A CHAMPION coach in the Juniors Division, Coach JR Manansala will try to weave his winning magic in the Seniors Division as he pilots Manuel L. Quezon University in their maiden campaign in the 16th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) starting August 25 at the Cuneta Astrodome. Now under a new management group, the Stallions hope to revive the school’s glorious past in basketball and sports.
It was two years ago when Coach Manansala bagged his biggest coaching achievement by steering the Saint Clare College of Caloocan Junior Saints to the NAASCU gold. Fast forward to today, he will now have the luxury of having several familiar faces from the title team to help out in reaching the goal.
High-scoring guard Christopher Bitoon makes his debut in the NAASCU Seniors after years of ripping apart the Juniors Division en route to a couple of Mythical Five selections. Despite his glowing credentials, he was curiously not included in the Saints’ Seniors roster last season hence prompting him to transfer to MLQU which was then competing in another league.
The sweet-shooting Bitoon also played two conferences in the Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League (PCBL), landing among the top ten in scoring as a member of Supremo Lex Builders-OLFU during last year’s Founders Cup and then transferring to Jumbo Plastic to help annex the Chairman’s Cup last May.
Also enrolling with the Stallions are big men Ronnie Pangan and Justine Padua who were also part of the 2014 champion Junior Saints. Other Saint Clare alumni on the roster are Allen King de la Cruz and Jeymark Mallari, who is making a comeback from injury.
Completing the team are John Paul Balidoy, Sultan Macalangcom, Daryl Aurelio, John Paul Angob, Nikko Lao, Gianne Rivera and Regi Ignacio. Waiting in the wings is former Saint Clare center Jayson Grimaldo who will undergo residency to be eligible next season.
It will be double duty for Coach Manansala as he has been tasked to also handle the Junior Stallions. MLQU is also working on their teams that will vie in the second semester disciplines like Volleyball, Athletics, Swimming, Chess, Badminton, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Street Dance and Cheerleading.
An expected interesting matchup will be the meeting between MLQU and Saint Clare, which will still be handled by Coach Manansala’s elder brother Jino Manansala. It was actually the elder Manansala that was first appointed as Stallions head coach in 2015 and formed the team from scratch until a league ruling prevented him from coaching both teams at the same time.
Ever since being acquired in 2014 by the Acuzar Family of New San Jose Builders fame, MLQU has undergone massive improvements beginning with its physical facilities and infrastructure. Revitalizing the varsity athletics program is a major component of the school’s long-term plan and it begins with a good showing by the Stallions in the NAASCU.
Among the recent notable MLQU basketball alumni are Marlon Legaspi, Arnold Calo, Wynne Arboleda, Melvin Taguines, Ramon Regidor and Val Domingo who went on to carve professional careers in the MBA and PBA. The current generation of Stallions are more than raring and eager to follow in their footsteps.