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.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Former Adamson star Jan Colina finds a different calling with the Philippine Army

Former Adamson star Jan Colina finds a different calling with the Philippine Army
by rick olivares

When Jan Colina joined the Flying V Thunder for the last D-League conference, he was one of the few big men expected to hold their own against the behemoths of the other battle-tested squads. Yet he struggled not only with his game but also playing time.

For those who do not know of what has been going on with the former Adamson Falcons star, he was already two years into service with the Philippine Army. He had been granted permission to play.

“I had not played competitive ball for more than eight months and while I was in shape, my timing and game sense was really off,” admitted Colina.

At 6’3”, despite being undersized, he was a solid four-spot man for the Soaring Falcons of then-coach Leo Austria. He worked hard underneath the boards, scored on putbacks, spin moves, and a medium range jumper.

Selected sixth by GlobalPort during the 2012 Rookie Draft, Colina was cut. More than not making the PBA roster, it left a big hole in his heart. His dream was dashed. He played a bit more in the D-League but he came to a decision that would not only change his life but that of his family as well.

Colina previously married colleague and sportswriter Celest Flores. And their union brought a daughter, Elle. “I also knew that a basketball career isn’t forever,” he thought. “My struggles to make it made me more practical.”

He entertained the idea of entering the military. He consulted those close and dear to him. There was trepidation on his family part because at the time he entered, the debacle at Mamasapano had just ended. There was a crucial conversation with basketball coach Joel Dualan that helped make the final decision.

Dualan had served in the army. Aside from the benefits, he could make use of his talents to serve the Army. They placed a high value on athletes who could represent their branch of the military. While they weren’t sent to the frontline, they did carry out other missions such as safeguarding and transporting much needed materiel and equipment to the combat troops throughout the archipelago. Plus, they still got to compete not only in the AFP Olympics but also in the commercial leagues representing their branch of the service.

“The training we did was anything like we did in Adamson or in the D-League,” shared Colina. “Basic training lasted for eight months. We’d wake up at 4am then begin training and exercises. I’d feel so tired that even by the hot noontime sun, I’d fall asleep. We had five counts to eat and 20 to take a bath. We jog with combat boots on. The adjustment was tough because there were so many things we could not do or were not allowed to do.”

Even if Colina adjusted, life still hasn’t been easy. His family lives in Quezon City while he is based in Fort Bonifacio. “It is difficult but we have to bear it for now,” Colina said. “It is for my family.”

However, basketball isn’t far from Colina’s mind. He wishes he could have really contributed to Flying V’s aborted run to a championship.

When he thinks back at it, it was also the same for his Adamson teams – supremely talented, they too, fell short. Maybe there aren’t meant to be because there is something else. It does make one tough though. Just like life in the Philippine Army.

“My life has always been about challenges,” he summed up. Yet like his college days, it wasn’t about him but his brothers on those Falcons teams. And now, it’s all about his family waiting for him.

To provide for them… that’s his championship.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Andray Blatche pays is respects to the Philippines

When I saw this, I couldn't help but feel proud not to only be a Filipino but also for Andray Blatche. The man who was a major part in the Philippines reaching its lofty status didn't forget his "roots" even if he is suiting up for a Chinese club against the Philippines. 

Thanks, Dray! Go easy on us now.

My thoughts about Ateneo’s win over UST

My thoughts about Ateneo’s win over UST
by rick olivares

The biggest lesson last season for the Ateneo Blue Eagles was learning to win big games and well, finding their place in the system that was installed by Tab Baldwin.

This season, at 5-0 after defeating the UST Growling Tigers, 94-84, there are still things to learn. Not only for the players but also the coaching staff.

They have to learn to put the finishing touches on opponents. Crush them and not to settle for jump shots when they’ve racked up huge leads. If the Growling Tigers did better from the free throw line yesterday (they went 24-38 for 63% shooting), it might have been a different story.

They have to learn to play in spite of terrible, questionable, and suspicious calls. That game was bad? It could possibly get worse when the stakes get even higher. If Marvin Lee can get away with flopping at the slightest contact, they shouldn’t do the same but continue to go hard at the basket. At times, I felt they were hoping to get the same whistles as a result weren’t finishing strong at all.

Now that we’ve gotten the bile out of the way, here is what we can take away.

Other teams will take their cue from UST and throw us unusual fives on the floor. It is clear that the tall and athletic starting five gave us some trouble at the start of the game.

UST started Jordan Sta. Ana at the point guard role (even if he isn’t a true PG) with three forward in Marvin Romero, Zach Huang and Jorem Soriano and Jeepy Faundo at center.

Unusual or not, part of the game plan was to take it inside, see if they could get Chib Ikeh in foul trouble, and then bring in Steve Akomo. Now eight of their first 10 attempts were all inside the lane while on Ateneo’s first 10 possessions, they took three shots inside, three from the outside, and turned the ball over twice.

Even when UST got into foul trouble and Akomo was largely contained, they had players stepping up and doing some damage. Furthermore, they nearly matched the inside points 38-36.

The Blue Eagles would lose and regain the momentum in a game of runs. Just when we thought we put UST away with an early third quarter blitz, they came roaring back. Whether they were aided by the bad calls or not, what was once a 22 point-lead was razed to five after three periods of play.

A lead like that is not safe at all.

Matt Nieto has been solid.
All the off-season work seems to be paying off for Matt Nieto. Leadership and shooting-wise (clutch too).

Look at his Season 79 figures vis-a-vis his Season 80 totals so far:
S79 16.6 minutes, 5.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists versus 1.6 turnovers.
S80 22.3 minutes, 10.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals versus 2.0 turnovers.

I’d like to see him hike up his assist totals though. Among starting point guards, his is the lowest.

JJ Alejandro (National University) 5.6
Philip Manalang (University of the East) 4.3
Axel IƱigo (Far Eastern University) 4.0
Aljun Melecio (De La Salle University) 3.3
Jun Manzo (University of the Philippines) 3.0
Marvin Lee (University of Santo Tomas) 2.8
Rob Manalang (Adamson University) 2.5
Matt Nieto (Ateneo de Manila University) 1.8

You can say that he is consistent in his assist totals. And I don’t know how the coaching staff wants him positioned but from the looks of things, he’s stationary and whipping the ball around.

Team-wise, Ateneo is second in assist totals so that points to their system where the ball moves around where everyone can score and pass. They come off Thirdy Ravena drives, Anton Asistio hitting the open man when someone runs out to him, or with Ikeh making good reads down the blocks on at the elbow.

Speaking of Ikeh, he has six assists in five matches. Not bad when you think he had 10 for the entire Season 79.

Not a big deal for Matt but still… it would be nice to see him raise his assist totals to make him a more well-rounded point guard.

Chib Ikeh has been superb.
This is sort of the Chibueze Ikeh that we saw in his rookie year. Except he is playing better. 7 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 block versus 6 turnovers. Like I said in my team preview, if Ateneo wants to win it all this season, the Big Fella will have to step up. And he has. Methinks we’ll see better games from him as his confidence has greatly soared.

You have to give it to Chib. Last year, the consensus was... get him off the court. Now it's get him back on the court! We need him. Good for you, Big Fella. Good for you! 

Team play has to be stressed again.
I like the fact that at any given time, anyone can score or assist a teammate. Let’s look at how many Blue Eagles picked up a least one assist in a game against their respective foes:
10 players chalked up assists vs. UST’s 5
10 players chalked up assists vs UE’s 11
10 players chalked up assists vs. FEU’s 11
6 players chalked up assists vs. UP’s 5
9 players chalked up assists vs. Adamson’s 6

Right now, the top three teams in assists (in order): FEU, NU, and UE.

What does not show in the UST assist stats is the assists by three guys named Borbe, Jaramillo, and Baria.

Moving on, you know NU too moves the ball around, you can be sure that NU will try to get as many players into the mix as well.

Looking at the UST side, here are some things I’d like to reiterate:
It looks like they have silently formed a very good team. Mathematically, they could still chase a Final Four slot but that is highly unlikely. Nevertheless, they will get even better. They need to find a replacement for Jeepy Faundo who in my opinion is pro ready (I hope they give this kid a chance) and the three other guys they will lose to that age rule of the UAAP.

Jordan Sta. Ana is making a case for this season’s breakout star. His final stat line was 21 points (on 67% shooting), 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal versus 2 turnovers.

And again, UST may be 0-5 and you have to give their coaching staff led by Boy Sablan some credit. They have not made it easy for other teams to pick up a win. That was a gusty starting unit he threw out there. I think people should be realistic about this team. I honestly did not think they would win a game not because they were weak but because they are young and filled with players who didn’t see a lot of playing time. Imagine if Renzo Subido was in uniform and that Embons Bonleon did not burn bridges. They’d be up in the standings in my opinion.

5 talking points from UAAP Men's Basketball Wednesday: FEU vs NU & Ateneo vs UST

5 talking points from UAAP Hoops Wednesday
by rick olivares

It was another eventful UAAP game day where the FEU Tamaraws survived National University’s end game rally to win, 90-83, while the Ateneo Blue Eagles bucked a tough challenge from the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 94-84, for their fifth win in as many matches.

There were outstanding performers and one big thing that we have to address.

JJ Alejandro is playing like a man possessed
Do you remember when JJ Alejandro sank Ateneo en route to National University’s title run years ago? After that, everyone thought that he’d strap on the Bulldogs on his back and tow them back to the Promised Land. Except he battled niggling injuries and was largely a non-factor.

In his final year of UAAP ball, Alejandro isn’t only third in scoring in the league with an average of 17.8 a game but he is tops in assists with 5.6 a match and is second in steals with 1.8.

During NU’s loss to FEU last Wednesday, Alejandro scored 23 points including 11 in the final quarter.

Matt Aquino who has been getting better provided capable support but if NU wants to edge into what is going to be a crowded Final Four race, they will need Dave Yu, Matt Salem, Issa Gaye, and one other guard to really play well.

Honestly, I didn’t tab NU to make it to the next round. I thought that they have too many young players and not enough big game experience to get them over the hump.

In Arvin Tolentino, FEU now has their post-Belo/Pogoy star
He scored a measly 7 against La Salle, 11 against UE and Ateneo, 15 against UST, and now 23 against NU.

The former Blue Eagles has found his niche and role with the Tamaraws. The season (including the pre-season) started out with Ron Dennison leading this team but more and more, Arvin is taking this team on much like NU’s Alejandro. The difference is, Arvin has more help with the Tams. He shoots, posts up, and as head coach Olsen Racela says, the more Tolentino boxes out, rebounds, and plays defense, the more minutes he will see. And Tolentino, the third year forward is delivering. As you can see, his numbers are going up.

Make no mistake, Ron Dennison is a two-way player who can also turn things around with his defense and timely shots. So it is best to put it that along with Tolentino, they form a formidable 1-2 punch (the former is averaging 13.2 points while the latter is slightly ahead by 13.4).

UST played great was ultimately luckless in the end.
UST head coach Boy Sablan has taken a lot of stick from different quarters and this writer included but we have given credit where it is due and he almost pulled the rug from under Tab Baldwin with how his Growling Tigers played Ateneo.

First, his unconventional starting five in Jordan Sta. Ana, Jeepy Faundo, Marvin Romero, Zach Huang, and Jorem Soriano had Ateneo off-balance. Tall, athletic and willing to take the battle inside. In fact, of UST’s first 10 field goals, eight came inside the lane.
And second was his team hanging tough all match long and all season long. Again, this team is much better than its record of 0-5. Remember, a lot of these players were on the bench in previous years and only got a lot of playing time this season. So while the record is bad and it looks like their will miss the next round, there is hope for this team because they have some prime time players coming up.

Matt Nieto is making Ateneo go.
A friend remarked to me that Matt has to earn the “J” on the back of his jersey as the twin brother of fellow Blue Eagle, Mike – as he has no “J” – “J” for jumpshot. But in the past three matches for Ateneo, he has hit some huge baskets.

While Matt can play and run the offense, he has come up huge in these past three wins by Ateneo – against FEU (11 points, 3 assists, and 2 blocks), UE (11 points, 3 assists, 1 steal), and UST (22 point, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block).

He has steadied their ship during tough times and especially during that atrociously-officiated match against UST last Wednesday.

And on that note, the last point.

The UAAP must look into that badly-officiated Ateneo-UST match.
It is easy to say that bad calls happen and do happen in games because referees are only human. Sure we get that. But we weren’t born yesterday.

UAAP Commissioner Rebo Saguisag must look into that atrociously-officiated match between Ateneo and UST. From start to finish there were a lot of weird, horrible, and even questionable decisions. Was the match’s outcome being manipulated?

If the Pacquiao-Horn match was re-scored by a different panel of judges, can this match be reviewed not only by the game officials but also others in full view of all coaches so it can be understood how fouls are called?

Let’s not butter up the obvious – something was up in that game.