The Air Up There

Midas Hotel
May 19, 2013
The Air Up There

On one sleepy Sunday while covering chess somewhere in Pasay City, I received an e-mail message from a friend Rick Olivares, who has his own blog site named Bleacher’s Brew and media officer of the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, informing me of Filoil’s recent weekly individual awardees. You see, the tournament awards the week’s best performers and at least for this week alone, Africans ruled the fray.
There was Perpetual Help’s Nose Omorogbe, who was adjuged the Master Player of the Week after carring the Altas on his broad shoulders in an 84-59 rout of the Jose Rizal Bombers. It was the Las Pinas-based dribblers’ first win in five starts, probably the biggest reason the Nigerian took the weekly plum.
Omorogbe also made it into the Gatorade Best Five that included National U’s Bobby Ray Parks, Jr., St. Benilde’s Mark Romero, Santo Tomas’ Aljon Mariano and fellow African, Parks’ teammate Alfred Aroga of Cameroon.
Interestingly, it was also the 6-foot-7 Aroga, who will make his UAAP debut this coming season, who bagged rhe Gatorade Defensive Player of the Week honor having compiled 31 rebounds, a steal and seven blocked shots. If it ain’t a MONSTER defensive performance, I don’t know what is.

I’m writing about this because, I know you’ve also noticed it right now, of the prolifiration of African imports in the local collegiate basketball scene. I mean, let’s count it. Almost every team in the UAAP, NCAA and other Metro Manila teams and outside it like in Cebu have imports of the African variety.
Perpetual actually has two aside from Omorogbe, he’s Femi Babayemi also of Nigeria. For the Bulldogs, they have three in Aroga, Emmanuel Mbe and Henri Betayene, all from Cameroon, although only Aroga and Mbe will get to play this year because of the two-import maximum per team.
Three-peat NCAA titlist San Beda has a Nigerian behemoth in Ola Adeogun. La Salle will have Ben Mbala, a transferee from Southwestern U, in a couple of years. Speaking of SWU, the reigning CESAFI or Cebu college champion, it has two more Africans in the fridge and appeared to have more in the cabinet after losing Mbala to the Archers. Their cross-street rival, University of Visayas, has Steve Akomo.

Ateneo has reportedly two Africans waiting in the wings. Emilio Aguinaldo have two including Noube Happi, who was an MVP contender in last year’s NCAA season. Santo Tomas has Karim Abdul also of Cameroon. University of the East has 6-7 Charles Mammie of Sierra Leone this year and Moustapha Arafat next year. For those who haven’t seen Arafat, he is 6-8 but plays like a wing man. I personally saw him in Bacolod in October last year when he carried the Warriors to the University Games finals.
Adamson has this mammoth of an import in Ingrid Sewa of Cameroon, who is as big as a bulldozer.

And there are probably more coming.
There are pros and cons in the African invasion. There’s the argument that getting foreign re-inforcements deprives striving local players minutes and a chance to shine. That’s why the NCAA has already implemented a new rule stopping recruitment of these foreign cagers starting this year. Some argue that having the Africans and other imports are part of the growing trend not just in the United States but also all over the world of recruiting these international players. Come to think of it, if we want our local players to get first hand experience playing taller, stronger players, we should embrace this new culture. Because some of these local players will represent the country in future tournaments. Having them in their younger years will help all our talents grow somehow.

And oh. They’re enjoyable to watch too. Try watching games in the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup. Rick and I enjoyed watching and covering games there. These Africans lend excitement to college basketball.
Which got me to the question on where did these college sports officials and recruiters get the idea of getting Africans? Perhaps they watched too many movies. I’m guessing its the 1994 comedy film starring Kevin Bacon that is top on their list: “The Air Up There.”

Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

(Photos courtesy of Filoil Flying V Sports)


2 thoughts on “The Air Up There

  1. While a lot of pundits point to San Beda College and Samuel Ekwe for starting the recent influx of African exchange students, the practice was being done a long time ago. How many remember UE’s Omar Liban Ali from Somalia and PSBA-QC’s Smith Jallah of Liberia? They were just average players unlike Samuel who was talented enough to power his team to many championships.


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