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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