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, February 25, 2015

Junior MVPs Mapua’s Estrella, Ateneo’s Mike Nieto to banner 4th NBTC All-Star Game

This appears on

Junior MVPs Mapua’s Estrella, Ateneo’s Mike Nieto to banner 4th NBTC All-Star Game
by rick olivares

The next generation of basketball stars will showcase their talents on Sunday, March 8, 2015 in the 4th National Basketball Training Center All-Star Game at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City.

Led by NCAA Juniors Most Valuable Player Darius Estrella of Jose Rizal University and UAAP counterpart Michael Nieto, 24 of the best high school players from all over the country will participate in the highlight of the NBTC’s culminating weekend that also includes the Seaoil NBTC Championship that pits the Manila league champions versus the best from the country.

Chiang Kai Shek College’s Fran Yu, National University’s Philip Manalang and Mark Dyke, Far Eastern University’s Marvin Lee and Brandrey Bienes, San Beda College’s Andrei Caracut, Adamson's Frederick Tungcab, Hope Christian High School’s Jollo Go, Letran’s Jerrick Balanza, Mapua’s Denniel Aguirre, La Salle Greenhills’ John Gob, and Ateneo’s Mike Nieto comprise the Dark Team that will be coach by Red Cubs’ coach JB Sison.

The Light squad that will be coached by Ateneo’s Joe Silva lists Mapua’s Noah Lugo, SBC’s Marc Diputado, Kenneth Alas, and Nico Abatayo, CKSC’s JV Gallego and Jonas Tibayan, the Blue Eaglets’ Matt Nieto, FEU’s Wendell Comboy, St. Jude’s Renzel Yongco, DLSZ’s Quinito Banzon, HCHS’s Tzaddy Rangel, and Estrella.

“The NBTC All-Star Game is big for high school players because it gives everyone as chance to be scouted by college coaches from all over the country especially in Manila,” noted NBTC Program founder Eric Altamirano. “And for those who have not been recruited, this is a good venue for everyone to see what they are missing.”

“I think this is a good opportunity for non-NCAA and UAAP players to be noticed by college coaches,” added Chiang Kai Shek’s JV Gallego who was named Most Valuable Player of the recent Metro Manila Basketball League Finals where the Blue Dragons defeated NCAA champions San Beda.

It was in this tournament where Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu’s Henry Asilum and Dave Yu were discovered. Asilum went to the University of the Philippines while Yu was a rookie on NU’s UAAP seniors champion squad of last season.

During the first ever NBTC All-Star Game in 2012, Mapua’s little known Ace Basas rose from the talented heap that included his teammate JJ Alejandro, Xavier’s Jeron Teng, and San Beda’s Francis Abarcar among others.

The following edition, Letran’s Rey Nambatac stood tall among the cast of All-Stars. Then in last year’s match, Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena copped top honors.

The NBTC All-Star game will be played at 11am and will be followed by the National Finals at 1pm. The NBTC defending champions are the Chiang Kai Shek College Blue Dragons.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The challenges of LA Revilla

This appears in the PBA website.

The challenges of LA Revilla
by rick olivares pic by nuki sabio

LA Revilla waxed excited about KIA Carnival’s 95-84 win over Purefoods last week. The victory saw some sports analysts hang the tag of “giant killer” to the first year club after it earlier dealt San Miguel an 88-78 defeat.

“Sana ngayon, bigyan din kami ng ibang team ng konting respeto,” said the sophomore point guard albeit in subdued and respectful tones.

Revilla can’t get too excited despite his team being at 2-4 and slightly ahead of underachieving San Miguel and NLEX and expansion team, Blackwater. After all, he’s experienced success and looked to go on a roll only to have the opportunity snatched away from him.

After a sterling rookie year with the La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP, he was diagnosed with diabetes that sidelined him for two years. For a young player who had dreams of making it big in the sport, sitting it out and not knowing when he could play again crushed his confidence. “I was what – 19 years old at that time pero instead of looking to the future naging day-to-day. Hindi ko alam kung kelan ako makakalaro.”

Even when he did get back two years later and in terrific form, his health went south again and his game tapered off in the second round. “Matuto ka not to take things for granted,” he related. “Humbling talaga.”

However, during Season 76, Revilla and the Green Archers were able to put it together to win the UAAP Men’s Basketball Championship.

The next stop – the PBA.

Only not in the manner Revilla thought it would take.

Twenty-three names were called before his was announced by PBA Commissioner Chito Salud. Barangay Ginebra selected him 24th overall but the pick was traded to GlobalPort. There Revilla was one of five rookies who included FEU Tamaraws Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia, Ateneo’s Nico Salva who was his teammate in high school at San Beda, and Manuel L. Quezon University’s Jopher Custodio.

In a team struggling to find its form in the PBA and with players all looking to earn their mark aside from fighting for a contract, Revilla hardly got any playing time. He played less than seven minutes in the few matches he played in where he averaged a poor 0.67 points, 1.33 rebounds, and 0.67 assists.

Not soon after, he was dropped to the D-League. “Naging down ako. Humbling experience talaga – mula sa draft, hindi makalaro sa PBA tapos na-demote sa D-League (with the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns),” said Revilla of the experience. He paused for a while clearly still hurt by the experience and measuring his words. “Tinignan ko na lang sa ibang perspective. Hindi nga naman ako nag-D-League. So doon muna. Magpakita na gilas at baka sakali may pumansin na PBA team.”

When tryouts were called for the expansion club KIA, Revilla tried out and made the line-up. In his first game for the club during the 2014-15 season opener at the Philippine Arena, he scored 23 points to help his new team win its first game in PBA history and made for a successful debut for Manny Pacquiao as coach for KIA.

“Playing for Manny is unbelievable,” gushed Revilla. “Hindi naman puro strategy and tactics yan. Medyo alam mo na yan. Malaking bagay kung makapagbigay siya ng kumpiyansa sa amin lahat. Nasasanay na rin ako kapag tumitingin sa kabilang dulo ng bench at nandun yung eight-time world boxing champion sa amin. Masasabi ko rin one day na, ‘I played with Manny Pacquiao.’”

Revilla once more made a splash during the Carnival’s win over Purefoods as he sparked a rally and a come-from-behind win. He tallied 18 points, six rebounds, and seven assists.

“Sana tuloy tuloy na to ‘to para sa KIA at sa akin,” hoped LA.

While a few observers have said that his performances with KIA will certainly draw the interest of the bigger ballclubs, Revilla will have none of it. If there’s anything that he has learned in the past several years is you can be on top of the world one moment and all the way down in the next. “Oe at a time,” he quipped. “Day-to-day pa rin pero iba yung perspective.”

What is the difference?

“Mas mataas morale ko ngayon.”


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ateneo Blue Eaglets: An 18th Juniors Title to Savor

Mission accomplished. One High Five.

An 18th championship to savor
by rick olivares

Let me celebrate this 18th UAAP Juniors title by waxing romantic, historical, and sentimental like the Guidon writers of a bygone age.

Is this how the Roman Emperor Majorian felt after beating back the barbarian hordes after the battles of Lucus Augusti and Scallabis in the year 460? Of course, I do not mean to really compare the National University Bullpups to the Goths and only say it only figuratively. Majorian was the last Roman Emperor to try and unify as well as regain lost territory to ever encroaching hordes from the east. Soon after his death, the greatest empire the world has ever known crumbled once more but only this time they were consigned to the pages of history.

You see, since the last championship of the Blue Eaglets in 2011 when Kiefer Ravena, Von Pessumal, Paolo Romero and a skinny freshman named Jay Javelosa nailed the tail end of a three-peat, the scholastic athletic landscape saw a new power rising from the environs of the east, the far east, and Mendiola… National University. And across the alphabet soup leagues that dot this country, the game has changed stratospherically, athletically, and financially.

With college sports now the playground (although some will think the word “battlefield” to be more apt) of taipans, amateurism is dead and buried six feet under.

If anyone took making the Juniors Finals as an annual rite or a divine right, then that is no longer the case. While Ateneo has pretty much ruled the UAAP Juniors division, other schools have also given very good accounts for themselves.

The Ateneo Blue Eaglets when you think about it have no right beating a team like the National University Bullpups. Those kids are taller, more athletic, and deeper.

To the casual observer, the Blue Eaglets just go by their Big Three who will be collectively be known here as MattMikeJolo. 

There are times when you may have cringed and wondered, “What in the world is Joe Silva doing? Why is MattMikeJolo on the bench?”

In years past, the Blue Eaglets were built with the best offensive players that Silva had at his disposal. After the painful loss in last year’s junior finals, a fateful conversation with an old mentor occurred.

Silva spoke with the man who he replaced on the Eaglets’ sideline – Jamike Jarin. “Go back to basics – what we were and who we are.”

There’s a reason why there is that massive banner that hangs at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center. You may have read or heard about it: “Defense wins championships.”

Silva built a team with defensive players to complement MattMikeJolo. Then they went back to their terrorizing full court press/high-risk-high-reward ways.

Mike never guarded the powerful Mark Dyke. Not at least for too long as Shaun Ildefonso, Jossier Hassan and at times, Brix Ramos platooned on NU’s bruising and athletic forward. Matt didn’t cover the talented Philip Manalang – Gian Mamuyac and Enzo Joson did.

It was all about defense.

The senior shooting guard felt bad that he was playing three minutes a game. As a shooter, he needed his minutes to get into a rhythm. Salandanan came in with two minutes played in the second period. His first contribution in the final series? He stole the ball from Dyke from the blind side and fed Joson on the break who was fouled. That made it 26-25. And the next eight minutes and eight seconds will be forever remembered for that blitz when Jolo Mendoza went into a zone while on defense they just flat out killed NU. As for Salandanan? He nailed a deadeye three on transition at the left corner pocket for a 52-34 lead they took into the half. In the second half, he got Manalang on a charge (for his fourth foul), forced Dave Camaso to a stepping violation… and he hit another three.

Defense first and let the offense flow from it.

However, no post-game recap or analysis will be complete without Mendoza’s incredible shooting performance.

We have seen some great shooting performances from Jolo but when was the last time he was in a zone like this?

Jig Mendoza, his father and ex-UP Fighting Maroon who is currently an assistant for Barako Bull: (struggles to find the answer at first then laughs) "FIBA during the U-16 World Championships in Iran where they finished second to China. Against Greece, the United States."

If you ask Silva, Jet Nieto (the Nieto twins’ father), or the players themselves, they will credit the FIBA experience as what helped them get better. They paid for it though as they played eight matches in the space of 10 days. Add the two days of travel time back home and they were spent. They arrived back in Manila had one practice with Ateneo and played against Hubert Cani and the NU Bullpups; a series they lost.

If you look at tape during that Finals, they couldn’t run anymore. The twins and Mendoza just didn’t have the legs. And in one game, Mendoza missed a crucial free throw that hurt their chances of winning.

But they have never made that as an excuse.

In fact, it ate at them.

Mendoza recalls the somber locker room scene as Thirdy Ravena and Aaron Black were in tears. “I failed them,” Mendoza recalled. “We (the current edition of the Blue Eaglets) made a promise to win it this year for them and four the graduating seniors (the Nietos, Ramos, Salandanan, and Japeth Moreno).

After that finals loss, Mendoza too was inconsolable. He cried at home. Late at night, Jamike Jarin gave him a call. They spoke and went back to that missed free throw.

“Go out and shoot two free throws (the Mendoza’s have a hoop at their home),” instructed Jarin.

After that, Jarin asked, “Pasok ba yung dalawa?”

“Yes, coach.”

“Yan. Okay ka na.”

And Mendoza felt better.

After the woeful Game One loss to NU in this Finals series, Kiefer Ravena took Mendoza aside and they worked on his moves the following day. And throughout the series, Ravena offered valuable advice on the sidelines.

MattMikeJolo have been teammates since Grade Three at the Ateneo. And that is the other secret to this team’s success. They all knew each other so well. All the moves, strong sides, and weak sides.

In Game 2, Mike Nieto poked the ball away from Dyke who collared a defensive rebound. He saved the ball from going out of bounds and in one motion handed the ball off to Mendoza who had the presence of mind to move into position at the right corner pocket. Hand off, turn and it was a screen for Mendoza. Three!

At the 2:51 mark of the third period and the score 58-49, Ateneo, Mendoza went in for a layup, missed and dove for the ball that was going out of bounds and what would have been NU’s ball. Mendoza whipped a behind the back pass to Mike Nieto who was underneath the basket for an undergoal stab. The San Juan Arena erupted into massive cheers from the blue and white supporters.

That is the kind of teamwork and chemistry that can only come from having played with one another for so long.

When NU made a run to cut the lead down to five, 74-69, after a John Clemente jumper, MattMikeJolo were on the bench.

At this point, you may have wondered, "Why didn’t Silva have his Big Three in the game?"

It’s equal parts strategy and gamble. In Game One, MattMikeJolo played lots of minutes and they got tired in the end. All season long, Silva rationed their playing time to keep them away from foul trouble and fresh for the endgame.

Now with ample rest, they re-entered the fray.

Mendoza jumper at the 5”03 mark, 76-69.

Matt steal, fouled by Clemente with Daniel Atienza called for an unsportsmanlike foul after shoving the Ateneo point guard to the floor.

Matt hit all four free throws. What was a seven-point deficit had ballooned to an 11-point Blue Eaglets lead.

A defensive stop, Mendoza attacks, Clemente makes the mistake of giving him the lane instead of forcing him along the baseline. Dyke cuts his path. Mendoza whips a pass to Matt who is all alone at the right corner pocket. Bang! It’s 83-69 with 3:28 to play. My hair is standing up and so must everyone else’s who hails from Loyola Heights.

Even with two minutes to play and Philip Manalang fouls out (he is NU’s most clutch player), everyone knows this is a wrap. Players and friends hug Silva by the sidelines. The coach is in tears.

He lost his mother right before the finals of Season 76. “It was the hardest thing to do,” admitted Silva. “To grieve and coach at the same time. But my mom wouldn’t have it any other way. She would have wanted me there with the team. So this championship is for her.”

This championship is for Coach Joe who never won it while he donned the Blue Eaglets' colors (Alwyn Espiritu’s UST squad was in their way). And now, he is forever etched in Ateneo sports history.

And this championship too is for everyone who went to Loyola Heights. The elimination round sweep and the finals win aside, this title (as were the previous ones) was not an easy one to win. And it will never be. As much as there are good players coming up for the Eaglets it is still not going to be easy.

Every team is going to reload. Some teams are losing key players. However, some like La Salle will remain very good. NU will dig deep into its Team B, C, and D to fill up the spots that will be vacated by Manalang, Dyke, and company.

This will be the shortest time a reigning Juniors champion will get to hold on to that trophy as come next school year, the tournament will be played alongside the seniors once more.

So savor this. Enjoy it.

I have been watching the Blue Eaglets play since 1983. The only time I can probably say that the Eaglets practically rolled over everyone and a title was in the bag was in 1986 when a tall and skinny center by the name of Danny Francisco and a point guard by the name of Olsen Racela carried Ateneo to a 14-game sweep and an outright championship. No one came close to them. No one. They flat out destroyed everyone even during a fight-marred match like the one against La Salle at the old Loyola Center.

And so watching the San Juan Arena erupt into cheers, songs, and yells that made my hair stand up and my blue-blood rise from its year-long stupor – and no one cheers like the Ateneo High School; no one – I thought of Majorian (I am a history buff and have read extensively on the Roman Empire) who howled at the change and fought back to save the decline of Western Civilization.

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. All I know is these championships that we all get greedy about are getting harder to come by more so with the winds of change swirling all around us.

So we should savor this because they earned this.

However let me leave you with this thought – we have 11 titles from the NCAA Juniors and 18 in the UAAP.

The trophy is back in Loyola Heights.

Blue Eaglets the King.

AMDG + OBF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!