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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ateneo Lady Eagles: Still a work in progress.

Ateneo Lady Eagles: Still a work in progress.
by rick olivares pic by joseph nocos

As impressive as Ateneo was in taking down hitherto undefeated UP in three sets, they still aren’t close to being what they should. It was the best game of the season that is about to reach its halfway mark. Now they have to sustain it and improve in the other aspects of the game. 

If you’re rooting for that team in blue and white, I’d exercise restraint and caution. After all, the game is filled with highs and lows.

Talking to head coach Anusorn Bundit last Sunday evening, I commended him for his team’s big win and strong showing. Yet I wanted him to validate the notion that the defense still needs some work.

“Defense… need to improve, ah,” succinctly pointed out the Lady Eagles’ fourth year coach.

It isn’t false modesty. The man knows what he is talking about. Furthermore, we agree.

If you look at where Ateneo was this time of the year during Season 78 (Alyssa Valdez’ last season) and this year, you’ll agree with Bundit.

Defensive Category
Season 78 First Round Rank
Season 79 First Round Rank

“More work to do,” concluded Bundit. “Much work.”

If there’s anything that the Lady Eagles can take away and build on from the win over UP is it was their defense. You can be sure that other teams will continue to test them and La Salle will be a stern test.

Let’s hold that thought for a moment and turn to the other side of the court.

Offensively, they are much better now than last season. With one more match to play before the first round ends, they have scored the most number of points with 490 (29 more than second placer La Salle).  And they are pretty much where they were from last season in all three offensive categories.

Offensive Category
Season 78 First Round Rank
Season 79 First Round Rank

However… and that is a huge however, during the halfway mark of Season 78, Alyssa Valdez was the only Atenean in the top ten in scoring. The next Lady Eagles were ranked #20th-22nd and that was Maddie Madayag, Jhoana Maraguinot, and Bea De Leon respectively.

If you look at scoring this year, there are three Lady Eagles in the top ten: Mich Morente (4th), Maraguinot (7th), and De Leon (10th). That’s a more spread out offense for Bundit this year. Kat Tolentino is 21st. So no surprise, Ateneo is tops in spiking with 243 and a 39% success rate.

While the spread out offense is good for the team and Jia Morado continues to shine and remain underappreciated, it should be pointed out that there is another emerging force for the Lady Eagles.

And that is Bea De Leon. This isn’t discounting the return of Morente that has added another weapon for the team or the strong showing of Tolentino. Or Gyzelle Tan’s looking more stable as the team’s libero. Far from that. This is a team effort.

However, we have to point to De Leon’s continued rise. From her rookie year playing in the V-League to the UAAP season proper, she has tantalized with her talent. Look at her now.

10th in scoring while averaging 10.1 points per match.
As of this writing, rated best spiker with a 48% success rate.
7th best blocker.

I’d also say that more than being a two-way player for Ateneo, she is the team’s emotional leader. Yet, with Bea, it isn’t all overt displays of emotion. If you caught that game against UP, she was focused and calm. None of her usual displays of fire and emotion. And the Lady Eagles, who have made a reputation of not showing up opponents, followed her lead. Just smile, exchange high fives, no running around or dancing. Just go back and play.

And she plays great defense (and we all look forward to that return bout against Jaja Santiago).

Now that provides a perfect segue to that last thought…. defense.

De Leon forms a quite a tall wall along with Madayag and Tolentino. By far, they aren’t the Great Wall of Katipunan just yet. They have to earn that tag some more. They are the first line of defense though. And that also means the others will have to do their part. And for sure, they will have their hands full against a surging La Salle squad.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Alyssa Valdez banners Creamline Cool Smashers

Alyssa Valdez banners Creamline Cool Smashers
by rick olivares

When Alyssa Valdez wraps up her stint in the Thai League early next month, she’ll trade in the red and black of 3BB Nakornnont for the hot pink colors of the Philippines’ newest volleyball club, the Creamline Cool Smashers.

The club was unveiled last night at the Oakwood Premier Joy-Nostalg Center Manila in Pasig City last night by Rebisco President Jonathan Ng. Rebisco, the Philippines’ leading manufacturer, distributor, and exporter of snack foods is the team’s sponsor.

Joining Valdez in the Cool Smashers are Coleen Bravo (Perpetual Help), Joyce Palad (University of the Philippines), Aerieal Patnongon (Ateneo de Manila), Francesca Racraquin (San Beda College), Ivy Remulla (De La Salle), Janet Serafica (Adamson), Pau Soriano (Adamson), and Jamela Suyat (Perpetual Help). Three more players will be added pending the conclusion of the current UAAP volleyball tourney.

The team will be coached by Anusorn “Tai” Bundit and will be assisted by Oliver Almadro. Both are respectively are the current head coach of the Ateneo Women’s and Men’s Volleyball squads. Jerod Hubalde, a former head coach of the UP Men’s Volleyball Team is the second assistant.

“I think it is a logical step for Rebisco,” explained Ng. “We have been supporting the Ateneo Lady Eagles for the past few years and we have all fallen in love with volleyball. We are looking at Creamline to be a long-term plan for the company and for volleyball. We hope that the fans will come out and support us.”

“It’s a diverse team,” said Valdez of her newest club. “After Bureau of Customs and now with Nakornnont, playing with a different set of players is exciting. While I miss my Ateneo teammates, this is all part of the adventure. Besides, Aerieal is here and there is the possibility of some of my former Ateneo teammates joining us at some point during the coming Philippine Volleyball League season.”

Team manager Sherwin Malonzo said that the team is far from a finished product. “Some players are only here for the short term because of availability while others will be here longer. We have three joining us before the season starts. Another should be coming on board for the second conference and hopefully, this person for next season.”

The club’s color’s will be hot pink.

“I think that will take some getting used to,” summed up Valdez. “But what is more important is ow we perform.

The new Philippine Volleyball League opens serve on after Holy Week.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

FIBA official thinks Pinoys can win 3x3 Olympic gold

FIBA official thinks Pinoys can win 3x3 Olympic gold
by rick olivares

Ignacio Soriano, FIBA’s 3x3 Event Manager was in Manila (February 25-26) to inspect the different venues that will be used in the upcoming SBP 3x3 Pambansang Tatluhan competition that tips-off this coming March.

FIBA has tasked the Philippines to be at the forefront of three-on-three basketball as the basketball derivative has been played across the decades throughout the archipelago.

“We in FIBA are amazed with what we witness here,” said Soriano during a break in his inspection duties. Accompanied by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) Executive Director Renauld “Sonny” Barrios and 3x3 Pambansang Tatluhan Tournament Director Mark Solano, Soriano inspected the Quezon Memorial Circle and the SM Mall of Asia Arena two of many sites for the matches. The six-foot tall Barcelona-born and bred Soriano is in his fifth visit to the Philippines since 2014.

“The fans are crazy about the game whether full court five-on-five basketball or 3x3,” observed the Spaniard. “I was in attendance at the PBA Finals last night and the atmosphere was great. And it is gratifying to know that even 3x3 ball gets the same type of response and support so I know that when the tournament gets going in March, it will be fantastic.”

Soriano divulged that the 3x3 tourneys require more than a year’s preparation and that paying attention to the details will only help the sport grow.

“We in FIBA have submitted to the International Olympic Committee the proposal and application for 3x3 basketball to be included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” divulged Soriano. “In theory it is supported by many people. We have received a lot of support from member federations around the world, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas included. We are highly optimistic it will happen.”

“Should 3x3 basketball become an Olympic sport, the Philippines has a good chance of winning a medal. As you know the game is not about height but skills. And when you have a super-talented player like Terrence Romeo and many others, this can happen. I believe that in 3x3 basketball, the Philippines can thrive.”

“We hoped that 3x3 basketball would be accepted in time for the last Rio Olympics but it didn’t happen. Rest assured, we are working hard to make this happen for the next Summer Games.”

“In the meantime, the SBP 3x3 tournament is going to be exciting. FIBA is working with the Philippines on this because we know the passion for the game here in massive.”

The popularity of 3x3 basketball, a derivative of the traditional full court 5x5 ball, has rapidly become a popular sport ever since FIBA introduced it during the World Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010.

Three-on-three ball was one of the main attractions of the 2015 European Games held in Baku, Azerbaijan, and it is being pushed as one of the sports for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Where did this version of basketball begin?

It was an inner city version of full court basketball that was first played and took New York City and Washington by storm in the early 1900s.

Unlike the full court version, a 3x3 version was derived first due to playing space and the availability of baskets meaning teams shot at only one basket. 

Here in the Philippines, the game has been popular ever since the Americans introduced the sport at the turn of the 20th century. “Tatluhan” or “three-on-three” as it is called in the vernacular, is played by almost every person in every demographic and on every surface conceivable and in every possible condition whether shoed or barefoot.

The popularity of the game domestically is the reason why FIBA has requested the Philippines to take the lead in the propagation of the sport.

American Scott MacNeal (aka Gus Macker), one of those acknowledged founders of organized 3x3 competition, established his first 3x3 tournaments in 1974, in his parent’s driveway in Lowell, Michigan. In 1987, MacNeal refined and expanded the concept into a more formal tournament that involves over 2.2 million players from seven years to 50-plus age groups of men and women.

In 1989, Hoop It Up, the NBA included as part of its All-Star Game festivities a tourney for non-professional players to one including pros and celebrities. Hoop It Up started from an initial less than 2,000 players in 1986 to over 135,000 participants in 2014 with even teams from Italy, Japan, and Spain participating.

Now the game has become popular the world over. A total of 24 teams will participate in the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup in Shenzen, China this November 14-16 while a bigger pool of 36 squads will convene in Nantes, Frances for the FIBA 3x3 World Cup this June 17-21.

The Philippines will be one of the 20 men’s teams participating in the tournament.