UCBL Gives All For Season Five

UCBL will go all out to have a Season Five.

Our Time To Shine       THE UNIVERSITIES and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) is determined to stage its fifth season this academic year 2020-2021.  Diliman College Blue Dragons will shoot for a rare three-peat after lording it over in 2018 and 2019.

“We put on another hat and asked ourselves what we can do for the community when the pandemic started,” said UCBL President Franklin Evidente.  The league then found inspiration from their Marketing Manager Coach Carmelo Navarro who also serves as a Kagawad in Barangay 889 in Santa Ana, Manila.

League and school officials together with sponsors PG Flex Linoleum and Hapee Toothpaste combined to deliver relief goods to Coach Navarro’s constituents as well as to Next Man Up which provided meals for frontliners in selected hospitals in Metro Manila and Cavite.  From there, the spirit of bayanihan convinced the group that it was time to go for reopening the league.

“The responses from the schools are all positive and we are just waiting for the go-signal from government if we can open in November or the first quarter of 2021,” added Evidente.  While admitting that the recent suspension of operations of the Technological Institute of the Philippines varsity program is a major blow, other members Diliman, Centro Escolar University, Olivarez College, National College of Business and Arts, University of Batangas, Lyceum of the Philippines University-Batangas and Philippine Christian University-Dasmarinas remain intact and conduct workouts and meetings online.

The league is hoping the TIP will have a change of heart and reactivate its varsity soon.  Evidente did not hide the fact that they have received inquiries from schools in Pampanga, Bulacan and Metro Manila about possibly joining the UCBL.

The UCBL will continue to allow up to two foreign students per school.  “They add spice and interest to the league plus Filipinos learn a lot from playing with or against them,” explained Evidente.

The games will continue to be broadcast on Solar Sports.  This marks the UCBL’s second of a two-year contract with the network.

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New Zealand NBL Has Filipino Flavor

Francis Mulvihill

FOUR PLAYERS with roots to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) are among the 84 players that will see action in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown beginning June 23.  The league’s opening symbolizes the country’s success as the final case of COVID-19 has been cured thus making them free of the disease.

Filipino-Kiwis Ken Tuffin of Far Eastern University and Francis Mulvihill of Enderun Colleges will be teammates at the Taranaki Mountainairs while Richie Rodger of the University of the East will suit up for the Otago Nuggets.  The fourth player Taane Samuel was De La Salle University’s foreign student recruit in 2018 and will now play for the Manawatu Jets.

Tuffin and Rodger are coming off stints in the recent UAAP Season 82.  Mulvihill was part of the Titans squad that registered back to back NAASCU runner-up finishes in 2018 and 2019.

All seven teams participated in a draft to fill out their 12-man rosters with the Nuggets selecting veteran Tall Blacks forward Jordan Ngatai as the top overall pick.  The other participating teams are the Nelson Giants, Canterbury Rams, Franklin Bulls and Auckland Huskies.

Samuel was the first called among the four with the 26th pick in the fourth round.  The Airs then tabbed Mulvihill (Round 6, 41st) and Tuffin (Round 7, 44th) before the Nuggets selected Rodger (Round 8, 56th).

The season is expected to run for six weeks, including the playoffs, with each team playing 14 regular season games each open to the public.  The one-game Grand Finals is slated for August 1, 2020.

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96th NCAA In 2021

NCAA Season 90NCAA Season 96     INCOMING HOST school Colegio de San Juan de Letran has released key guidelines for the coming 96th season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Thursday.  The salient points are that the league will begin play in the first quarter of 2021 and only four sporting disciplines will be contested.

Traditionally, the NCAA opens in July just at the start of the academic year but with classes being moved to August 24, the league also had to adjust.  The opening of the season though is still dependent on the prevailing situation and government directives by then.

Only four sports – Basketball, Volleyball, Athletics and Swimming – will be on the calendar.  There are also plans to add Online Chess and eSports if feasible.

Finally, the league is expected to revise the eligibility requirements for student athletes in light of the new calendar.  Another factor to be taken into consideration is the non-completion of last season’s second semester events thus raising the possibility of granting affected graduating Seniors an extra year of playing.

The health and safety of everybody remains the NCAA’s top priority thus strict protocols shall be enforced.  The memorandum was jointly signed by Letran President and Rector Fr. Clarence Marquez OP, the incoming Policy Board President, and Fr. Victor Calvo OP, the incoming Chairperson of the Management Committee.

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Fight On Pilipinas Warriors

Pilipinas Warriors at a recent tournament in Thailand. (photo by CVP)

JUST LIKE their fellow athletes, the Pilipinas Warriors or the National Wheelchair Basketball Team felt really bad after the coming ASEAN Paragames were scrapped for good.  But living up to their moniker, the team vows to continue fighting on despite the raging COVID-19 crisis.

Aside from the Paragames, the Warriors were scheduled to compete in the Bali Cup and Jakarta Invitational in Indonesia and the Daegu Cup in South Korea.  An intensive training camp was also planned for the Women’s Team in Thailand but all that has been set aside.

“At first I felt really sad for the athletes because I saw how hard they worked in training like they want to achieve something but you know that it is no longer possible,” said Coach Vernon Perea who has been at the helm of the team since 2012.  “Of course, the players were also sad but they set it aside and quickly went back to training.”

Government guidelines bar the holding of team practices so Coach Perea instructed his players to submit videos daily as proof of their compliance with their assignments and exercises.  The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is also lending support through online consultations in physical therapy, nutrition and sports psychology.

The Warriors were so excited to plunge into action as they will get to finally perform in front of their countrymen.  A month-long training camp in Subic Bay was supposed to be their final preparation and the team was looking forward to test drive their newly arrived competition wheelchairs.

Coach Perea admits that extra care has to be taken when managing differently-abled athletes and thankfully, no one has tested positive for the virus.  They are regularly monitored and even the simplest fever or stomach pain is given immediate attention.

“To the friends of the Pilipinas Warriors, I know you have been longing to watch us live for the longest time but I guess we have to wait a bit more,” said Coach Perea as a parting shot.  “I know you prepared to cheer for us but let us bear for the moment as the next Paragames in Vietnam 2021 is just around the corner.”

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Mr. Excitement To The Rescue

Bong Alvarez (L) at one of several relief missions of TGP.

COUNT BASKETBALL superstar Paul “Bong” Alvarez on the list of those who are serving the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19.  Instead of staying at home, the player known as Mr. Excitement has been delivering help to those affected by the health crisis.

Recently, he accompanied the Talino at Galing ng Pinoy (TGP) Party List of Rep. Jose “Bong” Teves Jr. to offer food and other needs to Barangay Bagong Silangan and Barangay Holy Spirit in Quezon City.  Aside from receiving the relief goods, the presence of a famous and idolized Basketball player has brought cheer to the residents.

“TGP is one of the very active party lists and have helped a lot and will help a lot a people,”said Alvarez who serves as a consultant in the office of Rep. Teves.  “All I can say is that we are doing our best to fulfil our promises from the last election.”

Aside from Quezon City, Alvarez has also went on missions to Pasig City and San Pedro, Laguna.  There are other projects in the pipeline for other areas that are in line with TGP’s platform that focuses on the environment, youth and health.

Before the pandemic, Alvarez was a mainstay of exhibition games together with his fellow PBA Legends all over the country and in overseas Filipino communities.  Turning 52 later this month, he has maintained his physical conditioning, a good way to strengthen the immune system and avoid diseases.

If he will be asked, he would rather not push for the return of the PBA and sports because of the tough situation.  “Let us sacrifice for the meantime and stay united, we will overcome this and we can watch the PBA again maybe in 2021,” he said in closing.

Alvarez played in the PBA from 1989 to 1998 for Alaska, Santa Lucia, Formula Shell, San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra.  He then transferred to the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) from 1999 to 2001 and suited up for the Pampanga Dragons, Pasig-Rizal Pirates and Socsargen Marlins until he returned to the PBA to windup his career with FedEx, Talk ‘N Text at Red Bull from 2002 to 2005.

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Pare Drafted By Mali NT

     BEFORE THE Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was imposed and airports were closed, Basketball player Mohamed Pare of Saint Clare College of Caloocan managed to travel back home to Mali.  The reigning National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) Most Valuable Player accepted an invitation to be part of his country’s national team for the coming FIBA Afrobasket 2021 Qualifiers later this year but the COVID-19 crisis suddenly put a blanket of uncertainty.

The Federation Malienne de Basketball got word of Pare’s impressive stint in the last NAASCU and PBA D-League where the Saints copped the championship double.  It took the 6’7” center nearly two days to travel from Manila to Hong Kong then Addis Ababa and finally to the capital city of Bamako.

Mali has been drawn in Group D together with Algeria, Rwanda and heavyweight Nigeria, the runner-up behind champion Tunisia in the last Afrobasket in 2017.  The four teams will play two round robins in November and February to decide the three who will advance to the tournament proper to be hosted by Rwanda in August, 2021.

19th NAASCU MVP Mohamed Pare

“This is a big opportunity for his career so I allowed Mohamed to go home and he promised to return for the next NAASCU season,” said Coach Jinino Manansala.  However, the current circumstances may prompt the Saints to defend their crown with an all-Filipino roster but Coach Manansala and the team is ready for any eventuality.

Mali is one of the rising nations in world Basketball.  At the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Greece, Mali surprised the field by placing second behind powerhouse United States, an indication of their vast potential.

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FIBA 3X3 2020 Calendar Revised Again

Big time 3X3 returns to SM Megamall this August 15 to 16.

THE PHILIPPINES will now serve as the kickoff point for the 2020 FIBA 3X3 World Tour Masters this August 15 to 16 at the SM Megamall.  This comes after FIBA announced another round of revisions to its 2020 competition calendar amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

For now, there will only be eight legs for the World Tour, including the Grand Finals in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from November 14 to 15.  This is a far cry from the 12 legs held in 2019.

Among the early entries to the Manila Masters are powerhouses Novi Sad of Serbia and Sakiai Gulbele of Lithuania.  The Filipino representative is yet to be determined after the opening of the 2020 Chooks To Go Pilipinas 3X3 Presidents Cup last March 29 was postponed.

After the Philippines, the tour shifts to Debrecen, Hungary (August 29) and Montreal, Canada (September 5).  The remainder of the tour will be played in Asia and the Middle East with stops in Utsonomiya, Japan (October 3), Chengdu, China (October 17), Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (October 23) and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (October 30) before concluding in Riyadh.

Only the women will play at the 2020 FIBA 3X3 Asia Cup.

Meanwhile, it’s still green and go for the 20202 FIBA 3X3 Asia Cup from September 9 to 13 in Hunan, China and the 2020 FIBA 3X3 Under-17 Asia Cup from October 8 to 11 in Cyberjaya, Malaysia.  According to FIBA, the Philippines will be fielding entries in the Women’s Division only for both continental tournaments.

It will be recalled that the Philippines through Boss Ronald Mascarinas of Chooks offered to take over the hosting chores for the Asia Cup that was originally set for this May.  China has been tagged as the source of COVID-19.

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From Foes To Frontline Friends

PFC Acuna and A1C Morales.

     A DECADE ago, Eric James Acuna and Rama Krishna “RK” Morales were tangling with each other as part of the so-called “Cyber Wars” of the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU).  Fast forward today, both are now on the same team battling the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic from the frontline.

Acuna was the top guard for the Informatics International College Icons while Morales was a solid contributor for the STI College Olympians.  Together with AMA University, they formed a three-way rivalry among the country’s leaders in computer education.

After a so-so debut season in 2008, Acuna and the Icons quickly became a consistent contender by missing out on the Final Four via a tiebreaker followed by back to back Third Place finishes in 2010 and 2011.  Morales joined STI in 2010 and helped the Olympians to back to back Finals appearances before the school went on leave after the 2012 season, joining the Icons which left the year earlier.

After graduating and a brief stint in the PBA D-League, Acuna decided to enlist in the Philippine Army in 2015.  Meanwhile, Morales found his way to the Philippine Air Force in 2013.

A1C Morales is currently detailed at Villamor Air Base where he performs administrative duties.  Before the pandemic, he was also part of the PAF Basketball Team.

PFC Acuna is stationed at nearby Fort Bonifacio where he does tasks ranging from distribution of relief goods and manning checkpoints.  His Icons teammates Mark Montuano and twins Kenny Santos and Toffi Santos also enlisted with him but have since been discharged.

Both players admit that the biggest sacrifice they are enduring right now is separation from their families.  This meant a lot of missed birthdays and special occasions, tough indeed but there is a bigger job to be done for the good of the entire country.

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Letran Hosts 96th NCAA

NCAA Season 96     ARELLANO UNIVERSITY has formally turned over the hosting responsibilities for the coming 96th season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to Colegio de San Juan de Letran.  The NCAA Policy Board composed of Presidents or Heads of the 10 member schools unanimously approved the resolution introduced by Atty. Francisco Paulino Cayco of Arellano.

“Colegio de San Juan de Letran graciously accepts the hosting duties for the 96th NCAA,” replied Fr. Clarence Marquez OP, Letran’s Rector and President.  “We express our heartfelt gratitude to Arellano University for their excellent leadership of the 95th NCAA and to our fellow member schools for their solid and steady support.”

Hosting the country’s oldest and most prestigious collegiate sports association also comes at the same time Letran is marking its 400th year.  Very soon, plans will be presented under the new normal and athletes, students, officials and fans can be assured of their health and safety.

Traditionally, a ceremony is held wherein the previous host will give the NCAA flag to the new host.  However, that is currently impossible in light of the current global health crisis.

Now the league is facing the prospect of starting the season much later than the usual June or July date, perhaps in November or even in 2021.  There may also be a drastic cut in the number of disciplines to be contested while some schools are planning to skip certain events altogether.

The just-concluded season marked the first time that Arellano played host.  Letran last hosted the NCAA in Season 88 or AY 2012-2013.

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Sotto Chooses G-League

Kai Zachary Sotto

ON THE occasion of his 18th birthday last Monday, Kai Zachary Sotto made the monumental announcement that he would bypass college to turn professional.  The 7’2” phenom will be part of a new team to be based in Southern California under the NBA G-League Select Program.

The past months have seen recruiting pitches from top universities like Kentucky, Aubrun, DePaul, Southern California and Georgia Tech but the opportunity was too big to pass.  Sotto will receive a total of US$125,000.00 or PHP6,296,000.00 for a five-month contract plus guidance towards his goal of being the first home-grown Filipino to make it to the NBA.

He will be joined by Filipino-American Jalen Green, the same 6’5” forward that he faced during the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) National Finals at the SM Mall of Asia the last two years and also during the recent FIBA Under-17 and Under-19 World Cups.  Green is projected as this year’s top high school prospect and a potential top pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

The duo will take the court when the new season opens this coming November.  Last March 11, the G-League called off the remainder of the 2019-2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NBA G-League Select Program is on its first year of implementation and not all prospects who wish to join will be accepted.  Some years back, the NBA banned fresh high school graduates like in the case of Lebron James, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant from jumping straight into the pros so the options back then were either to enroll for a year in college or play as an import overseas.

Sotto is currently finishing Grade 12 at The Skill Factory in Atlanta, Georgia.

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The Last Star: Still Shining Since 1999

    BASKETBALL NOSTALGIA was the order of the day as coaches and players of the 1999 Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) National Champion Manila Metrostars participated in a webinar entitled “The Last Star” presented by HOOPS Coaches International with the support of Blackwater Elite.  The guest panellists shared the secrets of how a champion team was built and sustained with veteran broadcaster Sev Sarmenta serving as moderator.

“It all starts with our practice,” declared winning coach Louie Alas.  “There were no egos and everyone worked hard.”

Coach Alas was an assistant coach with Purefoods when the offer to coach in the fledgling MBA came.  “I know the team was doing well under Coach Ricky Dandan so I made sure I would not be stepping on any toes when I accepted in December,” he added.

For his first major head coaching job, he went for familiarity and recruited Cesar Polhen, his former player at Las Pinas College, and Ariel Vanguardia from the PBL’s Welcoat as his assistants.  The group was later joined by Boycie Zamar, who was fired as head coach the Cagayan de Oro Amigos early in the season.

The coaches made sure that the team should be three-man deep in every position and could adjust to the team system that revolved around the Triangle Offense and Pick and Roll.  Returnees Romel Adducul, Alex Compton, Peter Martin, Ruben dela Rosa, Freche Ang, Nandy Garcia, Nestor Echano and Don Camaso welcomed new signees Gilbert Demape, Jonathan Serrano, June Longalong and Jojo Brines while Fil-Am AC Brown was added in the middle the year.

“Our second five can defeat our first five in practice,” shared Compton, the 1999 MBA Most Valuable Player.  “The competition in practice was like in an actual, nobody wanted to lose,” added Adducul who was named as Star Player of the Finals against the Cebu Gems which ended in six games, 4-2.

A 4-2 start was followed by an amazing 22-game winning streak which ended with back to back road losses to the Iloilo Megavoltz and Negros Slashers and end the regular season at 26-4.  With social media nonexistent at that time, Coach Alas regularly posted printed motivational quotes and slogans on the walls of their locker room, firing up his wards entering the playoffs with “26-4 does not mean a thing without the ring!”

As the streak was going on, the core of the Metrostars represented the Philippines in the 20th Southeast Asian Games in Brunei in August, pulverizing the opposition en route to another gold medal sweep.  Adducul, Martin, dela Rosa, Ang, Camaso, Demape, Serrano and Longalong were joined by fellow MBA stars Renato Morano of the Pampanga Dragons and Wynne Arboleda of the Laguna Lakers plus amateur standouts Kerby Raymundo and Ernesto Billones.

“Our travels all over the Philippines and abroad helped build our relationships within the team,” observed Martin who also served as team captain.  Sadly, Martin and Serrano would suffer season-ending knee injuries just before the National Finals thus casting doubt against the loaded Gems led by Dondon Hontiveros.

Coach Alas had to make major adjustments as they had to fill the sudden absence of the two key players.  “The team’s depth showed and it was the reserves that saved the series,” he said.

Lasting for over two hours, the webinar also accorded fans to catch up with their idols especially those who are now based overseas or have shied away from major basketball competitions.   Demape, Ang and Brown joined in from the United States.

Coach Vanguardia organized the reunion webinar as part of the HOOPS Coaches International series that has attracted a who’s who among both Filipino and foreign coaches to share their knowledge.  “I’m not surprised that many our players went into coaching because they were already vocal leaders back then and they showed great Basketball IQ,” he said.

All the panellists were thankful to see each other again and reminisce.  The lessons they learned 21 years ago has served them well as they proceeded into the next stage of their Basketball journey.

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Four Sports + eSports in 96th NCAA?

NCAA Season 96     THERE IS a big chance for eSports to be included in the calendar of the 96th season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).  A recent directive from the Department of Education pegged the opening of academic year 2020-2021 for August 24 thus prompting the league to dispense with its traditional June or July opening date.

Among the games being considered for inclusion are the popular Mobile Legends and NBA 2K20.  There is also a proposal to add Online Chess but this will all depend on the available budget.

Incoming season host school Colegio de San Juan de Letran initially bared that only four basic disciplines will be contested in a massive cost-cutting scheme – Basketball, Volleyball, Athletics and Swimming.  The usual grand opening ceremonies will either be scaled down or totally set aside while games may also be played behind closed doors.

All schools have felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations.  Recently, Letran’s Rector and President Fr. Clarence Marquez OP ordered the temporary disbandment of several of their varsity teams while trimming scholarships and food and lodging expenses for the remaining student athletes.

95th NCAA Champion Letran Knights

Because of this, the host Knights may be left to contend only in Basketball where they are the defending champions.  Under Coach Bonnie Tan, Letran dethroned San Beda University behind Fran Yu and Larry Muyang who are expected to return along with graduating seniors Jerrick Balanza, Edson Batiller and Christian Balagasay who have since been drafted and signed into the PBA.

Another issue to be tackled soon by the NCAA concerns its television coverage.  ABS-CBN, the league’s carrier, was shut down last May 5 after its franchise expired with no clear sign of returning on air.

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The Last Star This May 9

1999 MBA National Champion Manila Metrostars will have a reunion.

FANS AND supporters of the 1999 Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) National Champions Manila Metrostars will have a chance to meet and interact with their idols via a webinar this May 9 starting at 8:00 PM.  Entitled “The Last Star”, the virtual reunion is presented by Hoops Coaches International with the support of Blackwater Elite.

Leading the panel will be Coach Louie Alas, the architect of the championship.  He will be joined by 1999 MBA Most Valuable Player Alex Compton and Finals MVP Romel Adducul along with other surprise panelists with veteran broadcaster Sev Sarmenta acting as moderator.

Other members of the winning team back then were Gilbert Demape, Peter Martin, Augustus Ceasar Brown, Don Camaso, Ruben dela Rosa, Freche Ang, Jonathan Serrano, June Longalong, Nestor Echano, Nandy Garcia and Jojo Brines.  Coach Alas’ assistants were Boycie Zamar, Cesar Polhen, Allan Altamirano and Ariel Vanguardia who also serves as the webinar’s lead organizer.

“The Last Star” will be shown live on the Hoop Coaches International YouTube Channel.  It will also be available simultaneously on Hoop Coaches’ other social media accounts in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and also on ZOOM.

The Metrostars defeated the Cebu Gems in a tough six game series, 4-2.  Along the way, the team set a record 22-game winning streak in the middle of the regular season.

Old memories will surely be rekindled.  It will also be the chance to get updated on what has happened to all the players since the historic run over two decades ago.

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Sea Lions On The Frontlines

Olivarez College Sea Lions 2018

TWO YEARS ago, the Olivarez College Sea Lions were celebrating another Seniors Basketball championship at the National Capital Region Athletic Association (NCRAA).  Fast forward to today and several members of the team are waging a bigger battle as frontliners against the dreaded COVID-19.

After their varsity careers ended, Mythical Five forward Vinny Dale Begaso and top point guard Pruvil Bermudes enlisted with the Philippine Navy.  They were joined by Raymond Andico as well as fellow Olivarez alumni BJ Faundo, Jay Rabusa and Mark Andrew Ollano, another former NCRAA Mythical Five awardee and the only one with the Philippine Air Force.

Assistant coach Stephen Mopera is also on the frontline working as a Nursing Attendant at the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong City.  “Things got scary after 72 of my co-employees have tested positive but I just take double precaution,” said Coach Mopera who also was part of the Olivarez varsity during his student days.

Aside from the job security and benefits, most of the players joined the Armed Forces to further their Basketball careers as members of the teams of the different services.  Little did they know that they would suddenly be thrust into war against an unseen enemy.

For now, they trade their rubber shoes for combat boots as they perform various tasks ranging from distribution of relief goods to manning checkpoints or conducting mobile patrols.  Ironically, the Sea Lions are now working together with former foes on the court.

Bitter rival Philippine Merchant Marine School has the likes of Dhon Reverente and Rocky Antonares in the Navy and Jerry Lumongsod with PAF.  Eric James Acuna, one of the heroes in Saint Clare College’s title run in 2014, is with the Philippine Army.

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De Chavez Beats COVID-19

3X3 star De Chavez (7) is thankful to have survived his COVID-19 scare.

NO TOP Filipino athlete has been reported to have been hit by COVID-19.  That was true until Chris de Chavez, a member of the 3X3 National Team and a star of Chooks To Go Pilipinas 3X3, came out to tell his story.

De Chavez is now negative for the virus and is well on the way to full recovery.  Because of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), practices were stopped so he decided to fly and join his family in New Jersey.

After a few days in the United States, the sweet-shooting forward began to experience chills, fever and body aches which he did not give much attention to at first.  That all changed when his father Jun, mother Lilia and elder brother Nico also experienced the same symptons.

That prompted the whole family to get tested and all of them turned out positive except for another brother Carlo who also saw action in Pilipinas 3X3.  Instead of hospital confinement, they opted to hold quarantine in their own home while Carlo temporarily stayed in a hotel.

After two weeks, they all recovered.  Apparently, the virus may have been first acquired by their mother who works as the Head Nurse at Saint Barnabas Medical Center but her being a Nurse was a major factor in the family overcoming the huge challenge.

For now, de Chavez can only wait for the new opening of Pilipinas 3X3 after the original March 29 date was rescheduled.  He is also on standby for the FIBA 3X3 Challengers in July and the FIBA 3X3 World Tour Manila Masters on August 15 and 16 at SM Megamall.

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The Second Dynasty

2009: SSC-Cavite gets their NAASCU repeat.

    AFTER THE University of Manila won the first five seasons of the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) from 2001 to 2005, it took quite a while until another school managed a repeat.  Enter the San Sebastian College-Recoletos de Cavite Baycats, back to back champions of 2008 and 2009.

Handled by former PBA player Edgar Macaraya, the Baycats scored their second title via a 98-91 overtime thriller over UM at the Cuneta Astrodome on Setpember 14, 2009.  They barely took the series opener five days earlier at the same venue, 71-69.

Guard Jun Gracilla, who unloaded 24 points in the clincher, was named as season Most Valuable Player.  Joining him in the Mythical Five was big man Kris Lucernas, the previous season’s MVP.

Other members of the champion team were RJ Escobal, Bryan Filio, Josef Pasagui, Raymond Alcasabas, Lloyd Pono, Rommel Alcasabas, Lexter Atangan, Carlo Reyes, Jeremiah Callado, Merk Jeric Basa, Howard Pantonia, Lyle Antipuesto, Jeoff Acain and Aeron dela Cruz.  Escobal was also cited as Defensive Player of the Year.

A year ago, it was Lucernas leading the Baycats to their first ever NAASCU Finals appearance and trophy against defending champion STI Colleges.  The Olympians took Game One, 75-72, but the Baycats rebounded to register the Game Two blowout, 95-75.

With the momentum on their side, SSC-Cavite made history in October 4, 2008 at the Makati Coliseum as they dethroned STI, 86-77.  Lucernas drew support from Gracilla who made it to the First Mythical Five, and Oliver Villareal and Raymond Alcasabas who were named to the Second Mythical Five.

A big plus for the Baycats’ title defense was that they entered Season Nine with basically the same lineup.  Villareal was the only major loss

Prior to joining the NAASCU, SSC-Cavite was already a rising force with future PBA players Mark Yee and Axel Doruelo as the team leaders as they also joined commercial tournaments all over the country.  The two were no longer available by 2006 but Coach Macaraya used his connections to bring in solid recruits from the Visayas and other provinces to complement the home-grown products.

The Cavite City-based school entered the league in 2006 but their initial foray was controversial to say the least.  The newcomers won their first seven games and were denied a sweep by eventual champion AMA University led by forward Chito Jaime.

Coach Macaraya was accused of punching Titan guard Jun Gabica after the wild game which resulted in the league slapping him a one-year ban.  In protest, the top seed Baycats defaulted all their five quarterfinal games to drop to fifth spot at 8-6 and threatened to quit the league but cooler heads prevailed and they chose to stay to fulfill their date with destiny.

Coach Macaraya gave SSC-Cavite two NAASCU titles.

With graduating veterans Glen Bolocon and Jerome Cenita at the firing end, the Baycats picked up from where they left off and made the semifinals in their sophomore campaign.  However, they fell short against a rampaging STI but it only gave them more motivation.

The Baycats were hit by a lot of graduations and failed to score a three-peat in 2010 which became their last year in the NAASCU.  Varsity sports was not a priority of the new school administration thus ending another chapter in the league’s history.

Coach Macaraya would remain in the NAASCU as an assistant with Centro Escolar University under Coach Ramon Jose and assumed the head coach post the following season.  He would go on to register his three-peat with the Scorpions from 2013 to 2015 and match the legendary Coach Loreto Tolentino Sr. of UM with five NAASCU Senior championships but that’s reserved for another story.

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NAASCU vs. COVID-19

     THE GRIND continues for the student athletes of the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) amidst the current COVID-19 crisis.  Their coaches have prepared individual programs that can be performed in the safety of home while employing the latest technology.

“We strictly ordered all our players to stay at home but at first we caught a few after they posted photos on social media,” reported Coach Jinino Manansala of reigning champion Saint Clare College of Caloocan Saints.  “The players understand the situation so we coaches deliver food and supplies to the players who live near the school.”

For runner-up Enderun Colleges, the Titans are required to submit videos and scouting reports to Coach Pipo Noundou as evidence of their compliance of their exercises.  The team last practiced together as FamilyMart last March 17 before the 2020 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup got postponed but the team still conducts regular online meetings.

Known for its culinary courses, Enderun opened their kitchens to produce thousands of meals for distribution to frontline workers.  As a precaution, the Titans are not directly involved in the relief effort but they did their part already by helping raise funds for the project.

Over at the City University of Pasay, some of the Eagles are Sangguniang Kabataan Chairpersons or Kagawads in Pasay thus thrusting them into the frontline together with teammates who volunteered.  Coach Benedict Martin constantly reminds his players to act with great caution.

“The players are already itching to play now,” added Coach Gabby Velasco of Saint Francis of Assisi College.  “Before the ECQ, we sent all the players home on March 13 but Coach Mel Lantin gave them programs to follow.”

In the end, Coach Manansala stressed the importance of testing the players once action resumes for the safety of everybody.  All the coaches are in agreement that they have to double their efforts to make up for lost time as they prepare for the milestone 20th NAASCU season later this year.

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WNBA Top Picks Played In Philippines

Hebard (14) and Ionescu (7) at the 2018 3X3 World Cup. (FIBA)

THE NEW York Liberty selected 5’11” point guard Sabrina Ionescu of the University of Oregon sa the top pick of the 2020 WNBA Rookie Draft.  Ionescu is the only female player to tally more than 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in her NCAA career.

In 2018, Filipinos got a glimpse of the future superstar as she spearheaded the United States in the FIBA 3X3 World Cup held at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.  Ionescu powered the Americans to four straight wins against Iran (21-7), Andorra (21-6), Uganda (22-9) and Russia (21-13) to sweep Group C together with teammates Ruth Hebard, Otiona Gildon and Erin Boley.

However, their magical run ended with a 14-17 loss to eventual champion Italy in the quarterfinals.  Team USA ended up in fifth place.

Hebard, a 6’4” forward and Ionescu’s teammate at the Lady Ducks, was picked eighth overall by the Chicago Sky.  Another Oregon product, 6’4” forward Satou Sabally was chosen second right after Ionescu.

Meanwhile, the league honored as honorary WNBA Draft picks the trio of Alyssa Altobelli, Payton Chester and Gianna Bryant, daughter of Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant.  The three teenagers perished in the helicopter crash that also killed Bryant last January 26.

The usual ceremonies were set aside in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.  Instead, the 12 teams communicated their selections and these were announced by WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert via video conferencing.

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The Last Hawks

2011: UM Hawks celebrate NAASCU Title #7

    TOWARDS THE close of its first decade, the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) began to experience better and balanced competition.  Sweeping the fledgling league’s first five seasons, the once formidable University of Manila Hawks were a shadow of their old self as three other schools shared the next four championships – or so they thought.

The school parted ways with legendary mentor Loreto Tolentino Sr., the architect of their five-year reign, and hired former national coach Francis Rodriguez to take over for the 2008 wars.  Despite his glowing credentials, Coach Rodriguez’ stay lasted for only one forgettable NAASCU thus paving the way for the entry of young coach Felix “Jojo” Castillo for 2009.

The Hawks managed to return to the Finals but were swept by the powerhouse San Sebastian College-Cavite Baycats who took their second straight trophy.  However, the pieces were slowly being put into place led by Rookie of the Year Jeff Alvin Viernes.

All the hard work finally bore fruit the following season as Viernes teamed up with super rookies Eugene Torres and Randell Colina from Davao to finally capture UM’s sixth title in 2010 over the very game STI College Olympians.  Torres was named as MVP and ROY while Colina led the league in scoring in his lone NAASCU stint.

With the trophy back with the Hawks’ talons, the team was poised for greatness as Coach Castillo added a few more players.  Sadly, their title defense started on a sour note after the team left some of their key players’ uniforms in the taxi forcing them to go in defeat shorthanded against a complete STI, 72-90.

That proved to be UM’s only loss of the tournament as they bulldozed through the opposition to finish the eliminations with an 8-1 card.  The Hawks then swept their five quarterfinal games to earn the top seeding at 13-1, capped by a 64-50 revenge victory over the Olympians.

In the crossover semifinals, the Hawks disposed of fourth seed Informatics College, 98-66.  Second seed STI needed an extra game to eliminate third seed Centro Escolar University and thus set the stage for a championship rematch with the Hawks.

New NAASCU rules called for a one-game finale instead of the usual best of three series.  With Viernes and Torres at the firing end, the Hawks retained their title, 69-66, with Viernes earning MVP honors.

2010: UM Hawks Return to the top.

Sadly, the celebration was short-lived no thanks to a brewing internal conflict among the school’s management.  Varsity sports became collateral damage as UM’s entries for the NAASCU’s second semester events failed to complete and eventually led the way for their exit from the league they helped found in 2001.

To this day, UM’s seven NAASCU Seniors crowns remains unmatched.  For sure, the last generation of Hawks have continued to cement their legacy.

Taking advantage of a league rule that allows players from disbanded teams to transfer sans residency, Viernes and Torres took their talents to Saint Clare College of Caloocan.  Together with UM Juniors coach Jino Manansala, who was hired as the new Saints coach, the trio gave the school its first NAASCU title with Viernes securing his second straight MVP in 2012.

Forward Jayson Ibay took a year off and joined the Saints in 2013.  Meanwhile, teammate Kiko Flores stayed one more season in the NAASCU with Trace College while Sherwin Castro and Jerald Serrano tried their luck with Emilio Aguinaldo College as the rest of the team did not continue collegiate ball.

Viernes eventually had two stints with Phoenix Petroleum and GlobalPort in the PBA plus playing as an import in leagues around Southeast Asia.  Torres and Ibay made it as far as the D-League.

As for Coach Castillo, his post-NAASCU coaching journey took him to Vietnam where he was tasked to handle the Women’s National Team.  It is to be noted that his former players like Viernes, Flores and Alain Bonleon have begun to enter the coaching profession at various levels.

Other members of the last championship squad of the UM Hawks include rebounding demon Jay-Ar Manuel, JR Ancheta, Luis Garcia, Salvador Guti-ay, Clemente Ruiz, Michael Eneria, Jayson Gonzales and Fil-Am Andrew Rivera.  Coach Castillo’s assistants were Mark Javier, Kaka Espartero and Manansala with Rex Manansala serving as team consultant and manager.

In recent years, the NAASCU has seen the return of members like AMA University and Holy Angel University after a leave of absence.  Perhaps it’s time to see if the purple and green will soar again.

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Philippine 3X3 Team Not Alone

     AFTER EXTENDING help to the community in the ongoing health crisis, it’s time for Chooks To Go to help their own.  Members of the Philippine 3X3 National Team will get to receive their monthly allowances from the company, their long-time supporter, despite practices and tournaments still uncertain of resuming.

The quartet of Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, Moala Tautuaa and CJ Perez were supposed to represent the country in the postponed FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament last month in India.  Also in the pool are reserves Leonard Santillan, Karl Dehesa, Dylan Ababou, Chris De Chavez, Troy Rike, Franky Johnson and JR Alabanza.

Pasaol and Santillan quickly thanked Boss Ronald Mascarinas because they can now send help to their families in Davao and Cebu respectively.  Both players remained stuck in Metro Manila ever since the imposition of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) last month.

Meanwhile, top-rated 3X3 player Munzon managed to travel to the United States before the ECQ in order to witness the birth of his first child.  He welcomed the news as he starts his own family any day now.

Speaking on behalf of his teammates, Rike thanked Chooks To Go for looking after them.  It only motivates them to work harder once practices and tournaments resume but for now, they are keeping in shape individually.

Except for Tautuaa and Perez who are signed to PBA teams, all the mentioned players were set to see action in the 2020 Chooks To Go Pilipinas 3X3 Presidents Cup that was scheduled for March 29 at SM City Fairview featuring 12 teams.  Another big competition, the FIBA 3X3 World Tour Manila Masters, has been moved to August 15 to 16 at SM Megamall from its original date of May 2 to 3.

Recently, Chooks To Go went out to donate food packs to frontline workers.  They also made their products accessible through home delivery or via rolling stores at strategic locations.

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