UAAP Season 76 Preview Final Part

Rancho Palos Verdes, Davao City June 27, 2013 UAAP Season 76 Preview Final Part (Last of two parts) On this one humid morning on this golf course deep down South, I was following hole for hole this Dutchman named Guido van der Valk, who has been solid as a rock these first two days of competition on the Rancho Palos Verdes Classic. After 12 holes and with six holes remaining on Day 2 and 18 more the final day, he continues to lead the way with a 6-under score, or two shots ahead of the field. But then I took a break, perhaps to rehydrate because I’m starting to feel dizzy. Perhaps from exhaustion. So here I am, sitting in the clubhouse with ICTSI PR man Ronel Javier and this Mario who handles the livescoring of the ongoing golf tournament here in Davao while drinking Gatorade and perusing on some stories on the internet. And then Rick Olivares, who writes for Business Mirror, his own blog Bleacher’s Brew and another freelance PR man, chatted with me in Facebook asking me to email him the NCAA schedule. I then tell him to give me a minute, which I did pronto. Then we chatted more about this coming 76th UAAP cage season unfurling on Saturday at the MOA Arena in Pasay City. I also tell him that I read somewhere Ateneo is being ranked fifth, yes fifth, by some self-proclaimed experts. I mean, can you believe this? The Eagles, the five-peat UAAP champions, are ranked only fifth? Never mind that they lost key players like seven-footer Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, Justin Chua and some other crucial pieces. But they’re the defending champions. Why show disrespect? But Rick and I ended our conversation by concluding that this is a democratic country and anyone can write anything under the sun as long as you’re within the boundaries of journalism, even if its plain and downright stupid. We wouldn’t want to be those Senators who attempted to curtail press freedom with that IDIOTIC Cyber crime law, right? So we’re here, going for the finishing kick with the final instalment of  Sportsmayosep’s two-part UAAP Season 76 primer. And with help from Madam Auring and her crystal ball, we release the cracken. And we’ll start with… La Salle (4th, 9-5) Why it would win. You know that if you have a player in Jeron Teng’s caliber, you go places. And surround him with energy guys and tenacious role players, things are going to be better. I like their rookies too, Jason Perkins, Robert Bolick, Jr. and this talented kid from Bacolod City named Kib Montalbo. Perkins, in particular, is the most impressive. He doesn’t only look like Kendrick Perkins of the Oklahoma City Thunder but also plays the same way with more offensive punch. They are complete in every position. They’re young, energetic. You name it. They’re just too darn deep. If Teng hums, the Archers are hard to stop. Image Why it would not. Just a couple of weeks before the UAAP season unfurls, Petron management recalled former coach Gee Abanilla and La Salle installed Juno Sauler. Abanilla ended up taking over the head-coaching job at Petron while Sauler will make his rookie debut as a collegiate head coach. I’m not saying I have no faith in Sauler, but let me put this on record that I like Sauler, but being a rookie is like you’re at bat, you can hit it or miss it. The Archers will also feel the absence of wiry big man Yutien Andrada, who tore an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) a couple of months back and will be out. Teng’s excruciating inconsistency in the pre-season was also a bad sign. If Teng continues to fire hot and cold, La Salle will be in trouble. Madam Auring: As long as Teng keeps lighting it up, I wouldn’t be surprised if La Salle makes it to the Final Four. And I’m sure they will. But I have this uncomfortable feeling about La Salle entering the season with only 13 players. Ain’t No. 13 an unlucky number? National U (3rd, 9-5) Why it would win it. NU is the most intact team this year and it further shore up its already loaded roster with the addition of bruiser Alfred Aroga from Cameroon and sweet-shooter JJ Alejandro from Mapua. Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. remains one of the best, if not the best, players in the league right now and a third straight UAAP MVP trophy is not far-fetched. Cameroonian Emmanuel Mbe will remain a starter. Jeff Javellonar is a calming presence for the Bulldogs with his grit, toughness, hustle and defense. I like Denice Villamor, he and his long-range shooting. I haven’t even mentioned coach Eric Altamirano, who just knows how to win. They’ve won all kinds of tournaments, the University Games in Bacolod City last October, the Fr. Martin Cup last month. NU also nearly swept its way to the title in the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup crown if UE hadn’t intervened to snatch it away. Regardless, this is the year NU could go all the way. Image Why it would not. Lack of championship experience will play a factor as displayed in its finals game in the Filoil Cup where it was unmasked by UE. Madam Auring: NU is a Final Four shoe in. I see the Bulldogs making the finals. The championship? It will really be up to NU if it wants to play “Who let the dogs out” by the Baha men or “Loser” by Beck. University of Santo Tomas (2nd, 10-4) Why it would win it. Like NU, UST has bench depth. Let’s do a Shakespeare and count the ways: Karim Abdul. Kevin Ferrer. Jeric Teng. Aljon Mariano. I call them the “Fantastic Four” because, I know you will agree with me, they’re the best, most seasoned starting core in the UAAP this season. Pido Jarencio, one of Sportsmaryosep’s favorite coaches, is a tricky coach who likes to play underdog, Fernando Poe, Jr. type, and then surprising everyone with a burst of punches, ala The King. NU coach Eric Altamirano best surmised it during the season presser last Tuesday: “For me UST is the team to beat because coach Pido has this ability to hide his players’ true strength in the pre-season and then unleash it come UAAP time.” Jarencio has these for an answer: “Nagpapasalamat ako sa NU kasi sa unang pagkakataon, napagbintangan kaming kami ang paborito sa UAAP.” Need I say more? Image Why it would not. Jeric Fortuna’s absence left a gaping hole in UST’s back court. In the pre-season, I didn’t see anyone who even came close to at least being half the player that Fortuna is, who, by the way, is the smartest, wiliest point guards I’ve seen in recent times. Madam Auring: Another legitimate title contender. The only way UST could miss the Final Four is if the Tigers replace their Ps (Puso, Palaban, Pride) with these Ps (Pasaway, Patalo). Otherwise, it could be 2006 all over again. Ateneo (Champion, 12-2) Why it would win. Kiefer Ravena is Kiefer Ravena. Talented. Strong-willed. Clutch. Ravena though is slowed down by injury. But according to an Ateneo insider, he will play in the Eagles’ season opener against NU on Sunday. Its the clash of the Titans. This will be Kiefer’s team with Slaughter already out. I love Fil-Am Chris Newsome and his athleticism. Frank Golla has shown he deserves the starting center span with his solid pre-season play. I also see this season as Von Pessumal’s coming out party. Juami Tiongson should be the starting point guard. Bo Perasol is also a nice fit to an Ateneo team that is undergoing a rebuilding phase. They’re not as deep as last year but the Eagles packed the same punch with Ravena and Newsome in it. Image Why it would not. Injuries have been the key issue on why Ateneo pulled out after the elimination of the Filoil Cup. And it still is. Their plastic-thin, Slaughter-Salva-less interior defense is exploitable. Perasol, as experienced as a PBA coach that he is, will dip his hands to an entirely different plane, which is collegiate basketball. I like Perasol’s disposition but I’m scared for him because if Ateneo ended up failing this year, it will be on his account. Madam Auring: Whoever said Ateneo is ranked fifth is full of baloney. If I were them, I will be scared because Kiefer Ravena will take this to heart. Barring major injuries (knock on wood.), I expect Kiefer to come out with monster games day after day. Newsome is also electrifying. Pessumal too. And oh, have you heard of these warning before: DON’T. UNDERESTIMATE. THE. HEART. OF. A. CHAMPION. Fearless forecast: I see seven of eight teams having a strong chance of winning the title this year. UST, NU, UE being the strongest and not necessarily in order. I’m expecting the season to be one of the most closely-fought. No disrespect to UP. I mean love the Maroons, been my sentimental favorite ever since, but I’m hoping and praying it will NOT finish last. I also have this hunch that if Ateneo ends up making the Final Four and eventually the finals, I would say all bets are off. What were you saying Rick Olivares? “Anim-o Ateneo?” Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar Image (Photos courtesy of Filoil Flying V and August dela Cruz)

UAAP Season 76 Preview Part 1

Manila Yacht Club
June 24, 2013
UAAP Season 76 primer Part I
(First of a two-part series)

Wearing a red shirt and a blue jeans, Boycie Zamar walked into the second floor of the dining area of the Manila Yacht Club in Roxas Boulevard and sat on the first table near the door where Sportsmaryosep, Libre sports editor Dennis Eroa, Pilipino Star sports editor Beth Repizo, Abante sports editor Virgie Romano, Manila Bulletin veteran scribe Clyde Mariano, People’s Journal columnist Lito Cinco, Business Mirror reporter Jonathan Perez and University of the East media liaison officer Leo Gaviola sat. He chatted for a while, cracking some one-liners and old jokes with the people on the table, most of whom were there when he was still starting to coach.

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Zamar then reminisced on the good old days when the UE Warriors, sorry for the cliche, used to paint the town red. How could he not, he was part of the golden era of the UE days. Zamar was specifically recalling the 80s when the Recto-based dribblers won back-to-back titles from 1984 to 1985. Most of you were probably not born during that time when Zamar played side by side with Allan Caidic and Jerry Codinera. Caidic, of course, is known as the “Triggerman” and Codinera the “Defense Minister.” Legends are what they are being named to the elite 25 greatest players by the PBA. Those twin championships also happened to be Zamar’s first two years as a basketball player. He also recalled being part of the UE team that finished second to UP in 1986 and then Ateneo the next year. In 1988, Zamar ended his UAAP career with a third place finish.
He also talked about being drafted by Alaska in 1990, Tim Cone’s debut season as a PBA mentor, but eventually didn’t make the team because the guards during those times were the more illustrious Frankie Lim, Bong Alvarez and Ric Ric Marata. Fast forward to the present and you have Zamar and the Warriors staring at a possible UAAP championship this coming Season 76.
“We’re ready for the UAAP tournament,” beams Zamar, whose UE Warriors hosted an appreciation lunch with print and online media men Monday, which happens to interestingly coincide with the Manila and San Juan Day. Although there’s optimism in Zamar’s voice, which could probably be attributed to UE shocking National U to cop the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup title a few weeks back, he thinks its still going to be a wide open race. “Anyone can beat anyone,” he says.
And so it is.
That’s why Sportsmaryosep is summoning the powers of Madam Auring and her crystal ball to analyze one by one how the teams are going to fare in Season 76. It’s not a perfect (witch) craft, but we’re doing it anyway just for you guys, who are all loyal to Sportsmaryosep. We’ll start from the bottom placed team last year and crawl all the way to the top. And it starts with…

University of the Philippines (8th, 1-13)
Why it would win. Tata Marata has always been a favorite of mine even starting in his high school years with UPIS. Its disappointing though his stint with the La Salle Archers didn’t turn out well. I’m glad he’s burning his last year of UAAP eligibility where it all began–UP. He will be a force for sure. I also like this big man named Raul Soyud. He’s not as athletic as your next-door center, but man, he can mix it up with the best of them inside due to his penchant for positioning well for loose balls and offensive rebounds. He also has a soft hands from the outside. This Chris Ball, JR Gallarza and Cebuano point guard Henry Asilum are also promising. There’s this rookie and former Energen Pilipinas player from Xavier who is also suiting up for the Maroons this year, his name is Kyles Lao. Andre Paras, son of former PBA Rookie MVP Benjie, is also another neophyte to watch out for.

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Why it would not. The injury of Paolo Romero, former Ateneo Blue Eaglet who was supposed to be in the starting line up, should take its toll on UP’s campaign. The Maroons, save for some, are a relatively young team particularly their guards. For a team that is not that tall, their three-point shooting is warily inconsistent, if not poor.
Madam Auring: For sure, the Maroons will improve their effort from last year. If not, its going to flood with tears in Diliman again.
University of the East (7th, 3-11)
Why it would win. They’ve topped the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup by beating the heavily favored Bulldogs. If that isn’t enough reason, at least consider it a strong statement. Roi Sumang has completed his transformation from pedestrian to elite point guard. Charles Mammie of Sierra Leone is a beast. Migs Noble, the last link to that team that swept the elims five years back, is playing like the veteran that he is. They’ve got some nice role players too like Gino Jumao-as, Ralf Olivarez, Chris Javier and Jay-ar Sumido who can click it if given a chance. Most importantly, this team has been playing and training together since October last year, or just right after Season 75 ended. In short, they’ve participated in every tournament possible and imaginable, big and small, local and international, and winning five titles in the process including the Filoil tilt and the Fr. Martin Cup early this year. Chemistry will also be a key.

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Why it would not. I see a few reasons why UE will not perform big. But if there is such, it will be when Mammie and Sumang underperform.
Madam Auring: Barring major injuries, UE is a shoe-in to the Final Four. And if it summons the same resolve it did in the pre-season, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up gatecrashing into the finals, and perhaps, win the crown and end a long 28-year title drought.
Adamson Falcons (6th, 3-11)
Why it would win. There are two biggest reasons why the Falcons will soar this year. And its Jericho Cruz and Cameroonian behemoth Ingird Sewa. Cruz reminds me of… yes LeBron James. He has it all. He can score inside and out, pass, rebound and defend all positions with his size effortlessly. Sewa, for his part, can occupy massive space and should be a dominant force. Rodney Brondial, who did well last year, is still struggling but should find his groove soon, which is bad news to the rest of the league. Roider Cabrera will be the gunslinger that this team needs and I expect them go firing on all cylinders. Leo Austria is also a coach who has the ability to win it. Look at his titles in the defunct PBL and, most recently, the Asean Basketball League where he lead the San Miguel Beermen to this year’s title.

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Why it would not. The bench has much to be desired. Sewa, on the other hand, occupies space too much that he sometimes slow down dribble penetrators by the Falcons. Their perimeter shooting borders from below average to average. In order to create space for Sewa on the offensive end, the shooters must connect.

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Madam Auring: Before UE won the title, I put the Falcons as an automatic Final Four entrant. I still see them making it that far. This time though, there’s this iota of doubt that lingers somewhere inside me. And that is the problem.
Far Eastern University (5th, 9-5)
Why it would win. Their guards, RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo, are the most entertaining and energizing among the lot. High scoring, seasoned and relentless forces of nature. That’s what they are. And also, since Nash Racela took over from Bert Flores, he has given each and everyone, with the exception of American Anthony Hargrove, to shoot if open. It’s a good thing actually considering that the Tams are not as big as before primarily because, sadly, banger Arvie Bringas, isn’t returning to the team this season. Worry not, FEU is much fun to watch this year with their quickness and lights out shooting, Lakers style.

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Why it would not. As I’ve stressed, FEU is smaller this season, which should give it problems the rest of the year. Romeo and Garcia, as much as they’re oozing with talent and explosiveness, have so many off-court distractions. Also, giving license to everyone not named Hargrove can sometimes snow ball.
Madam Auring: This is a guard-heavy team anchored on the Garcia-Romeo backcourt duo. They will kill their foes with their speed, relentless defensive hustling and lights out shooting. They can barge into the Final Four. Notice the word “can” and “barge.”
To be continued soon….

Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

(Photos courtesy of Filoil Flying V)

UAAP schedule

UAAP Schedules per Division as of June 17, 2013

NCAA Season 89 Preview Final Part

Manila Bulletin

June 21, 2013

NCAA: Our Stars Will Shine Season 89

(Last of a two-part series)

On this day when everyone just stopped doing everything to witness the deciding Game 7 of the NBA Finals that resulted into an epic win by (Bleep!) LeBron James and the (Bleep!) Miami Heat over the San Antonio Spurs, Sportsmaryosep decided to finish what it started. Of course, we dealt with the first five schools that finished the lower bottom of the standings in last year’s Season 88. To recap, just double-click Part I of my NCAA Season 89 preview below.

Now, we’re going to tackle the Top 5 finishers last year and summon the powers of Madaming Auring and her crystal ball starting with…

Jose Rizal (5th, 10-8)

Why it would win. The only thing constant with the Bombers is it non-stop, full-court trapping implemented by coach Vergel Meneses. It’s actually the thing that he learned from his mentor, Derrick Pumaren. This Jose Rizal team has practically lost everyone except Meneses and this sophomore big man Michael Mabulac. Mabulac shows he’s not soft as a cotton as his name implies but actually impressed a lot of people including Sportsmaryosep with some solid double-double efforts in the pre-season. If anything, he will be the anchor of a rudderless boat.

Why it wouldn’t. As I’ve said, the Bombers are decimated to the core and will have to do with 11 rookies they hope to produce miracles. First, they would have to start praying now.

Madam Auring: I always admire Jose Rizal, not only as a National Hero and as a basketball team, but I see bad things for the team this year understandably because I consider this season as its “rebuilding” year.

Perpetual Help (4th, 10-8)

Why it would win. I rever coaches in the mold of Aric del Rosario. He’s the oldest but most experienced coach in the current batch at 73 years old. You’re probably still young when Coach Aric steered University of Santo Tomas to a four-peat feat in the 90s. He brought his magic to the Altas when he coached them to their first Final Four stint in years after turning back Jose Rizal in sudden death. Although they lost a close 52-56 decision to San Beda, the eventual champion, in the Final Four, the Las Pinas-based left an impression it will bounce back strong the next year. And it looks like they will as it retained the core of the squad last year while getting promising additions. Jett Vidal, or Jettsanity to a cult following from the NCAA Press Corps led by the Inquirer’s Cedelf Tupas, is gone but Perps got Juneric Baloria and Gerald Dizon to replace with some dose of wing defense. George Allen also left but the Altas filled that vacuum by recruiting 6-3 Nestor Bantayan and 6-4 Kervin Lucente from Adamson. Of course, they have this Nigerian twin towers in Nosa Omorogbe and Femi Babayemi to man the fort and slow down the likes of Adeogun and Happi. I see Earl Scottie Thompson to come through with triple-double efforts day in and day out. This is also a team that has complimentary role players who are not only experienced but also has great chemistry.

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Why it wouldn’t. The only way the Altas will not make the Final Four is for them to all tear an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and suffer a rare injury called “bleeding scrotum.”

Madam Auring: I have a feeling they will get past the Final Four because I have faith in Coach Aric’s magic. See, I call him Coach Aric? That’s how I respect the man.

San Sebastian (3rd, 13-5)

Why it would win. Topex Robinson is one of the most dynamic coaches in the country today and he has proven that by engineering the Stags’ second place finish two years back. During the first half of last season, San Sebastian appeared headed for another title crack before he decided to resign for unknown reasons. As history showed, the Stags, reduced to a headless chicken, wound up being upset twice by the overachieving Knights. Robinson though will have no armory like he had the past years as their “Big Three” of Calvin Abueva, Ronald Pascual and Ian Sangalang are all gone. What’s left are Jovit dela Cruz, who will skipper the team this year, and tough-defending Bobby Baculanag. Thankfully, the Stags found gems in Jaymar Perez of Pampanga, who is considered the second coming of The Beast though smaller, and Fil-Am Leo de Vera, a 6-4 Fil-Am who can do it all–shoot 3s, rebound, block shots, defend the wings and provide the needed hustle. Topex puts it simply: “We’re like the Miami Heat without the Big Three. We’ll be relying on our running game, outside shooting and hustling defense to make up for our lack of big men.”

Why it wouldn’t. Inexperience and lack of bench depth will take its toll on the new-look Stags. They’ve got a wing-heavy roster but in a season this long, you will need all the fresh legs you’ve got including the younger guys. That’s where the trouble starts.

Madam Auring: I see a glimmer of hope for these young Stags and a Final Four stint is not far-fetched. But again, I have my doubts. I hope I’m wrong.

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Letran (2nd, 12-6)

Why it would win. They’ve lost a scoring machine in Kevin Alas and a bruising, fearless and intelligent big man in Jam Cortes but they’ve found a way to put a plug on those holes by pulling off a gem of a recruit in Rey Nambatac, one of the most well-rounded players in the current rookie crop in the collegiate ranks. I mean, this kid, who happens to be a former national youth team mainstay, can score, pass and defend. Meaning, he is a potential triple-double machine down the road. Also, Raymond Almazan, a former Mythical First Team member two seasons back, will be playing his last season before he turns pro this November, while another big man Jonathan Belorio, this year’s team captain, is also back to fill the Cortes void. Almazan should get the attention of the opposing team because he will no longer be purposely defensive-minded. His liberation on offense should pose a threat to others including San Beda. But the Knights will be more a the team of Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal because the two were already given the license by their coach to carry to scoring load. And oh, they will be coached by Caloy Garcia in lieu of Louie Alas, who decided not to extend late last year.

Why it wouldn’t. The problem with Almazan getting offensive touches is that he doesn’t have an armory of moves like his cousin Kerby Raymundo. But he’s definitely trying. If he finds a go-to-move in the post, the Knights would be much dangerous. One problem I see is who will be the real go-to-guy between Cruz and Racal, who both happen to be just trying to figure out how is it to be a star post Kevin Alas era.

Madam Auring: Letran is one of the teams I’m really impressed about. Especially this Nambatac kid. I love players who are versatile and he fits the bill. I also see some promise in Jamil Gabawan, who has shed off his enforcer status by taking advantage of the opportunities given to him with an increase of playing time. And oh, who would not be complacent with a team with a player named Fidel Castro in it?

San Beda (1st, 15-3)

Why it would win. Ola Adeogun should be an unstoppable force if he decides he wants to play. If he gives extra effort, he’ll have a strong chance of emerging MVP this season. This is also the time of Baser Amer, or The Hammer, if you could still remember his outraegous shot from the backcourt in a game against Perpetual Help. They lost their second best big man in Jake Pascual but the impact was lessened with the return of the Fil-Aussie twins, Anthony and David Semerad. Kyle Pascual and Art dela Cruz shore up the Lions already formidable frontline that should make the tallest team this year. Rome dela Rosa will skipper this team this year and his leadership will be valuable. I like the emergence of Francis Abarcar, who have gained the confidence of San Beda’s new coach Boyet Fernandez with strong guard play in the pre-season. Fernandez, who has taken over the coaching reins after Ronnie Magsanoc decided not to extend and focus on his job at Meralco, for his part, has been a tested commodity after steering Sta. Lucia to a PBA title and NLEX to four D-League crowns out of five finals appearances. Curiously, he hasn’t won a collegiate title yet.

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Why it wouldn’t. In spite of its bench depth and scary appearance, San Beda can be beaten as shown by Arellano U when it pulled off a shocker over the reigning three-peat champion. Lack of consistency is also a concern.

Madam Auring: I know two teams that has the ability to pull the rug from San Beda–one Arellano U, the other San Beda itself. But I see nothing that can stop the Lions from making the finals for the eighth straight season and perhaps win them a four-peat feat and a seventh crown in the last eight years.

So there. You’re probably asking me now my general fearless forecast? And my crystal ball tells me its San Beda and Perpetual clinching the first two Final Four berths and Letran, Arellano U and San Sebastian in a tug-of-war for the last two berths. I have a hunch EAC could gatecrash into the post season. Mapua is a darkhorse also. It’s safe to put your money on the Lions. But if you love underdogs, go for Perpetual, Letran or Arellano U.

Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photos courtesy of NCAA.org.ph)

Here are the first round schedule:

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NCAA Season 89 Preview Part 1

Letran Campus
June 20, 2013
NCAA: Our Stars Will Shine In Season 89
(First of a two-part series)

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On this gloomy day, thousands of students from this part of Intramuros gather around for the annual, customary pep rally. I hear the school hymn reverberating around the campus as well as the battle cries and war songs and the shrieking of the ladies as the senior basketball team, the Letran Knights, come out as if they’re ready to defend Mount Tartarus against the charging Hyperion army.
The war has just started.
I mean, the NCAA cage wars. It starts on Saturday at the brand new MOA Arena in Pasay City with what organizers from host St. Benilde brags as an “opening number to remember” and a pair of titanic games featuring the dynastic San Beda Lions against the host school, the Blazers, and an equally MAMMOTH showdown between the Knights and the San Sebastian Stags.
And it’s just a start.
And Sportsmaryosep, which is still in an infancy stage since we’ve only started a month and 20 days back, will try its luck on Madam Auring-ing Season 89. Or in short, we will try to make a fearless forecast out of a crystal ball. It’s going to be hit-and-miss but there’s nothing wrong in trying, right? And here it goes.
Lyceum (10th, 3-15 win-loss)
Why it would win. For one, the Pirates have long-haired Brgy. Ginebra coach Alfrancis Chua as consultant. Second, they have an equally emotional mentor in Boni Tan, who has actually been around the local circuit before the school decided to plunge into a deep ocean called the NCAA. There are some bright spots in this team particularly the guards–Shane Ko, Tirso Lesmoras and Dexter Zamora. They’ve got quality but undersized big men in John Azores, Mark Francisco and guess who?…Andrei “THE DESTROYER” Mendoza. And will you believe me if I tell you they have an African named Issah Aziz Faycal Mbomiko who tried out, not recruited? We hope for Lyceum’s sake Mbomiko, whom we haven’t really seen, could at least hold forth with the likes of San Beda’s Ola Adeogun.
Why it wouldn’t. As what we’ve said, they’re undersized and obviously the overwhelming underdogs this season. Wait till you see their high school team. It’s like watching Resident Evil where the Zombies prevail.
Madam Auring: They’ll probably improve their three-win record last year, perhaps double it. But making the Final Four will be a tall order. I agree, miracle happens once, twice and perhaps several times. But in 18 games?
St. Benilde (9th, 5-13)
Why it would win. Gone is Richard del Rosario and enter Gabby Velasco, a veteran coach who has won numerous championships with St. Francis of Assisi and been around a while now. In short, he knows how to win. Last year, I was impressed with this guard-heavy team specifically anchored on the likes of Jonathan Grey, Mark Romero, Juan Paolo Taha and Luis Sinco. They’ve recruited some pretty nice pieces who can be lethal threats from the wing. They will punish foe with a mix of run-and-gun and deliberate type of play. I have a hunch though that their Final Four hopes will rely more on how their big men could hold fort against the best of them. If they do, hello Final Four.

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Why it wouldn’t. But I’m afraid their big men won’t. Not only are they undersized, they’re also inexperienced. In the NCAA, the war was always won by big men. Sadly, the Blazers fall short from this.
Madam Auring: I’m always impressed with Gabby Velasco. As a cub reporter for the Manila Times almost two decades back, which is eons ago, I’ve seen him coach. And boy he can coach. Do you know he produced players like brothers Yancy de Ocampo and Ranidel de Ocampo and this guard named Al Vergara? If he can weave the same magic, St. Benilde could probably win seven or eight games. If they could win extra, it means my admiration is well addressed.
Arellano U (8th, 6-12)
Why it would win. Koy Banal, who brings with him championship experience having won titles in the UAAP for Far Eastern U, the NCAA for San Beda and even in the defunct Phl Basketball League, is a veteran coach whose strength is basically circles around this word–motivation. Coaching is a battle of pep talks and Koy Banal packs it with him. He actually reminded me of Coach Erik Spoelstra to tell you the truth. AU also has John Pinto, who is the NCAA’s closest version to a Chris Paul. Having seen him play last year and in the pre-season, I expect him to lead the assists department at the end of the season. James Forrester will also be a key if he stays healthy. Another Fil-Canadian in Adam Jacob Serjue is another player to watch out for although you have to wait a few more weeks into the season before we could see his true mettle. Keith Agovida, who once scored 82 points in a high school game for Jose Rizal, is also with the Chiefs now. Add their young but vastly-improved battery of big men headed by Prince Caperal, and we see a really solid and complete team.

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Why it wouldn’t. As I’ve said, AU is one of the most balanced and complete teams this season. The only thing that would stop the Chiefs from realizing its title dreams if it lost their drive.
Madam Auring: Barring any major injuries particularly in their starters, the Chiefs will win 10 to 12 games, which will be their ticket to the Final Four. And all bets are off from there.
Emilio Aguinaldo (7th, 8-10)
Why it would win. Gerry Esplana is still coming into his own as a coach. But man, he’s improving each year. Last season was no different as he steered the Generals to six straight wins in their last games which propelled them from the bottom to the middle of the pack. And that is where EAC will pick up. Cameroonian Noube Happi, which finished second in the MVP statistical race last year, will be the focal point of their campaign this year. And guess what? Happi will be happier this year because he will have some back up in bangers Jean Hiole Manga and Syndey Onwubere.
Why it wouldn’t. Their guards will be their downfall. Wing men like Jan Jamon, Igee King, Jose Morada, Francis Munsayac have the ability to light up the board with their explosive scoring but were just too inconsistent.
Madam Auring: I like EAC because of Happi. I just hope his teammate’s guns click for him to have some open space inside, which will be a BIG relief.
Mapua (6th, 8-10)
Why it would win. If Atoy Co, who took over from Chito Victolero last February, could translate his winning ways as the prolific player he was known for to coaching, then the Cardinals are one of the teams to watch out for. I’ve also been a fan of some of their players like Mark Brana, Joseph Eriobu, Andrew Estrella, Kenneth Ighalo and Jessie Saitanan, who by the way are remnants from last year’s team that was tipped to make it to the Final Four only to underwhelm.

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Why it wouldn’t. Not all good players turn out good coaches. But we’ll give the Fortune Cookie the benefit of a doubt.
Madam Auring: I’m pretty sure Atoy Co thought these Cardinals how to shoot the way he did during his PBA prime, unlike in past seasons when they fired only duds. Now if they can do that, there is no doubt in my mind that Mapua could surprise everybody and gatecrash to the Final Four.
To be continued….
Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photos courtesy of NCAA.org.ph)

Ode to the Twelve Brave Souls

Solaire Hotel and Casino
June 17, 2013
Ode to the Twelve Brave Souls

On this one rainy night, amid the non-stop downpour and heavy, widespread flooding that inundated some parts of Metro Manila, the national women’s team, or the V-Belles to their sponsors Smart and Shakeys or Twelve Brave Souls to most of us, came flying back to Manila after a sleepless, Amazing Race-style 16-hour travel from Quang Tri, Vietnam. They arrived quietly, without much fanfare and ceremony some time at 2 p.m.

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Unmindful of the fatigue brought on by the non-stop travel, the group, which is managed by Tony Liao and coached by Roger Gorayeb and his lieutenants Edjet Mabbayad and Ariel dela Cruz, traveled for another hour from Terminal Two to this brand new hotel facing the magnificent, breathtaking view of the Manila Bay and just a stone-throw away from the Mall of Asia where they waited and rested a bit for a few more.

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By 6 p.m., Liao, who was responsible for texting the blow-by-blow updates of the team’s games in Vietnam where they competed in the just concluded Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Southeastern Zonal Women’s Qualification Tournament, which served as a qualifier to the 2013 Volleyball World Championships in Italy, treated the squad to a hearty dinner at Fresh where a buffet of almost every delicacy you can imagine is served. From sashimis, makis, salads, kimchis as appetizers to lobsters, crabs, prawns, oysters, steaks, salads, salmons, tunas, dimsums for the main course to fruits, cakes, pastries, ice creams of various flavors for desserts. Its there for the taking for the whole team and some lucky brave souls from media like Yahoo! Philippines’ Noel Zarate and his photographer George Calvelo, Reuben Terrado of spin.ph, Kristel Satumbaga-Villar of Manila Bulletin and yours truly, this simple Philippine STAR senior reporter and Sportsmaryosep blogger.

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After all, it was well-deserved for a team that has just represented the country well despite finishing third in a four-team tournament and in spite of being formed just less than a week before the meet even started.
There, Liao, the coaches and the players shared their experiences, including their highs and lows. We lost to an experienced Vietnam side, a team formed eight years ahead of us, won over a taller Myanmar, and lost to Indonesia in what could have been a won game if not for what Liao called a “She-Man.” We’re not going to go deep on what that word even means and not make an excuse out of it, but man, that…person played like a man, hit like a man in dealing our girls the straight sets loss that was closer than what it suggested. So we lost to the Indonesians and finished third in a four-team meet.

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Unknown to them, the team was already disbanded even before they arrived as Phl Sports Commissioner chairman Richie Garcia made the grim announcement at lunchtime. Garcia was the Harbinger of bad news to a team that deserves another run, or a LONGER run if you ask me. Why disband a team that showed a lot, and I mean a LOT, of promise? Why dissolve a team that has a strong potential to snare a bronze medal in this December’s Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar and perhaps more in future years?
You see, this team is not only promising but the TALLEST formed by a country by ours EVER. I mean, we don’t just have tall players standing 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-4 but we have TALENTED players standing 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-4.
And Gorayeb says it best: “The team shouldn’t be disbanded because this is one of the tallest and most talented teams ever formed.” Gorayeb, who has won all of the titles possible as a coach, adds the team should be trained like the original, Rajko Toroman-mentored basketball team named Smart Gilas Pilipinas, which trained college players years before their targeted tournament. He is right.
But lo and behold, our sports leaders, who decided to play god, cut the team’s umbilical cord of existence. And just like that, the team is not a team anymore.

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And though only a few fans bothered to welcome our team at the tarmac, Sportsmaryosep will not be stopped from thanking and giving a salute to our Twelve Brave Souls. After all, it may take a long time to see these girls play side by side again. So here it is.
THANK YOU Alyssa Valdez.
THANK YOU Jaja Santiago.
THANK YOU Dindin Santiago.
THANK YOU Rubie de Leon.
THANK YOU Jen Reyes.
THANK YOU Suzanne Roces.
THANK YOU Maika Ortiz.
THANK YOU Iari Yongco.
THANK YOU Pau Soriano.
THANK YOU Rhea Dimaculangan.
THANK YOU Myla Pablo.
THANK YOU Jeck Dionela.
THANK YOU Coaches Roger, Edjet and Ariel.
THANK YOU Tony Liao.
You are all HEROES.

Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photos courtesy of Kristel Satumbaga-Villar and Tony Liao)

To buy, or not to buy?

Manila Bulletin

June 13,2013

To buy, or not to buy?

June 16,2016.
It’s not a National Holiday. Nor is it LeBron James’ birthday. But give The King his cake anyway and have him eat it. Heck, sing him his birthday song in advance. He definitely needs some cheering up. So, happy birthday anyway.
The significance of this particular date has something to do with helping make the NBA dreams of ordinary Filipino basketball fans come true.
You see, an NBA pre-season game between the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets will be held at the MOA Arena in Pasay City on Oct. 10. Yes, here on our local soil. FOR. THE. FIRST. TIME. EVER. So if you’re a basketball nut, or even crazier than yours truly, you don’t forget this date. Write it on your wall just to be sure.
Why? It’s the day where all the tickets for this historic event, which by the way is being called now as “NBA Global Games Philippines 2013,” will be sold. That’s starting at 10 a.m. at all SM ticket outlets in the country and online at mallofasia-arena.com, smtickets.com or you may burn the phone lines by calling this number: 470-2222. So come on get yours. And oh, only a maximum two tickets will be allowed to sell for each person. Not more, not less. Just two.

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It will not be cheap though.
P550 (Section E).
Everything starts from here. It’s the gallery or general admission section. Movie tickets for IMAX, however, costs P100 less, which is still good enough for a popcorn and a can of ice-cold Coke or Pepsi or A&W Rootbeer. If you’ve got poor vision, wear thick-rimmed eye glasses. Or better yet, buy binoculars, which is worth around P1,800 to P2,500. Which will be cheaper than the next seat lower. At least you’ll get to see a pint-sized version of George Hill and Psycho T.
P4,200 (Section D)
This is two months worth of medicines and vitamins if you’re wife happens to be pregnant plus some maternity dresses on the side. Or you can buy a discounted pair of signature rubber shoes, perhaps a Nike Airmax or a Reebok Real Flex. Or almost the same amount to stay at a posh hotel for a night, especially that small but spectacular hotel fronting the Mall of Asia and the Manila Bay. But at least you’ll get to see Carlos Delfino, Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons in person, only a little dwarfed.
P8,400 (Section C)
You could pay a month’s apartment rent plus some utlity bills with this amount. Or you can purchase yourself a two-way ticket for two to breathtaking Coron, Palawan. But at least you’ll get to see David West and Roy Hibbert and see why the LeFlop, I mean LeBron, and the Miami Heat were so scared of them.
P27,000 (Premium B)
It’s the same amount of a nice lap top. Or a flat TV. Add some more money and you get a nice, high-end smart phone. And if you’re frugal, you can even have a vacation in paradise island Boracay with this exact amount. At least, you’ll get to see Jeremy Lin, Linsanity himself, and Manila returnee James Harden.
P32,300 (Premium A)
This isn’t exactly the “Jack Nicholson” seats but its close to it. You can go to Hong Kong and have a two or three-day vacation there with this kind of money. Or have an IPhone 5. You can also pay you’re child’s tiution fee with this amount. At least you’ll get to see Paul George closer. That’s a star out there.

Whether you buy the cheapest or pawn your jewelries and appliances by selecting the more expensive seats, the most important thing is that you get to feel how its like to be watching an NBA game. It’s like bringing the NBA experience to our place, the Philippines. And its probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Me, I’ll get my credentials and cover it. And buy some for my family for sure and make our dreams come true. Unless you decide to do otherwise and just watch the game at the comforts of your home and stay miserable forever, break your piggy bank, get some money and fall in line.
To buy, or not to buy? That is the question.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photos courtesy of NBA.com Philippines)

Independence Day

Manila, Philippines
June 12, 2013
Independence Day

Exactly 115 years ago today, we Filipinos were freed from the Spanish colonial rule.
Thus born our Independence Day.
I will not tell you how it came to be or kill you with boredom on the significance of this moment in our daily lives. I will just tell you that this day is indeed important, yes it is, and to read your History books. Or just Google it. Wikipedia has all the answers. This is Sportsmayosep after all. Not the History Channel. So worry not my friends. I will not bore you with a history lesson.
So its Independence Day today. The happiest if you’re a Brgy. Ginebra die-hard. Why? Read the papers and online journals. Or go ask Snow Badua or spin.ph who reported it first. They should know. Everybody knows actually. Unless you’re in a shell, Brgy. Ginebra has just landed one of the most exciting basketball players in this side of the planet–Japeth Aguilar.
You see, the Kings got the high-flying, slam-dunking 6-9 Aguilar from a multiple-player deal after letting go of Yousif Taha and a 2013 first round pick to Global Port, a franchise owned by sports philantrophist Dr. Mikee Romero, and Elmer Espiritu to Barako Bull for the same 2013 first round pick it gave away to Global, which in turn got Jay Washington from Petron by also dealing rookie Jason Deutschman and its 2016 and 2017 second round picks.
And the trade, as spin.ph flashily puts it, has been “signed, sealed, delivered.”
So Japeth is officially a King.

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Japeth’s entry officially made Brgy. Ginebra the LOB CITY of the PBA as he will join forces with Air Force Ellis, the reigning PBA slam dunk champion and LA Tenorio, who will be Chris Paul to Japeth and Ellis’ Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers.

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This is definitely the most athletic team in the history of the Ginebra franchise. It will rain slamma jammas my friends because Japeth and Ellis will serve a dish we call dunks. And it will come aplenty. Alley oop. Tomahawk. Reverse. One-handed. Two-handed. Follow up. Heck, Japeth and Ellis can even dunk on people and brush their teeth and comb their hair while they’re at it if they wanted to. Oh, Rico Maeirhofer can probably join the parade too.
With these heavy dunkers, LA, and the Fast and the Furious–Mark Caguioa and Jay Jay Helterbrand–can shoot their triples and floaters as much as they want to for all we care because Japeth and Ellis will be there to pick up the misses and slam it back home. And oh, I believe they’re trying to get Asi “The Rock” Taulava too to share the fun.
This is definitely the happiest Independence Day of our lives.
Can I say these words repeatedly now? GINEBRA! GINEBRA! GINEBRA!

Follow Sportsmayosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photos courtesy of Japeth Aguilar and AKTV on IBC13)