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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A quiet revolution with the UE Red Warriors

A quiet revolution with the UE Red Warriors
by rick olivares

There’s a quiet revolution going on at the University of the East.

The sick man of the UAAP, the deposed and exiled kings of the hardcourt, are making another go at it. This time with a new coaching staff with zero University of the East blood are giving the once fabled program a transfusion of blue, green, and red – well, of the San Beda variety – blood.

That news is hardly going to stop the presses. They’ve heard this song and dance number before. A new coach – a returning King Warrior – looking to reclaim lost glory. In fact, one coach of from a NCAA league squad decried their poor culture.

You will get no argument from any of the UE coaching staff. They know the Herculean challenges which is an understatement.

On this day, Monday, July 16, the excitement is brewing. At least from within.

Leon Lorenzana has decamped from UST and is looking to make his move to UE.  There’s a Fil-American from Minneapolis trying out. A couple of former Ateneo Blue Eagles in John Apacible and Brix Ramos are there. The coaching staff is happy with the recruits they picked up but who will have to serve a year’s residency before suiting up. And just a few weeks ago, several players from a nearby UAAP rival have inquired about transferring.

So it can’t be all that bad, right?

During drills, inconceivably, the fundamentals of many players are bad. Terrible even. So you wonder what kind of skills training they got. In fact, last year’s UAAP Juniors champion, the Ateneo Blue Eaglets is more skilled. And that isn’t an exaggeration.

The problem of a team in disarray and with players departing for other schools (after a row with their former coach who accused them of all sorts of things) is their court of last resort is to play hero ball. Sure you get great individual performances. The question is… do they translate into wins?

However, during the recent Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup, other players stepped up. Center-forward Rey Acuño is one. Chris Connor, Jason Varilla, and rookie Jojo Antiporda gave a good account of themselves.

UE finished 3-6 in their Filoil play. They were ranked 15th among the 19 squads that participated. On the average, they gave up more points than they scored. So they have their work cut out for themselves.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” notes assistant coach Ton Brodett. “We will surely see the results not this coming season but in the next. Of course, we hope to perform better in the upcoming UAAP tournament.”

“It’s okay,” assures new head coach Joe Silva. “We don’t mind flying under the radar.”

The team huddles at center court of the UE Gym. Silva and his coaches discuss the preparations for an upcoming trip to Taiwan this August where the Red Warriors are participating in the BK Squad International Invitational Tournament.

The last time the Red Warriors took a trip abroad to train was some nine years ago and Paul Lee was still in uniform. The funny thing is… half that team went while the other half stayed. Talk about dysfunction.

Paolo Romero, who played under Silva in Ateneo (after which he went to UP for college), is quite happy to hear how the players have responded to his training program especially since he played against many of them in both high school and college. “I think if you show them something and they understand how it benefits them, they take to it quickly,” bares Romero.

Like a sponge.

For veteran point guard Philip Manalang, he admits he was quickly over the coaching change. For six months, there was no announcement about who was to be their new coach. There was speculation that he’d leave and instead play commercial along with incumbent star, Alvin Pasaol. But with the new staff, Manalang quickly embraced the new coach and the new system. “Madali ko nakuha,” he says. He also assures he fill exhaust his playing years with UE.

Ric Gallardo who had a promising career with Perpetual Help before the internal craziness forced him to leave was worried that he jumped from the frying pan and into the fire. But now, he’s happy. He just hopes to get an opportunity to show what he can do.

For John Apacible, after Ateneo, he was supposed to go to Lyceum but UE – Silva – called. And now, he hopes to resurrect what was once a promising career. “New challenge,” he simply puts it.

Second chance. Apacible nods.

And for UE, that’s all there is. Another chance to get it right and to return to their rightful place in college basketball’s hierarchy. Hopefully, this time around.

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