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, March 12, 2017

Ace Basas, the NBTC’s 1st ever All-Star Game MVP, looks back on some shining moments

Ace Basas, the NBTC’s 1st ever All-Star Game MVP, looks back on some shining moments
by rick olivares

During the 2011-12 college basketball season, this kid from Mapua, Ariel “Ace” Basas, overcame a difficult season where he played third fiddle to his more ballyhooed teammates JJ Alejandro and Ian Valdez. The former was recruited by National University while the latter was taken in by the University of the East. Basas, much to his surprise, received an invite to the inaugural National Basketball Training Center High School All-Star Game. Basas wasn’t even recruited by his own college team, the Cardinals. The quandary now was just to go to college and if possible still play some basketball, the game he dearly loved.

During the All-Star Game held at the Ynares Center in Pasig, Basas outplayed the likes of Jeron Teng, ThomasTorres, Francis Abarcar, Daryl Nazareno, Jun Bonsubre,  Van Abatayo, and manyothers to come away with the first ever NBTC All-Star Game Award. It was a Jeremy Lin moment for Basas who compiled 24 points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one block shot. 

I was in my second year handling the media chores for the NBTC and I came over to interview the kid. I asked him if he was moving up to the senior Cardinals’ ranks. Much to my surprise, he said that no one even invited him for a tryout. I asked him, what school he wanted to go to and boy was I in for a bigger surprise… Ace said – and I remember the words exactly like it was only yesterday – “my dream school is Ateneo.”

“Even if I do not make it to the UAAP team, I want to study and to graduate there.”

I immediately pulled him around the corner and called Mozzy Ravena who I had known since my college days and told her about what Ace told me. With Kiefer still in the college ranks and Thirdy coming up from the Blue Eaglets, maybe they could do something. While I was talking to Mozzy, several coaches and recruiters spoke to Ace’s father to secure his services. I couldn’t really recruit because I wasn’t a part of the Ateneo program. Furthermore, I am in media. While I have sent a few players to UP, Letran, and UE, I preferred to stay in the background and write rather be an agent or recruit.

As Ace said it, “Even if all of a sudden there were other offers, the moment Sir Rick made the connection to go to Loyola Heights, I made up my mind – that’s where I am going.”

Ace made it to Ateneo’s Team B where he would go on to be a part of a Fr. Martin’s Cup champion team. However, he wasn’t overly happy because his minutes were inconsistent. “I was happy for the school, my teammates, but I wasn’t happy with myself. I knew that I could do more but minutes were hard to come by especially the following season when a bunch of more recruits and Fil-Ams came in.”

Two years later, he was cut and Basas felt devastated. Even while on Team B, sitting on the bench, he saw former colleagues and foes get playing time. “Some of them I used to shut down defensively or even score on,” he thought. It took him a month to get over it.

His father though was disappointed and he wanted his son to transfer schools in order to chase his basketball dream. Ace never considered moving. “Not even for one second. I went back to what I said on that day Sir Rick spoke to me and I said that even if I couldn’t play in the UAAP, I’d like to pursue my education and graduate from Ateneo.”

While Basas has mostly coped, it has, of course, not been easy. He’s seen the dreams of other Team B teammates crushed – John Boo, Joma Adornado, Mikey Cabahug….. while he’s seen other former teammates like JJ Alejandro win a UAAP title while others get loads of playing time.

He feels bad that all the other players who won the NBTC All-Star Game MVP Award are playing if not leading their teams to championships and title games. Rey Nambatac, the second recipient, led Letran to a NCAA championship. Thirdy Ravena and Mike Nieto, the next two winners, towed Ateneo to a UAAP championship berth last season. And the most recent winner of the award, San Beda’s Evan Nelle, has helped his side to a smattering of high school championships. “I am the only one who isn’t playing now,” he sadly says.

Every March and it is that time of the year now, when the now annual SM-NBTC National High School Championships and the All-Star Game get underway, Basas revisits his brief shining moment. There’s still some hurt in there but he doesn’t dwell on it. “Playing for my high school coach Randy Alcantara, he taught me how to carry and to pick myself up. Looking back at it now, that also prepared me for the disappointments and challenges.”

“When you look at the other side, all through my high school and college life, my father never had to pay for one centavo of tuition,” Basas brightens up. “If you calculate that, it translates into more than a million pesos and that’s a lot. Imagine what we’ve saved and what we’ve been allowed to have. It’s a blessing. And now I got a very good education.”

“I realize that the Lord through the years really prepared me to pursue something else. I do know that not everyone makes it to the top which is the PBA. There are many college superstars who don’t do well. So I appreciate the fact that the importance of an education has always been instilled in my heart and mind. I remember when I first came to Ateneo, Fr. Nemy Que, S.J. (who was then the head of the school’s admission and aid) would always tell me never to neglect my studies no matter what and that I would be thankful one day. And I remember that and am thankful to him for that. And that day is arriving because in a few short weeks, I will be graduating.”

“As for basketball,” sums up Basas. “I still play in the Ateneo Basketball League. I kid around with my old Team B teammates that we can score on so-so, and we can shut down so-so. We laugh and well, feel bad, but we move on. Besides, I will always have that moment five years ago. And it’s a nice moment and a memory for me.”

Ace's graduation photo. 

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