiting for a national team contract, or are out of shape. So the formation of the team has been opened.
Head coach Aric Del Rosario isn’t around; there’s a death in the family and he’s in Pampanga at the moment. Assistant coaches Bennett Palad, Chris Bautista, and Bert Dela Rosa run the practice in his place.
Some of the newcomers make noise. A lot of it.
The noisiest is former Letran (Talk ’N Text, Barako Bull, Air21, Meralco, and KIA) center Mark Andaya. The Big Fella is back, a little out of shape after just concluding a campaign for Manila councilor that didn’t result in a victory. He takes the ball, finds a teammate for an assist, barks orders on defense, and… generally keeps things light.
Former FEU Tamaraw forward (Coca Cola, TNT, Air21, KIA) Leo Avenido and former NU Bulldog point guard (Coca Cola, San Miguel) Froilan Baguion look to be in marvelous shape. Both were teammates in the Asean Basketball League for Thai squad, Mono Vampire Basketball Club. Avenido was a former ABL MVP with the Saigon Heat. Baguion has won a pair of championships — with the Philippine Patriots and the Chang Thai Slammers. He’s made a name for himself as a playmaker and a Filipino import who can take you to the championship game (he also brought Thailang back to the ABL Finals where they lost to the San Miguel Beermen).
The two exude veteran class, leadership, and game smarts. Coach Bert Dela Rosa remarks that playing with many new and unfamiliar players, he makes them look good.
Some of the early invitees play well in the two-hour practice session that also doubles as a tryout. Mikey Cabahug, who got buried on Ateneo’s Team B and never got to play for the UAAP Blue Eagles drills six triples. Sam Marata, who played for both La Salle and UP, hits a couple as well. Former Blue Eagle Gwyne Capacio shows aggressiveness in and around the basket. Like Avenido, he could help the team with scoring, rebounding, defense, and passing. Former College of Saint Benilde point guard (and Ateneo Blue Eaglet) Louie Sinco shows moxie. A willingness to drive inside and find open teammates. When the opportunity presented itself, he stuck in a layup, a daring one considering that former La Salle center Carlo Sharma and forward Junjun Cabatu are in the lane.
Sharma has lost weight. A lot even and that leaves many to wonder if he can play the middle given his lack of heft. But he scores on a medium range jumper, a hook, a nifty drop step. He can score. Now the concern is his health.
Cabatu looks woefully out of shape having put on so much poundage. Yet he shows the craftiness he displayed in college — a nice pass to a cutter, a spin move in the post, defense here and there. But he’s huffing and puffing. “Gotta get in shape,” he grunts lumbering upcourt.
There are the heralded and unheralded. And even those seeking a chance, or even redemption.
Former CSB guard Paolo Orbeta is eager to impress. Despite the debilitating circumstances that have greatly affected his career, Orbeta went to the last PBA draft but went undrafted. Undaunted, he’s in the practice session where he has impressed. “I just want a chance,” he wishes. “He drives right through the forest of tall men. Misses an awkward shot. Later he gets another chance and this time he scores. Teammates exchange low fives.
Richard Albo played were little known De Ocampo College, a medical school located near the Quezon City Welcome Rotonda. He hit from everywhere. Made his first six shots. From the corner pocket. Three point range. From the elbow. Inside the paint. Each time with a hand in his face. That leaves team trainer Mario Eala shaking his head in disbelief. “He’s got ice water in his veins.”
Like Orbeta, all he wants is a chance.
And there are others as well.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much time.
Post-practice, the coaches bare that those who get calls or text messages by Sunday will be invited back. They know the deal. It’s tough but there it is. The team needs to jell in a month’s time before the league tips-off.
Time. Suddenly, there isn’t a whole lot of it.