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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A chat with a UST alumnus about the concerns surrounding their former coaching situation

Photo/screen shot from 24 oras.

While writing about the current UST coaching situation, an alumnus of that school, who is also involved with some of their school programs approached me "to vent" to borrow his term. What follows is an actual conversation. I left out some zingers. But it does not change anything that he said. This was done on May 31, 2016 somewhere along EspaƱa.

Rick: Kindly introduce yourself and tell people why you wanted to chat about UST basketball?

Tiger: Just call me “Tiger”. I went to school in UST for high school and college during the 80s to early 90s. I have many friends from the athletics program of the school so medyo in-the-know tayo.

Rick: Alright. 80s ha? That was a tough time as Ateneo and La Salle dominated the league then with UE making noises here and there.

Tiger: I know. But soon after that we won four straight.

Rick: Yep! Let’s move on. Are you frustrated at your team's inability to win a UAAP championship? The Tigers are 0-3 in their last three appearances.

Tiger: Yes but not as much as others. Mas malungkot ako para sa mga boys because I know talagang nagsumikap sila. And we don’t have the kind of program that teams like Ateneo, La Salle, and FEU have.

Rick: Unfortunately, for UST, the last two finals stints have been marked by controversy. How do you feel about that?

Tiger: I am blocking off all negative thoughts. (laughs) But as much as you’d like not to believe in hulog or what iba na ang panahon na ‘to. The proof is in the games. 

Rick: Hmm. So what are you saying?

Tiger: Iwan na natin diyan.

Rick: Okay. If you say so. To your knowledge, how do UST alumni feel about this unlucky streak?

Tiger: Masama loob. Nothing good.

Rick: Looks like you’re seething with anger. Sige, what do you think of the recent coaching problem that led to Bong dela Cruz being out? What do you know of it?

Tiger: First, I think he deserves to be punished if all the reported abuses are true... which i know are true. Pero, should he be fired? Yes. But that's getting ahead.. ang tanong diyan eh, was there a process involved before his contract was not renewed? Everything was left hanging. Parang the problem was swept under a rug and people wished it would all go away. I read an article that mentioned that Fr. Rector said yung kaso was under investigation pero may balita ba? Nothing came out of it. Pagkakataon ‘to to make a statement against bullying and other issues pero wala. No statement about the alleged abuses.

Which brings me back to the question... should Bong be fired? Were his transgressions big enough for him to be fired? Sa opinyon ko, yes. But not until the school admin went through a process that will determine his guilt, what should have been done, what needs to be done. Now meron nang bagong coach pero walang statement about what happened. This is not to embarrass anyone but this is a chance to clean house. I have a feeling that there wasn’t really an investigation. 

If you look at how everything unraveled... it all looks suspect to me. It has the feel that someone from within leaked information about whatever Bong was doing to the Varsitarian. 

Rick: Care to explain that?

Tiger: As far as I can recall, the Varsitarian has never written about controversies within the campus that easily. Very protective sila sa school. But this one, sans any real statements from any official, the details were out. Very detailed. I'm used to reading like "let's wait for further statements” or "it is under investigation.”

Rick: Devil’s advocate, baka naman directive yan ng editor-in-chief ng newspaper.

Tiger: Maybe. Maybigote. It smells like this was all planned.
Rick: Naku! 80s reference yan! But wow if true anyways! 

Tiger: Hindi natapos doon. Meron pa mga game fixing allegations at kung ano pa. Whether true or not, the school owes it to everyone to come clean on their findings. Like I said, they left it hanging. 

Rick: So you think someone leaked all this info? But if that happens there is a motive.

Tiger: Siguro it is to change the coach. But I suspect it is also to install someone.

Rick: How so?

Tiger: Feeling ko it must be somebody who wants to replace him. Review natin yung mga pangyayari. After news of the complaint versus Kevin (Ferrer) came out (regarding psychological abuse) on a teammate... it immediately led to Coach Bong. And then, immediately, there were rumours that he was suspended or fired. Days after rumours of Coach Bong's supposed dismissal, a few coaches applied… nothing unusual about that, right?

Except that, after a few days, there was a news that says Fr. Rector said there's no vacancy because Coach Bong wasn't fired. He was just asked to stay away from the team while an investigation was being conducted. How come there were applicants when there was no vacancy?

Rick: Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser. Baka opportunity yung tingin nila. Now, what does this mean to you as a die-hard Thomasian?

Tiger: According to some articles, Boy Sablan applied. Friends from within the team said (Estong) Ballesteros had yet to apply at the time the article came out. So, again, suspicious lang.

Rick: You seem unimpressed that Sablan is now the coach. 

Tiger: Kulang sa resume. During his time with Pido Jarencio, he was listed as "academic assistant.”

Rick: What the heck does academic assistant mean?

Tiger: Beats me. 

Rick: While of course, it is UST's decision on who they want, In your opinion who should be head coach?

Tiger: Ballesteros was one of Pido's main assistants. He coached UST in summer leagues. He was being groomed by Jarencio, as far as i know. Bal David's resume is also not as impressive as, let's say, Ballesteros. Other applicants like Bennet Palad have coaching experience. He was an assistant to John Flores in LSGH, he coached in Indonesia plus was one heck of a baller who played under great coaches and was okay in the pros.

Rick: Okay. Playing devil's advocate. Hindi kaya you're reacting na Boy isn't as known kasi Ateneo got Tab, La Salle got Aldin, and Adamson has Franz. But then again, not many Letran alumni knew Aldin either.

Tiger: As an alumnus, i am very disappointed that we will face these coaches who are somebody whereas we have someone who has little or no experience.

Okay naman sana whoever is appointed. Disappointing only because there doesn’t seem to be an extensive search for the next coach.

Rick: Devil’s advocate ulit. Pero si Pido wala rin experience when he came in 2006.

Tiger: But at least there was an honest to goodness coaching search.

Rick: Ah. So there! Maybe lightning will strike twice for UST with Sablan. Baka nga mas may experience siya kesyo kay Pido when he first arrived.

Tiger: Believe me, gusto ko mag-succeed si Sablan. Walang question diyan. But the circumstances behind his appointment is really disappointing. It's like he was hand-picked from the start.

Rick: Wow! That's heavy!

Tiger: The coaching staff looks all right naman. Coach Boy has an able assistant in Patrick Fran who played under great coaches and naging assistant din for a long time. If Coach Boy listens to him, he'll be okay. Coach Pido was a wily player who knew how to read situations. Even if he lacked experience when he came in, he had his extensive experience to draw from. 

Pero nandyan na. Suporta na lang kami. Gusto ko lang mag-vent.

Rick: Nandyan ka naman sa school mo why don’t you give them a piece of your mind.

Tiger: No comment.

Team Bali Pure: We need to get better in a hurry

Team Bali Pure: We need to get better in a hurry
by rick olivares

Big names don’t mean much unless team chemistry and match fitness come to fore. 

Team Bali Pure with its bevy of former Ateneo Lady Eagles stars with choice additions from San Beda and San Sebastian lost in four sets (25-23, 14-25, 25-19, 25-16) to Philippine Air Force in their Shakey’s V-League Open Conference debut last Monday, May 30.

The reunion of players who suited up for Ateneo from 2003-16 is a serendipitous moment. Even with several names still unavailable due to other commitments, the smiles and geek out moments were there in spite of the loss.

“We need to work on our team chemistry and fitness,” succinctly put in Bali Pure head coach Charo Soriano. “For me, it is also getting out of beach volleyball mode. I found myself still moving like a beach volleyball player. Haven’t really played indoor volleyball in a while. And we were only formed about a week ago. We need more practice time, competitive games, and workouts. Unfortunately, we will have to do this on the fly. But that is not an excuse. We need to work on a lot of things.”

“We beat Air Force in a tune up match,” added Dzi Gervacio who was one of the more consistent performers on Bali Pure along with Amy Ahomiro, Ella De Jesus, and Denden Lazaro who split time at the libero position with Alyssa Eroa. “But it is different when it’s a really competitive match in a real tournament. We have our work cut out for us.”

“I think it was cool to be with everyone,” enthused Lazaro. “I didn’t get to play with Charo and Karla (Bello) in the UAAP. When they graduated, the Fab Five entered, with me and Ella joining two years later. It was cool."

Bali Pure was leading in the first set before a spate of errors saw them go down. They played better in the second set to level the match. However, come the third set, aside from the outstanding serves of Air Force’s Dell Palomata, Bali Pure just looked too chill. By the time the had their game faces on, they were down 7-1. The six-point difference was maintained by PAF until set’s end.

“We fixed our schedules only today,” revealed Lazaro after the match. She is currently taking summer classes at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health. “We’ll be better for this.”

“I don’t think it is right for us to say that we’re missing Alyssa (Valdez) and Grethcel (Soltones). We have a lot of people to get the job done,” added Soriano. 

Janina Marciano, who starred for San Beda in college said that while she had fun playing with her new teammates, the match against Air Force was her first with the team. “I was excited to play alongside these girls. This game, unfortunately, was my first with them. So it was obvious we need to work on our chemistry. But we’ll be back.”

Balu Pure’s next match is against National University on Monday, June 6, 2016, at 6pm at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Jordan Clarkson talks about the Ateneo-La Salle Filoil match

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Jordan Clarkson talks about the Ateneo-La Salle Filoil match 
by rick olivares

Basketball star Jordan Clarkson was in the audience for the Ateneo-La Salle match in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup last Sunday, May 29 at the San Juan Arena. In town for a promotional tour for Nike, took some time off his busy schedule to take in a college basketball game, even if only for one half.

He was supposed to take part in the ceremonial jump ball but because of the traffic in the surrounding area, he arrived shortly after tip off.

The match between Ateneo and La Salle, the country’s two biggest sports rivals, was rather one-sided as the latter blew away the former, 98-66. However, Rappler got to talk to Clarkson about his thoughts on the game.

On the rivalry between the two squads:
Clarkson was excited to hear that when the two teams meet during the UAAP season, they play to crowds from 15,000 and up. “You say it is more intense than a PBA game? That should be interesting to watch. Those big crowds. The drums and cheers are crazy." 

On La Salle’s Ben Mbala:
After a Ben Mbala dunk, Clarkson raised his eyebrows and went, “Ooooohhhh! Throw it down! The boy’s got hops.”

Following another Mbala flush, a putback, Clarkson marveled, “That man (Mbala) is a one-man gang! He’s gonna fill the highlight reel.”

The Green Archers’ center finished with 28 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks.

On the match’s physicality and intensity:
As much as Mbala's dunks were riveting, the 23-year old guard of the Los Angeles Lakers looked for other things such as the battle in the post between Ateneo’s Vince Tolentino and La Salle’s Abu Tratter who were pushing, shoving, and elbowing one another. “The real battle is in the post. It’s getting very physical out there.”

On Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena:
“He’s got guts.”

When told that Blue Eagles’ point guard Shaggy Allmond bears an resemblance to him:
Clarkson laughed. And when Allmond buried a triple that was all net, he went, “Oh, yeah, Allmond! Book it!”

On Tab Baldwin on Ateneo’s coaching staff:
“You know he is going to make that team (the Blue Eagles) better."

Of all the players on the floor, clearly, Clarkson was impressed with La Salle’s Mbala. 

Clarkson will return to Manila in August. Hopefully, he said, he could catch the UAAP edition of the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry.

Jordan Clarkson holds on to the promise of playing for the Philippines

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Jordan Clarkson holds on to the promise of playing for the Philippines
by rick olivares

Jordan Clarkson was a curious courtside guest during the Ateneo-La Salle match in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup last Sunday, May 29, at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan. As soon as he took his seat, more than a dozen press photographers immediately swarmed around him. “This sure is different,” he said softly as he compared to how he is received her in the Philippines as opposed to playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA. “I mean it’s crazy there too but here, I think it’s crazier because people know I’ve got roots to this country. So that makes it personal.”


It is a tantalizing thought for the young and talented Clarkson to be playing alongside fellow NBA veteran Andray Blatche in leading the Philippines back to the Olympics. 

Back when the basketball world was young, the Philippines routinely made the world’s biggest sporting event. But the world, or at least Asia, has not only caught up, but it has surpassed what the country was known for — being the region’s hoops superpower.

Now to the world at large, the 1972 Munich Summer Games maybe be mostly remembered for the tragedy of the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered by terrorists. To this basketball-crazy republic, respectfully to the victims of the tragedy, it was also the last time the national team made the competition; making it a 44-year drought. With the revitalization of the Philippine National Team under the program of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, there is excitement, especially with the two silver-medal finishes in the FIBA Asia tourneys and now, the opportunity to sneak in through the backdoor via the Olympic Qualification Tournament this coming July. 

Clarkson, despite the noise of the college basketball match, found time to share his thoughts in this summer of excitement.

“Playing in the NBA is the fulfillment of a personal dream,” he said proudly. “What basketball-loving person doesn’t dream of that? It’s all I ever dream about. But if I can help lead the Philippines to Olympic glory or international success, then that’s fulfilling the dreams of millions of Filipinos. I’d love for it to happen as I get the best of both worlds.”

Coming over was one of the best experiences for him in his 23 years on this planet. “You hear about the extreme love for the game over here and it’s a great experience to be a part of it. When you see it for yourself, that’s the amazing part. I heard Kobe (Bryant, Clarkson’s former Lakers teammate) talk about how he was received here and how he loved it, it got me even more excited. And having a television commercial here was cool.”

Clarkson bared that watching the Philippines come oh-so close to booking the Olympic slot during the last FIBA Asia Championships in Changsha, China was painful to watch. “ It was disappointing to feel so helpless. I wanted to play so badly. I thought that I could help Dray (Blatche) and the guys. It was disappointing on so many levels, man."

The wheels of Clarkson’s release to play are turning so agonizingly slow yet the young lad still carries that torch of hope. “It is unfortunate that I still cannot wear the Gilas jersey. There’s a process that we’re going through with FIBA before we get clearance. Hopefully, it is sooner than later. But if and when that happens… you all watch out."

Team Bali Pure: The V-League pressure is fine

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Team Bali Pure: The V-League pressure is fine
by rick olivares

As soon as Bali Pure’s line-up was announced for the Shakey’s V-League’s Open Conference, the newly-formed squad was tabbed to be a contender for the championship alongside teams like the talent-laden Pocari Sweat, Air Force, and UP Lady Maroons squads.

With names like Alyssa Valdez, Grethcel Soltones, Denden Lazaro, Alyssa Eroa, and Janine Marciano to name a few, the squad is loaded. 

The pressure? In a conversation with Bali Pure team manager Johnny Filart and coach Charo Soriano last Wednesday, May 25, during Ateneo volleyball team manager Tonyboy Liao’s birthday bash, both welcomed it and talked about the pressure that comes along with being labeled as a contender.

Johnny Filart on the formation of Bali Pure:
“The formation of Bali Pure was a result of the fact that Ateneo as a school disallowed using their current students for the team or participating in the league. Otherwise we would have gotten an all-Ateneo team. When the opportunity for forming a team for the V-League presented itself, we went into it. We’re fortunate that many of the former Ateneo volleyball players were available. As for the team being together for the long term — we’ll cross the bridge when we get there."

Why isn’t Tai Bundit the coach? 
"For one, Pocari Sweat got to him first. Second, we decided to put a team together only after. So we got the next best coach for the team in Charo Soriano. Principally you have a one-woman management person in Charo Soriano. She can be coach, she play, she is very good organizationally. I think we have all seen what she (and you also have to give credit to Bea Tan) has done for Beach Volleyball Republic and her own businesses." 

Charo on Bali Pure’s composition and the pressure of contending: 
"There are always apprehensions when taking on something new like this team. Stopping for several years and coaching again, it is something I am not prepared for. But in life when opportunities present themselves, instead of me being scared, I am ready to embrace it fully. That’s how you get better."

"As for the team, having great individuals with their awards and accomplishments that doesn’t mean a championship is automatic. You have to earn it." 

"For Bali Pure, I am taking the coaching job very seriously. If it were any other roster even if they are just as good or better, I would probably think it many times over. It helps when you know them or have played with them. I feel comfortable talking to them." 

Team Bali Pure: Charo Soriano, Alyssa Valdez, Grethcel Soltones, Angeline Gervacio, Bea Tan, Janine Marciano, Amy Ahomiro, Dennise Lazaro, Alyssa Eroa, Mae Tajima, Karla Bello, Jem Ferrer, Ella De Jesus, and Ivana Agbayani.

The Utility Man (of the UP Fighting Maroons)

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The Utility Man (of the UP Fighting Maroons)
by rick olivares

Mang Rod could see it coming. Arellano Chiefs Ariel Atienza was probing UP Fighting Maroon Henry Asilum as he looked for a receiver just past the halfcourt line. The graduating point guard picked up his dribble. Fatal mistake. Atienza was a ball hawking and thieving type.

Mang’s Rod’s eyes bulged as soon as Atienza poked the ball free and before Asilum could react, the Chief who is built like a Philippine marine was high tailing it down the opposite direction. 

Basket. Bucket. The layup dampened UP’s moment as they had cut down what was a double digit lead down to six. Atienza’s bucket ignited a huge run for Arellano that put them firmly in control of the match that they eventually won by 15 points.

Rodolfo Yanuario didn’t shake his head. He bit his lip and urged his team to fight on.

If you ask folks associated with the Fighting Maroons’ basketball team, they know the rotund and amiable utilityman by his nick name of “Mang Rod” more than his full name or even surname. I asked a couple of Maroons if they knew his real first name or his surname. One bravely ventured “Roderick” while the others weren’t sure what his last name is.

They can be forgiven, I think, because that doesn’t make their affection for Mang Rod any less. All they know is — as legend would say — he’s as old as the 108-year university. Mang Rod laughs at the assertion. 

“It would be nice to have seen university’s beginnings,” he lets out a hearty laugh. “That would be interesting. Sad to disappoint them but I have served UP since 1971. In 1972, I began my long association with the Fighting Maroons as their utility man.”

Yanuario used to dutifully work the UP Gym mopping the floors and making sure the facility was spic and span. He felt proud that the team worked out there and the facilities — at least back then — were first rate. 

One day, then head coach Fely Fajardo spied him cleaning the basketball court. “He asked me if I played the game,” recounts Mang Rod. “He also asked if I knew how to officiate. I understood and played the game but not refereeing. He taught me how to do it in two weeks and from there on, he gave me a job as the team’s utility man (for extra pay).

Mang Rod has seen the university change from the turbulent First Quarter Storm to the even more frightening days that preceded the People Power Revolution. He’s been there for the good years of UP basketball and the very very lean years when they weren’t winning anything. Thus, he too claims to have seen every single Fighting Maroons basketball game since he joined the team as a utility man/referee. Even when he was sick, he never abandoned his post. “That’s how much I love this team,” he proclaims. 

He’s been through a veritable list of who’s who in coaching from Fajardo to Jun Bernardino, Dave Perez, Sigfred Guerrero, Joe Lipa, Mon Bernabe, Rey Madrid, Nic Jorge, Orly Bauzon, Eric Altamirano, Ryan Gregorio, Lito Vergara, Aboy Castro, Boyet Fernandez, Ricky Dandan, Rensy Bajar, and Bo Perasol. 

As a tidbit, former FEU star and coaching great Arturo Valenzona coached the squad for one week before deciding the assignment was not fit for him.

Then like some sage sharing his wisdom, he begins to recount those days of how Benjie Paras used to be such a prankster, how Ronnie Magsanoc had to sit out games because of studies, the 1986 championship, the tantalizing years when they had Paolo Mendoza, Bryan Gahol and company, of players lost to academics and to the national team that stymied the Maroons’ efforts to win a crown, of big games and devastating losses. 

“When Eric (Altamirano) and Ronnie (Magsanoc) were on the floor, we were almost unbeatable. And when Benjie came over… that was one of the greatest things to happen to us as a team and as a school."

“Bo (Perasol)?” shares Mang Rod. “He was the very studious type. He didn’t have the most talent but he gave 120% of himself all the time he was on the court."

Of everything that he has seen and been through, it is no surprise that he calls Joe Lipa’s three tours of duty with the team as those that he treasures the most. “Joe… is a gentleman and a genius of the first order,” Mang Rod says. 

During Lipa’s first tour, he even would give his salary to Mang Rod to make ends meet. “I remember when Coach Joe handed me his pay,” recalls Yanuario with a tear in his eye. “I refused him, of course. But he put the money in my hand and didn’t want me returning it. All he wanted was for me to serve the team and the school.”

It has been 45 years and counting for Rodolfo Yanuario. Of his five kids, four studied at UP and graduated. He is retired from from the school and yet, he still serves the team. 

However, this season is possibly his last on duty. He clearly cannot do what he used to do -- officiating scrimmages for the team, massaging players and coaches, carrying the team’s gear, and any thing else the coaches ask him to do. At 70 years of age, he now needs a cane to help him walk. He’s just there. Offering words of advice and still trying to prep the gym for the team.

This summer, the team has trained mostly outside the UP Gym as Perasol wants no one else outside the coaching staff and management present. They know that Mang Rod still prepares the gym and feels a little hurt that they aren’t there. “The coaches assured me that when the school year starts, they’ll be back,” he says. 

The Fighting Maroons have gotten better over the past few years. With better team support, better players, things have been looking up for State U.

“The years where we didn’t win anything,” Mang Rod says. “they were tough to swallow. But my belief in them never wavered. It will turn around. And I think we have a very good coach.”

“In UP,” shares Ryan Gregorio. “After the Oblation, one other icon, especially those who are involved in the College of Human Kinetics is Mang Rod. He’s been there through thick and thin."

Although the Fighting Maroons succumbed to the loaded Arellano Chiefs, the team wasn’t too down. They knew that their foes were loaded with veterans while the Fighting Maroons were mostly a young squad. “We’re working on some things, small things; getting better,” Perasol notes after the match. “The change won’t happen overnight. I am very familiar with the process.”

The players slap hands. “Next game. Next game.” cries third year guard Diego Dario. 

“Next game,” repeats Mang Rod. He’ll be there. And maybe too for another season.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Interviewing Jordan Clarkson.... story later.

San Beda crushes Letran, FEU downs CSB

This appears in the Monday, May 30, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

San Beda crushes Letran, FEU downs CSB
by rick olivares

The San Beda Red Lions got two huge scoring spurts, first from William Navarro and then from Javee Mocon to blow a close game wide open for a 84-70 win against nemesis Letran durng Sunday’s Filoil Flying V Premier Cup at the San Juan Arena.

Navarro, the Filipino-Greek recruit of San Beda nailed back-toback triples and an undergoal stab for a 38-34 San Beda lead going into the half. Mocon, the incoming junior of the Red Lions presided over a 10-point scoring spree to open the third period, and a 48-40 lead, one that Letran never recovered from.

The Red Lions downplayed the revenge angle against Letran that upset their six-peat NCAA ambitions last season but it was evident they wanted to send a message to their rivals.

“You can call it what it is,” said head coach Jamike Jarin whose team climbed to 4-1 (Letran fell to 2-4). “We’re just trying to get better.”

San Beda shot 49% from the field and dominated Letran in almost every department. The Red Lions won the battle of the boards 46-36, had more assists 21-16, as well as second chance (10-6) and turnover (11-6) points.

Mocon led San beda with 19 points. Second year center Donald Tankoua added 17 while Navarro finished with 15 markers on 4-5 shooting.

The FEU Tamaraws went to a familiar weapon to notch a 64-55 win over the College of St. Benilde Blazers in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup — defense.

The Blazers’ confidence was soaring following a sensational putback dunk by Yankee Haruna to start the fourth period. That ignited an 8-0 run that was followed by back-to-back triples by JJ Domingo and Fons Saavedra for a 46-43 lead with 6:49 to play. 

FEU countered by hounding CSB’s guards and center Prince Orizu shutting down the lane. Jojo Trinidad forced Domingo to two consecutive errors while the 6’10” Orizu swatted away three shots to regain control of the match. The Blazers however, remained within striking distance after Saavedra stuck in an undergoal shot to make it 54-50 with 2:32 to play.

The Tamaraws then gave CSB a taste of its own three-point shooting prowess when Rey Bienes and Wendell Comboy hit consecutive triples to break the Blazers’ backs. 

“I told the team that it all starts with defense,” said FEU first assistant coach Eric Gonzales who stepped in for head tactician Nash Racela who was still in Bangkok with the national team after their Seaba victory. “After we lost a lot of players, we need to find our identity. We can start off by playing defense. Our desire to play defense down the stretch will matter."

The Tams held the Blazers to 33% shooting from the field on top of dominating the rebounding and steals category 49-44 and 6-1 respectively. 

Orizu finished with a double double of 12 points and 10 rebounds while Richard Escoto also scored 12 points of his own. 

Former FEU Baby Tamaraw Christian Fajarito who is now with Benilde continued his vastly improved game by pacing CSB with 10 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks.

FEU moved to 3-3 while CSB tumbled to its fifth loss in six outings.

In other seniors matches, National University squeaked past stubborn Emilio Aguinaldo College, 72-68, in the first match. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Thoughts about the NU Lady Bulldogs’ Shakey’s V-League S13 debut

This appears in the Monday, May 30, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

Thoughts about the NU Lady Bulldogs’ Shakey’s V-League S13 debut
by rick olivares

The “new look” National University Lady Bulldogs defeated the Laoag Power Smashers in four sets — 25-21, 20-25, 25-23, 25-21 — to win their opening assignment of the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference.

“New look” in the sense that Roger Gorayeb had only 11 players in the line-up and he played nine of them and there were some tweaks — Risa Sato was finally in a NU uniform, Roma Doromal was given some playing time, and Jasmine Nabor, who played the utility position last year was now the setter (since Rica Diolan decided that she was better off elsewhere).

While it is the off-season and it’s a time for learning (back to the basics for NU), the pressure if less. However, it certainly doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t perform.

What did I like about their performance?
I thought they had a different disposition about them — sunnier, more smiles. Maybe it’s the freshness of the new season. Maybe it’s because they are moving on from the debacle of last season. Whatever it is, there was a joy to them even when Laoag took the lead in the second set. This led to looseness but not in a bad way. They were having fun. They were diving for balls. Hustling. 

And I have never seen Gorayeb applaud the efforts of his team in this manner before. 

Grading Risa Sato (middle hitter)
Showed glimpses of what she can do — block, hit, dig. Now that her first game with NU is done, she has to show it more consistently. She should help shore up their blocking.

Gayle Valdez (libero)
Did all right. But am looking for her to play a better supporting role behind the blockers.

Jasmine Nabor (setter)
In her two years in high school, she played setter. She moved to the open and utility positions after that until this summer when Gorayeb asked her to play the role again. I thought that last season she played well and this time, I think she’s even better.

Look at her match stats - 10 points, 4 block points (tied with Jaja Santiago), 3 service aces, and 31 excellent sets

There is so much more that the stats do not say.

On three occasions, the ball was over received and before a Laoag middle hitter could send it back emphatically, Nabor managed to reel it back it and perfectly set up Santiago for a powerful spike. That was impressive considering it fooled the blockers and left the Power Smashers open to a power smash.

And similar to how UP’s plays Nicole Tiamzon as an opposite player and alternate setter, when the need arises, she too can hit that ball. And she did. 

Furthermore, Jasmine displayed even better instincts in saving and digging the ball. 

I know that NU has a Fil-Am setter coming in so where this leaves Nabor, I am not sure. Maybe it will be like how UP coach Jerry Yee alternated setter Jewel Lai and Tiamzon when one faltered.

Earlier, I talked about the team’s disposition. I think they fed off on Nabor’s effervescence. I even pointed this out on numerous occasions to National University Athletic Director Chito Loyzaga and UAAP Board Representative Nilo Ocampo. 

Also as I said earlier, let’s see how they fare against Pocari Sweat next Wednesday, June 1. The Michelle Gumabao-led squad took down UP in three sets in the nightcap of Opening Day.

The smiles and buoyancy — after Gorayeb entered the team locker room following the traditional post-match interviews, the entire team erupted with “yays!”

It’s not a championship. It’s just a new attitude. Or at least they hope so.

San Sebastian Stags take down Perpetual Help Altas

This appears in the Saturday, May 28, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

Stags take down Altas
by rick olivares

The hard-luck San Sebastian Golden Stags dedicated an impressive 80-70 win over the University of Perpetual Help to injured teammates Michael Calisaan and Rhanzelle Yong in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup.

Without Calisaan, who is averaging 18.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in the tournament, Jerick Fabian and Alvin Capobres picked up the leadership and scoring slack with each scoring 20 points. The two of them alone outscored the Altas’ three double digit scorers of Gab Daganon, AJ Coronel, and Flash Sadiwa who combined for 37 points.

Calisaan was involved in a motorcycle accident last Sunday, May 22, while at a fiesta in his hometown of  Sta. Rita, Pampanga. He suffered a mouth injury where he lost six teeth. He is expected to be out for at least one month but should be ready for the upcoming NCAA season. Yong is also out of the lineup for an entire season following a knee injury.

The Perpetual Help Altas were not without their own missing players as their Cameroonian reinforcements Bright Akhuetie and Prinze Eze were also unavailable for the game. Akhuetie was at the PCBL Finals with Mighty Sports while Eze stayed inside the locker room as he was under the weather. 

Without their Africans, the Altas were killed off the boards by the Stags, 47-39, who scored eight second chance points while the former laid a big fat egg in that department.

The normally sharp Altas were listless and uncoordinated. They committed 23 turnovers and blew six uncontested layups including two in the dying minutes of the match. 

“This was a good win for us as we all know that Perpetual Help is a very good team even without their imports,” said SSCR head coach Edgar Macaraya. “I know they did not play their usual game but that’s sports. I am proud of our defensive effort especially in the rebounds category since we aren’t very tall.”

Friday, May 27, 2016

Got my customized Alyssa Valdez Pop!

A conversation with Ateneo Blue Eagle CJ Perez

A conversation with and about Ateneo’s CJ Perez
by rick olivares pic by arvin lim

While the Ateneo-Letran match yesterday, Thursday, May 26, isn’t CJ Perez’ first for the Blue Eagles as he has played for them in Team B while serving his residency, it is his first in a tourney that is considered one of the biggest outside the mainsteam UAAP/NCAA and Champions League what with the drums, bigger media attention, television coverage, and others.

Besides, this is where Manila audiences first got their glimpse of him when he played for San Sebastian three years ago.

While playing for Ateneo Team B, he led the Blue Eagles to a Got Skills and Fr. Martin’s Cup championship. Being a recruit, he knows expectations are high. 

Perez arrived a few minutes before the Blue Eagles ran out to the court for their warm-ups after having hurdled some academic concerns. Even with not much preparation, the 6’1” forward gave a good account of himself in a mere 12 minutes of play with 8 points, 8 rebounds (four off the offensive glass), and 1 assist. 

Following the 66-53 win, Ateneo coach Sandy Arespacochaga pronounced himself “happy” with Perez’ performance considering his — and his teammates - long 20-day layoff as it was the university’s final examination period. 

Rick: The Blue Eagles had control of the game from the start against Letran. Clearly, the crowd was waiting for you to enter the game. You looked rusty but were still effective. Your thoughts?

CJ: Yeah. It was only yesterday where I got to practice with the team again. I was out concentrating on my studies — not an easy thing. So there was some gigil coming on to the court. There were moments when I wanted to push it and also moments where I pulled back to work within the system.

Rick: Do you feel like there is pressure on you to help or even carry this team?

CJ: There is! Maybe it’s the pre-season so I don’t feel it too much but I am sure come UAAP, it will grow. I think any time you play for a big school especially for Ateneo, there will always be pressure. Anyone who is recruited by Ateneo will feel the pressure. However, my teammates, coaches, and management have been supportive. I hope that I can handle it well.

Rick: Okay, in spite of the pressure and expectations, how do you feel about wearing the blue and white?

CJ: Am excited! I never thought I’d play here all my life. Never thought about it my dreams or even any thought. When they recruited me, my first thought was, ‘Is this for real? Me? Ayos!’ But this is a big chance for me.

Rick: Obviously, the system is different from the run and gun style you played in San Sebastian. How are you adjusting to that?

CJ: Not easy. But not only for me but also for the rest of the team. It’s good to be under Coach Tab because it is a pro-style offense and it prepares you also for the next stage. Hopefully, I get to play in the PBA. But that’s not right now. Right now, it’s playing for Ateneo. But it’s an adjustment.

After talking to CJ, we spoke with Letran’s McJour Luib who faced Perez when he was in San Sebastian.

Rick: What do you think of CJ Perez’ Filoil debut for Ateneo?

Luib: Not yet the Perez that we know and what he can do. Maybe there’s a period of adjustment. But if they know how to use his talents, he will be a big asset for them.

Rick: What do you think he brings to the Blue Eagles?

Luib: Athleticism, speed… when he went for the offensive rebound and lay up (off a missed Hubert Cani triple)? He came from the left wing, grabbed an offensive rebound, and put it back in! (Ateneo’s Chibueze Ikeh and GBoy Babilonia and Letran’s Rey Nambatac, JP Calvo, Jom Sollano, and Felix Apreku were all inside the lane at that point but Perez still got the rebound).