This appears in the Monday, August 29, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.
The third league
by rick olivares
Last Thursday, the 16th season of the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities opened to great fanfare at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Truthfully, I didn’t expect much more so since it was in that ancient relic of a hoop house along Roxas Boulevard. But…. I…. had a great time.
I had not covered the league in eight years and even when I followed the matches back then, I did so sporadically. It was a welcome surprise to be back in it. NAASCU doesn’t get the buzz, coverage, hype, or even interest that its older siblings - the NCAA and the UAAP — get and I can understand that since they’re older and more glamorous and with the top schools in the land.
On opening day, the venue was packed and the crowds were roaring with every dance number, gyrations, dunk, lay-up, block, and basket. For the opening program, there were no elaborate sets. No fancy light show. Just a short welcoming talk, a Mr. and Ms NAASCU Contest, and a short dance number that had people in the stands dancing and howling. Like a noon-time show, I thought. And maybe it isn’t so bad.
I can appreciate their underdog feel. The unappreciated and anonymous toiling in what is a labor of love and a shot at their hoops dreams. And apparently, there are others with a certain appreciation — schools from the NCAA and the UAAP that raid their ranks of talent.
However, it isn’t a one-way ticket. Incredibly, St. Clare College’s Paeng Rebugio used to play for Jose Rizal University in the NCAA under Vergel Meneses. He transferred because he sat behind a deep guard corp. I can understand that as well. What is the point of sitting behind the first and second string point guards?
National University has taken a couple of St. Clare hoopsters. One of them, I heard, has de-camped for a rival NCAA school.
“I think the NAASCU has potential,” said commissioner Fritz Gaston who during his basketball career starred for the Ateneo Blue Eagles when they were still playing in the NCAA. “We’ve got 14 schools right now and that may be a lot but a single round robin with only the top teams advancing to the next round will ensure highly-competitive matches.”
Competitive indeed. The season’s opening match between St. Clare and AMA Computer College was just that with each team trading runs. The contest was settled only in the final three minutes that ended in a SCC victory. Opening day was fund and I tremendously enjoyed myself.
“Fourteen teams sounds like a lot but I think it’s also good because people look at our league as a vehicle and good option for their school’s athletic teams,” added NAASCU Chairman Dr. Jay Adalem who promised to address the lack of awareness and media on a national level. “The task also is to identify talent and hope that they can be representative of our nation’s best whether it be with the national team or the PBA.”
Third league, I posted to Dr. Adalem.