Jong Uichico’s brief return to HS ball coaching
by rick olivares
“These boys are big.”
That was veteran basketball coach Jong Uichico’s first assessment as he walked onto the court of the FilOil Flying V Centre last Monday, March 6. His North Team Al-Stars did boast of some pretty tall players in the 6’10” Kai Sotto, the 6’5” Germy Mahinay, and 6’3” Aaron Fermin.
Uichico, currently working with the Philippine Men’s Basketball National Team will be coaching high school basketball for one more day, March 16, during the SM-NBTC High School All-Star Game that will be held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. His opposite number is fellow Gilas assistant Josh Reyes.
The last time Uichico coached was when he was with De La Salle Zobel in 1989 where he had Jason Webb as his player. The last time he earnestly watched the high school game was when his son Johan was playing center for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets during the early years of the new millennium. The reminders, laughs Uichico, “makes me feel old.”
His All-Stars on the other hand are a little nervous. “He was coach of San Miguel Beer and Talk ‘N Text, right?” asks University of the Philippines guard Juan Gomez De Liaño.
“Gilas din,” adds Dave Ildefonso of the Blue Eaglets.
He gathers his players around in a huddle and spoke. “The fact that you are here means you are good and you have talent,” said Uichico. “But what will serve you will more than that is having a good attitude. Having a good attitude means you are willing to listen, willing to humble yourself, and are willing to work hard.”
The practice session is scheduled for an hour and 30 minutes. But it goes all the way to two hours. The boys don’t mind. In fact, the drills the coach runs, has everyone sweating and working hard. Mapua Red Robins head coach, randy Alcantara, who will be serving as Uichico’s assistant for the day, takes over the last few drills.
“I think the beauty about coaching high school teams is the boys are pliable. In the PBA you are supposed to get finished products but meron din na surprisingly hindi. I’d never thought I’d do this again even if for one day, but I am looking forward to it.
When told that the players were excited about being handled by a nine-time PBA champion coach, Uichico deadpanned, “That goes for me too. I am excited about this. It is a way of giving back to the game and if the boys pick up something from me then I have done my job.”