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View Full Version : Season 86 Gameface Team Previews and Forecast by Joe Buduan for Gameface.ph



gameface_one
06-21-2010, 11:57 PM
Letran: Coming Around

Was it really just the middle of the last decade that Letran was still a powerhouse in the NCAA? It seemed no one could match up against the Knights of head coach Louie Alas back then. They had wall to wall All Stars in Mark Andaya, Ronjay Enrile, Aaron Aban, Boyet Bautista, Jonathan Aldave, JP Alcaraz, Jonathan Pinera, and Eric Rodriguez. In a three-year span they won two NCAA championships, and it seemed there would be no end to it. But sic transit gloria mundis indeed.

They were still able to bring some talent up to the senior division and most of it was even homegrown right from their own Squires program. Current Smart Gilas mainstays RJ Jazul and Ray Guevarra are arguably the most prominent ones over the last couple of years. They also had Kojak Melegrito, Reymar Gutilban, Ray Dangcal (who figured in a terrible motoring accident about a year ago), John Foronda, Bryan Faundo, Alvin Cabonce, Regin Ranises, Clarence Foronda and Anjoe Latonio. It is perhaps the misfortune of this last group of Knights that they came together during that incredible grand slam title reign of San Beda. They even disputed one of San Beda’s three straight titles during this time.

Louie Alas no longer has the tall, highly talented and athletic roster he used to have. He is working with a limited deck now. But precisely because this is Letran no one should count them out. This is still a team that knows how to operate as a unit, play tough (some might say dirty) defense, pound the game into a grind-it-out affair, and even surprise the supposedly top tier teams.

Spearheading the Knights this time around are a pair of unlikely leaders: 5-foot-11 guard Kevin Alas, Louie’s boy, and 6-foot-4 power forward Jamison Cortes. Alas can shoot the lights out and has range that extends to the parking lot. Unfortunately, he has not gotten any of the easy looks he used to get in high school. All of the other shooting guards and even some of the pointguards in college are his size or bigger and stronger. He’s had to improve his ability to attack defenses with his dribble, and to use more screens than he used to.

Cortes has been a career role player, but he is now the new leader of the frontline. He has little say in the matter as the only returning big man of note. To his credit he has not shunned the role, getting good numbers in the offseason tournaments the Knights joined. He will have to be ready to do a lot of heavy lifting on his own though, since Letran is pretty thin up front. 6-foot-5 Jomar Datang may or may not be returning to the lineup.

One other returning veteran of note is JP Belencion, a 6-foot-1 gunner with an unorthodox shooting form. Belencion is a more college-ready shooter than Alas, better built and stronger, and he can play a 3/4 role in a small lineup if necessary. Belencion however is suspect on defense and winds up giving up as many points as he scores. That is quite a mouthful for a man who could easily erupt for 30 points in any given game, as he did last season.

Speaking of the Squires, their failed title run last season should give them extra motivation this season. Diminutive pointguard Mark Cruz is the new team leader.

gameface_one
06-21-2010, 11:58 PM
San Sebastian: Going for Back-to-Back Titles

It was a most unexpected turn of events. Even in their wildest dreams, surely the San Sebastian Golden Stags could not have expected the season they had last year, winning the NCAA Season 85 championship against a highly favored San Beda side. There was enough about this team to make people think they could not have gone all the way. They had a new head coach in Renato “Ato” Agustin, a man who had never coached in the major college leagues before. They had a slew of new players that people outside the hardcore hoops circuit had never heard of. Who the heck was Calvin Abueva for crying out loud? Didn’t Ronald Pascual’s career end when he injured his ACL as an Adamson junior player?

They had stronger, bigger, more talented lineups before and couldn’t win it all, surely they would not be able to get it done with this crew. Last season they still had Jason Ballesteros and Jim Viray, two of the best players to ever come to CM Recto, and they couldn’t pull it off. Ballesteros became an honoree of the national sports writing association. Viray continues to be a commercial league mainstay. They did not have anyone coming in who had those credentials. Pamboy Raymundo wasn’t gopod enough to lead this team with those two aboard, plus they still had Jimbo Aquino and Gilbert Bulawan, and they still could not get it done. They wound up with a smaller team in Season 85. And yet, somehow, it all came together for them.

This is where Agustin, a former PBA MVP, came in. For his apparent lack of big time coaching credentials, he found a way to turn a good team into a great one, and bring the best out of players who used to be underachievers. Agustin wanted to maximize Aquino’s superior shooting, so he gave Aquino all the staggered screens and freedom to move and shoot. He wanted to maximize the amazing athletic prowess of Abueva and Pascual, so he did not box them into positions but allowed them to freelance from perimeter to post and back. He wanted to turn Bulawan into a defensive enforcer and ease the pressure off then-rookie Ian Sangalang, so he let the two of them play off each other, alternating at the 5 and 4 spots. Finally, he wanted Raymundo to become the court general he knew he could be, so he gave him help in advancing the ball and distributing it, conserving him for finding the seams in opposing defenses, playing both Raymond Maconocido and Anthony Del Rio on the floor with him. When all was said and done, they were hoisting the championship trophy high overhead. If anybody deserves the credit for San Sebastian’s success, it would have to go to Agustin. The best second round pick ever in pro ball history took his ragtag crew and turned them into champions.

Everyone of note returns this season, except for Aquino. Were it not for a silly mistake during the eliminations, Aquino might have been named MVP of Season 85. He still had the only hardware that mattered though, the championship trophy. And he got bonus bling: he was named Finals MVP, after hitting all the crucial baskets as his hot shooting opened up the San Beda defenses and allowed all the other Stags to operate and exploit mismatches.

San Sebastian’s incredible four-year title reign was halted in the junior division last season when San Beda returned to greatness. This is a new San Sebastian high school team, with the last of the 4-Peat stars finally graduating, as Jerome Delgado and Jeric Estrada now move up to the college game elsewhere. Swingman Gino Juamo-as, the next great college prospect will try to lead them back to prominence.

gameface_one
06-22-2010, 12:00 AM
Mapua: No Time like the Present

When the Mapua Tech Cardinals last won an NCAA championship, their head coach and his assistants were still playing. Back in the 2007 season, Mapua almost made a return trip to the Finals behind that season’s Most Valuable Player, Kelvin De La Pena. They’ve had quite a few talented players come over in the last five years or so, but it was never enough to get them to the Big Dance.

This generation of Cardinals however must take one last stand, one last time, because it could be quite a while before they can get competitive again. Last season, with a much-diminished lineup, the Cardinals still scared the living daylights out of a few contenders. A lot of the current Cardinal veterans were still learning the ropes and cutting their teeth with the superstars of season past. They learned to be patient, and to always look for weaknesses even in the strongest of opponents. They nearly upended reigning champion San Sebastian in the eliminations last season.

For head coach Chito “Pistolero” Victolero, he knows that the core of the Mapua roster he has now must take their game to the next level. “They are all veterans now, and this could be the best chance for them to at least return to the Final 4,” Victolero said in one off-season interview. 5-foot-9 guard Allan Mangahas might be the most critical piece of this puzzle. Mangahas was a high-profile prospect coming out of the Philippine Christian University junior ranks. He learned to play the backcourt with De La Pena, Ian Mazo and Hermes Sumalinog, and he has become one of the most accomplished sentinels in the league. A lot rests on his shoulders because he controls the tempo, calls out the opposing defenses, and is generally acknowledged as the team’s leader.

A slew of other veterans are ready to become stars this season. Up front, there are a pair of unorthodox centers who need to step up to challenge the tall timber of opposing teams. 6-foot-6 Mark Sarangay is already a college journeyman at such a relatively young age. He initially landed on the De La Salle roster in the UAAP. He then transferred to San Beda and spent a year and a half on the B Team. 6-foot-5 Jason Pascual is a banger on one end and a bomber on the other. Vastly improved 6-foot-5 Mike Parala might prove to be the answer.

A bunch of guards who swarm like hornets return for one more shot at glory as well: 5-foot-8 Andretti Stevens, 5-foot-9 TG Guillermo, 5-foot-10 Rodel Raneses and 6-foot Erwin Cornejo. All of them can pass, handle and shoot but must improve their end-game composure. Stevens must prove he can play with his off-hand as well as his strong hand or opposing defenses will just show him his off-side and dare him to beat them. Raneses, Guillermo and Cornejo cannot take turns waxing hot and must strive for volley fire to ease the pressure of their thin frontline.

In the junior division, the Malayan Tech Red Robins might pull a few surprises this season. For the longest time they have been the whipping boys of the best high school basketball league in the country, but this could all change in Season 86. Head coach Randy Alcantara may finally have the personnel and the system to reverse the fortunes of the Robins. Forward Ian Valdez, swingman Andrew Billera and guard Rodolfo Alejandro had a great summer season and should surprise the NCAA.

gameface_one
06-22-2010, 12:01 AM
San Beda: Regaining the Crown

San Beda had a disappointing end to their Season 85 campaign. Looking forward to completing a rare and unprecedented 4-Peat with their fourth straight NCAA championship, the Red Lions instead faltered and were swept in two straight games by reigning champion San Sebastian. With their tall, athletic and experienced roster, they were heavily favored to win the championship and finally get that 4-Peat, and yet they succumbed to the Golden Stags. “No one was expecting that. We really thought we’d win. We even had the celebrations planned and everything,” said a lawyer and long-time San Beda fan.

With that bitter sting of defeat still on their minds, San Beda is looking to bounce back strong and regain the championship glory they feel is rightfully theirs. There will be hell to pay for the rest of the NCAA. They return minus some vital cogs instrumental in helping them win that rare Grand Slam. Center-forward JR “Shaq” Taganas, forward Bam Gamalinda, swingman JR Tecson and pointguard Chico Tirona have all used up their collegiate eligibility. They do however have some newcomers who should prove to be more than apt replacements.

A trio of expatriates is among the most prominent newcomers. Anthony and David Semerad out of Australia, and Kyle Pascual out of North America, bring plenty of size, attitude and athletic ability to the Red Lions roster. Anthony and David are identical twins, each standing 6-foot-5 with meaty arms and broad shoulders. Both of them can crash the boards, can handle the ball even against pressure, and play up to three positions each. Anthony has a better jumper, while David is an enforcer-type in the lane. They play off each other and alternating with each other. Pascual for his part is a 6-foot-6 center-forward with a bruising game and a take-no-prisoners attitude. He used to be with the RP Youth Team under Coach Franz Pumaren. These three figure to bring plenty of size, rebounding and additional offense to an already formidable and huge frontline.

Holdovers include a bunch of players looking to prove that they can bounce back from last season’s debacle. Their biggest player must however prove he is capable of carrying San Beda. 6-foot-8 American Sudan Daniel is itching to get back into NCAA action to prove to all and sundry that he is indeed the player who can bring the Red Lions back to glory. He was thoroughly outplayed in last season’s finals and is carrying 10-ton chips on both shoulders. Also returning is 5-foot-7 pointguard Borgie Hermida. Hermida got injured and could not finish last season. He has bounced back from that injury and is also eager to return to action. Rome De La Rosa, the gifted and multi-talented 6-foot-4 swingman is also back, bringing an expanded game and a tougher attitude.

San Beda is out to exact payback and the rest of the NCAA has been served notice.

In the junior division, the San Beda Red Cubs gave legendary coach Ato Badolato his 16th NCAA junior championship as a retirement gift. With 5-foot-8 pointguard Baser Amer and 6-foot-5 center Alfonso Gotladera returning a year wiser and stronger, defending the crown should be a foregone conclusion. There is no team with the talent and depth to match the Red Cubs.

gameface_one
06-22-2010, 12:02 AM
Perpetual Help: Building Up

When the ordinary basketball fan takes a look at the last couple of years of Perpetual Help basketball, it might be difficult to imagine that as late as the middle of the decade that the Altas of the amiable Tamayo Family figured in the NCAA basketball championship. That was the time they still had the likes of Vladimir Joe and Fritz Bauzon, and a slew of talented players who competed and battled and and hustled for every possession in every game.

Since then, Perpetual Help has mostly spun its wheels. It is not because they lack talent or even size. They’ve had and continue to have quite a number of players with good skill and big fighting heart. Hotshot guard Ronald Reyes, and the Kong Brothers used to pit themselves shot for shot against the best college stars in the league and in the country. Forward Boy Balboa was also a solid contributor, as was center Nat Salanga. They used to be mentored by the indefatigable Bay Cristobal, a PBA legend and a man with a college championship pedigree. Somehow all this just was not enough to keep them at least over .500 over the last three years or so.

In Season 85, it was another disappointing campaign for the Altas as they failed to even break even in their standing. Some games were close, but a lot of games were blowouts, and not the type that Perpetual Help fans like. It seemed these Altas were always in the game up to the first half only, sometimes only in the first quarter. Suddenly the opposing team would get on a run and Perpetual Help was staring a huge double-digit deficit in the face, seemingly unable to mount a counter-attack or even a credible defense to stem the tide. “We always want to be competitive in a tough league like the NCAA, although it can be really hard,” said head coach Boris Aldeguer in one offseason interview.

Some old reliable and some new faces stepped up last season and are returning to the roster this season. Brawny 6-foot-3 center-forward Raffy Ynion leads the charge. Ynion may not have the height of other NCAA post players, but he does bring his thick and muscular frame into the low blocks where he is nearly impossible to move. Also returning is a pair of hotshot guards: 5-foot-8 Robin Rono and 5-foot-9 Chris Elopre. Rono and Elopre play similar games, and neither is a pure pointguard or a pure off-guard. Both can score from long range and heat up in a hurry. Both can run the wings in transition and even anchor the break after the first outlet. Hopefully they learned how to be better distributors and handlers over the offseason because they will be the primary press break of the Altas.

There are also a couple of newcomers who might be able to contribute right away for Coach Aldeguer. Arguably the most notable of these new guys would be Arnold Danganan, a 5-foot-11 swingman who played a couple of seasons with NAASCU powerhouse STI College. Danganan was a stone scorer who could cut up defenses, fill the lanes and shoot from just about anywhere as an Olympian.

Junior division action has been even tougher for the high school team, since the NCAA is considered the best high school tournament in the country. They did however make some Final 4 noise in Season 85. Joseph Eriobu is no longer with the team, which means pointguard Gino Alolino is their new heart and soul.

gameface_one
06-22-2010, 12:03 AM
Arellano: Returning for More

Winding up in the top half of the standings and actually having a chance to crack the Final 4 in the Season 85 campaign, Arellano University showed the entire NCAA that newcomers don’t necessarily make for easy fodder. These Chiefs, formerly the Flaming Arrows, were after all an NCRAA powerhouse who won a couple of titles not too long ago. Behind the wondrously talented trio of swingman Alfie Martinez, forward Lee More Boliver, guard Jordan Melanio and forward-center Orlando Daroya, Arellano was the epitome of hardcore hoop greatness. That they were also beating better-known college teams in the various offseason tournaments only added to their legend. When they came to the NCAA last year everybody expected great things from the program and they did not disappoint.

Forward-center Giorgio Ciriacruz was selected to the Season 85 Mythical 5 after leading the Chiefs with a near double-double average. He showed one and all that not all the good players were in the big programs. He got plenty of help from a solid support crew that played fast-attack basketball and busted out on the early offense at every opportunity. They played strong on-ball defense from the three-quarter court and dogged the handler and jammed passing lanes to maximize their quick hands and fleet feet. It was always a challenge trying to get one against Arellano. Ciriacruz is no longer with the Chiefs, as is slam-dunking swingman Jerry Miranda. Both were vital cogs last season and will be missed.

There are still a few solid veterans left to carry the fight for Arellano though. Chief among these veterans are a pair of multi-skilled swingmen who should become the new leaders of the team: Andrian Celada, a 6-foot-4 swingman who can also see some time at both forward spots and Giorgio’s younger brother Isaiah Ciriacruz, a 6-foot-2 swingman, who also plays some 1 in a tall lineup will spearhead the Chiefs. Celada is probably the most underrated player in college basketball today. He is highly skilled, long, lean and athletic and could have easily wound up in a bigger program. The younger Ciriacruz is literally an image model for Arellano, as he is also on the various billboards advertising the hotel and restaurant program of the school. He is a slightly shorter version of Celada but is also a better passer and handler who helps advance the ball against pressure and can break down defenses with his dribble-drive. 5-foot-9 combo-guard Jon Virtudazo and the highly popular Bimbot Anquilo, all of 4-foot-11 in his sneakers, also return to shore up the perimeter.

Up front the Chiefs must certainly wish that African import Chris Mammi could already play this season, as the highly athletic 6-foot-7 African can rule both boards. As things stand, most of the frontline chores will fall on the shoulders of 6-foot-5 center-forward Ed Rivera. Rivera is yet another underrated player. He plays the 4 and 5 spots and can fill the lanes in transition unlike other more conventional big men. He should get some help from chunky 6-foot-3 center-forward Noy Zulueta, undersized vertically but more than making up for it with his 220-pound mass. Coming in from their own high school team, Prince Caperal should also see a few minutes at the 4 and 5 spots. Caperal is legitimately 6-foot-6 with good shoulders but is raw and tentative.

As for the Baby Chiefs, it promises to be a tough season for them with Caperal now moving up to the senior division. Two young lads with dynamic games should help them through, 5-foot-7 guard Jon Gamaru and 5-foot-9 swingman Toy Bustamante.

gameface_one
06-22-2010, 12:04 AM
EAC: New Battles Ahead

Emilio Aguinaldo College certainly must have learned a thing or two in their maiden season last year in the NCAA. An NCRAA and UCAA powerhouse the Generals found the going very rough and tumble in their first foray into NCAA basketball. “We knew the NCAA would be a tough league with a lot of strong teams, we really just wanted to play our game and try to be competitive,” said head coach Nomar Isla in one offseason interview.

For sure those lessons were all hard ones for the NCAA newcomers. Playing mostly their high-low and swing game, the Generals found themselves facing tightly-packed zone defenses and quick rotations and hard shows off screens. It was a very difficult learning curve, but one that allowed them to improve over the course of the season. Apart from the lessons learned, their own stars emerged in the heat of battle, as certain players distinguished themselves with consistency and toughness.

Arguably the most prominent player for EAC last season was pointguard Argel Mendoza, a well-built 5-foot-9 dynamo. Mendoza had to learn the fine art of guard play in the NCAA the hard way: he led the league in turnovers in the early goings and could not seem to direct the offense for his team. He eventually figured things out and made it to the NCAA All Star team. Mendoza is better built and taller than most players at his position, and this has allowed him to carve up defenses better and take hits even from bigger players.

Another player who emerged last season was 6-foot-5 forward-center Claude Cubo. Cubo was among the league leaders in rebounds and shot blocks and was a consistent interior presence for EAC. Cubo is lean but he is also long, tall and deceptively strong. He can grab rebounds away from beefier players by finding the seams in the box out. He blocks shots with superb timing and tries to keep the ball in play. He also gets opportunistic baskets off the offensive glass.

These two are coming back in Season 86. Joining them are other valuable returnees: 6-foot-4 forward Russell and 6-foot-2 small forward Lowell Yaya, and 6-foot-3 power forward Dan Diolanto. All three players alternate at the 3/4/5 and give Coach Isla more options in his frontline match-ups against the taller NCAA teams. Each can play two or three positions.

Hopefully 6-foot-2 swingman Ferdinand Aquino will finally be able to join the NCAA roster. Aquino will bring a new toughness and offensive dimension to the perimeter if he does join the team. 6-foot-6 Jeff Lapitan, another longtime reserve, played well enough in the summer tournaments to merit serious consideration for the NCAA roster. Lapitan will help bolster the frontline and bring in added toughness, rebounding and post defense. Former UST swingman might also be joining the NCAA roster. Vargas, a 6-foot combo-guard, can help advance the ball against pressure and also look for his own shot.

There does not seem to be much going on with the high school team of EAC, as the Junior Generals are still awaiting other recruits as of press time. Suffice it to say any improvement from last season would be welcome.

gameface_one
06-22-2010, 12:05 AM
JRU: Could and Should

Jose Rizal University has seen two seasons practically slip through their fingers. Last season should have been their season, their championship, the culmination of several years of recruitment and seasoning and training. Instead they could not even muster a way into the Season 85 Finals. Sure, hotshot gunner John Wilson was named the league Most Valuable Player, and he did put up great numbers and placed among the Top 5 in all statistical categories of note. Unfortunately they just did not have enough in the tank to get past the Final 4. However, the unexpected loss to injury of 6-foot-9 Cameroonian center Etame Joe would be telling, as the JRU frontline just could not muster enough production against tall and talented frontlines. Joe might have been a real difference-maker in that regard.

In Season 84, they managed to get into the Finals to face the mighty Red Lions. They were confident they could at least match up against San Beda, anchored on the mighty Nigerian giant and two-time MVP, 6-foot-8 Samuel Ekwe. After all, they did beat the Red Lions in the eliminations of this season with an unorthodox approach that saw a lot of mad outside bombing. They almost made it, forcing a deciding Game 3 in a series that turned out to be a lot harder fought and a lot more competitive than anyone thought. Back then, the Heavy Bombers still had the now-deceased forward-center Jason Nocom to provide added depth in the frontline, as well as buff swingman Maui Pradas. One might say their Season 84 roster was even stronger than their Season 85 lineup.

Plenty of observers really thought with the maturity and unity of a roster that grew up together over the last three or so years, as well as the emergence of Wilson into a legitimate NCAA superstar, the Heavy Bombers would have won it all last season. Alas, such would not be the case. “You know who should have really won it all last season? JRU, not San Sebastian, because that lineup was all-veteran, and ready,” explained a long-time observer and supporter from a rival NCAA school. “It’s too bad they just didn’t have what it took to return to the Finals,” he added.

JRU retained plenty of its veterans, but it just plain looks like an all-new team, with a lot of formerly ignored players now getting the chance to show their stuff. Even the coach is new: PBA legend Vergel Meneses replaced long-time coach Ariel Vanguardia. “We like Vergel’s new approach. It is important to give all your players a chance, so that they gain confidence,” explained a long-time hardcore basketball organizer. With the new approach Meneses and Company are hoping to make a little more leeway in the tournament. Goings will not be easy though. They lost three starters: Wilson, center James Sena and pointguard Mark Cagoco. Those three account for well over 70% of the scoring and at least 50% of the rebounds and steals of the last two full seasons. Joe however is back from injury and regaining his step. Veterans Marvin Hayes, Nchotu Njei, another African, and the likes of Jon Lopez, Jay Bulangis, Reycon Kabigting and Jecster Apinan also return.

For the Light Bombers, they lost Season 85 MVP Louie Vigil and Mythical 5 member Joshua Saret to graduation. Their biggest loss however might be long-time coach Boy De Vera, who has retired. They still have a few good young players, but it is time to look for a new high school superstar for JRU.

gameface_one
06-22-2010, 12:11 AM
St Benilde: Rekindle the Flame

It is sometimes a little difficult to believe that St Benilde is already among the ranks of NCAA basketball champions. Some 10 years ago, the Blazers won the NCAA championship behind the likes of Al Magpayo, Ron Capati, Jay Lapinid and Sunday Salvacion. That was a powerhouse team that just stamped its class on the rest of the NCAA that season under the bench direction of Dong Vergeire. Almost every star on that team went on to play commercial- and pro-league ball. Salvacion is still a mainstay now in the PBA. Not too many years ago they even produced an NCAA Most Valuable Player in Jay Sagad. Sagad was a yeoman-like center who quietly but consistently got his numbers and helped his team in every way he could. St Benilde has expanded as an institution, but has since fallen on some hard times, at least in the basketball front.

When one looks at the players who have at one time or another been on the St Benilde roster, it seems unbelievable that they have not had as much success as their rosters would suggest. Aside from those aforementioned, the following have donned the black and green: Paolo Orbeta, Gary David, Jeff Morial, Gelo Montecastro, Archie David, Willy Johnston, Stan Aldover, and a whole bunch of other talents. It seems unfathomable that they have not been more successful as a basketball program. It seems forever since they’ve seen the Final 4, never mind the Finals. For Season 86, it is high time to bring the “blaze” back into Blazers.

There are still quite a few holdovers who will now assume the role of veteran leaders for head coach Richard Del Rosario. 5-foot-7 Pointguard Mac Abolucion had to take a backseat to the bigger name guards on this team the last few years. Having to play alongside the likes of Orbeta, Montecastro and Morial would certainly guarantee less minutes for someone like Abolucion. But going up against those guys in practice also helped him become a better player, a smarter player, and a more patient player overall. Abolucion is now being trusted to take the reins and lead this team as the primary pointguard.

Other notable returning veterans are 6-foot-3 center-forward Robbie Manalac, 6-foot-5 center Jan Tan, 6-foot-3 forward Alex Wong, 6-foot swingman Christian De La Paz, and 5-foot-9 guard RJ Argamino. 6-foot-2 forward David Urra might also return. These men should provide some stability for the Blazers and lead by example for the newcomers. One man notable for not returning however is also the team’s erstwhile superstar: Montecastro is reportedly transferring to another university.

As for the newcomers, there is three of note: 6-foot-2 forward Timothy McCoy came from Philippine Christian University should make the most immediate impact with his athleticism and toughness. 5-foot-7 pointguard Luis Sinco out of Ateneo De Manila saw heavy minutes in the summer tournaments and might emerge as the sleeper discovery of Season 86. 6-foot-4 forward-center Jeff Ongteco is lean and long but very athletic and should help at the 4/3 spot.

Lasalle Greenhills, the Junior Blazers, should also do well in the toughest high school tournament in the country. 6-foot-2 RP Youth Team forward Michael Pate, 6-foot-4 center Ali Carlos and 5-foot-6 guard Luigi Pumaren lead the team.

bluegreen
06-26-2010, 09:55 AM
What's your fearless NCAA forecast? Final ranking 1-9th place? ;D

coachjake
06-30-2010, 08:43 AM
Letran: Coming Around

Was it really just the middle of the last decade that Letran was still a powerhouse in the NCAA? It seemed no one could match up against the Knights of head coach Louie Alas back then. They had wall to wall All Stars in Mark Andaya, Ronjay Enrile, Aaron Aban, Boyet Bautista, Jonathan Aldave, JP Alcaraz, Jonathan Pinera, and Eric Rodriguez. In a three-year span they won two NCAA championships, and it seemed there would be no end to it. But sic transit gloria mundis indeed.

They were still able to bring some talent up to the senior division and most of it was even homegrown right from their own Squires program. Current Smart Gilas mainstays RJ Jazul and Ray Guevarra are arguably the most prominent ones over the last couple of years. They also had Kojak Melegrito, Reymar Gutilban, Ray Dangcal (who figured in a terrible motoring accident about a year ago), John Foronda, Bryan Faundo, Alvin Cabonce, Regin Ranises, Clarence Foronda and Anjoe Latonio. It is perhaps the misfortune of this last group of Knights that they came together during that incredible grand slam title reign of San Beda. They even disputed one of San Beda’s three straight titles during this time.

Louie Alas no longer has the tall, highly talented and athletic roster he used to have. He is working with a limited deck now. But precisely because this is Letran no one should count them out. This is still a team that knows how to operate as a unit, play tough (some might say dirty) defense, pound the game into a grind-it-out affair, and even surprise the supposedly top tier teams.

Spearheading the Knights this time around are a pair of unlikely leaders: 5-foot-11 guard Kevin Alas, Louie’s boy, and 6-foot-4 power forward Jamison Cortes. Alas can shoot the lights out and has range that extends to the parking lot. Unfortunately, he has not gotten any of the easy looks he used to get in high school. All of the other shooting guards and even some of the pointguards in college are his size or bigger and stronger. He’s had to improve his ability to attack defenses with his dribble, and to use more screens than he used to.

Cortes has been a career role player, but he is now the new leader of the frontline. He has little say in the matter as the only returning big man of note. To his credit he has not shunned the role, getting good numbers in the offseason tournaments the Knights joined. He will have to be ready to do a lot of heavy lifting on his own though, since Letran is pretty thin up front. 6-foot-5 Jomar Datang may or may not be returning to the lineup.

One other returning veteran of note is JP Belencion, a 6-foot-1 gunner with an unorthodox shooting form. Belencion is a more college-ready shooter than Alas, better built and stronger, and he can play a 3/4 role in a small lineup if necessary. Belencion however is suspect on defense and winds up giving up as many points as he scores. That is quite a mouthful for a man who could easily erupt for 30 points in any given game, as he did last season.

Speaking of the Squires, their failed title run last season should give them extra motivation this season. Diminutive pointguard Mark Cruz is the new team leader.



Letran needs to control its game, its coaches and its players - emotions run wild with them an their game suffers, run and gun is good but run and gun out of control = losing, even close games.

coachjake
06-30-2010, 08:46 AM
San Sebastian: Going for Back-to-Back Titles

It was a most unexpected turn of events. Even in their wildest dreams, surely the San Sebastian Golden Stags could not have expected the season they had last year, winning the NCAA Season 85 championship against a highly favored San Beda side. There was enough about this team to make people think they could not have gone all the way. They had a new head coach in Renato “Ato” Agustin, a man who had never coached in the major college leagues before. They had a slew of new players that people outside the hardcore hoops circuit had never heard of. Who the heck was Calvin Abueva for crying out loud? Didn’t Ronald Pascual’s career end when he injured his ACL as an Adamson junior player?

They had stronger, bigger, more talented lineups before and couldn’t win it all, surely they would not be able to get it done with this crew. Last season they still had Jason Ballesteros and Jim Viray, two of the best players to ever come to CM Recto, and they couldn’t pull it off. Ballesteros became an honoree of the national sports writing association. Viray continues to be a commercial league mainstay. They did not have anyone coming in who had those credentials. Pamboy Raymundo wasn’t gopod enough to lead this team with those two aboard, plus they still had Jimbo Aquino and Gilbert Bulawan, and they still could not get it done. They wound up with a smaller team in Season 85. And yet, somehow, it all came together for them.

This is where Agustin, a former PBA MVP, came in. For his apparent lack of big time coaching credentials, he found a way to turn a good team into a great one, and bring the best out of players who used to be underachievers. Agustin wanted to maximize Aquino’s superior shooting, so he gave Aquino all the staggered screens and freedom to move and shoot. He wanted to maximize the amazing athletic prowess of Abueva and Pascual, so he did not box them into positions but allowed them to freelance from perimeter to post and back. He wanted to turn Bulawan into a defensive enforcer and ease the pressure off then-rookie Ian Sangalang, so he let the two of them play off each other, alternating at the 5 and 4 spots. Finally, he wanted Raymundo to become the court general he knew he could be, so he gave him help in advancing the ball and distributing it, conserving him for finding the seams in opposing defenses, playing both Raymond Maconocido and Anthony Del Rio on the floor with him. When all was said and done, they were hoisting the championship trophy high overhead. If anybody deserves the credit for San Sebastian’s success, it would have to go to Agustin. The best second round pick ever in pro ball history took his ragtag crew and turned them into champions.

Everyone of note returns this season, except for Aquino. Were it not for a silly mistake during the eliminations, Aquino might have been named MVP of Season 85. He still had the only hardware that mattered though, the championship trophy. And he got bonus bling: he was named Finals MVP, after hitting all the crucial baskets as his hot shooting opened up the San Beda defenses and allowed all the other Stags to operate and exploit mismatches.

San Sebastian’s incredible four-year title reign was halted in the junior division last season when San Beda returned to greatness. This is a new San Sebastian high school team, with the last of the 4-Peat stars finally graduating, as Jerome Delgado and Jeric Estrada now move up to the college game elsewhere. Swingman Gino Juamo-as, the next great college prospect will try to lead them back to prominence.



Strong Chance to win Back-to-Back Crowns. But how old is Abueva really? He brings a PBA level game to the NCAA, nakapagtataka. A coach of one of the NCAA Teams told me his real birth certificate has been cast in cement and dropped somewhere in Manila Bay near Corregidor, calling on the Coast Guard....may sonar finder ba kayo para sa NCAA Eligibility Committee? ;D

coachjake
06-30-2010, 08:48 AM
Mapua: No Time like the Present

When the Mapua Tech Cardinals last won an NCAA championship, their head coach and his assistants were still playing. Back in the 2007 season, Mapua almost made a return trip to the Finals behind that season’s Most Valuable Player, Kelvin De La Pena. They’ve had quite a few talented players come over in the last five years or so, but it was never enough to get them to the Big Dance.

This generation of Cardinals however must take one last stand, one last time, because it could be quite a while before they can get competitive again. Last season, with a much-diminished lineup, the Cardinals still scared the living daylights out of a few contenders. A lot of the current Cardinal veterans were still learning the ropes and cutting their teeth with the superstars of season past. They learned to be patient, and to always look for weaknesses even in the strongest of opponents. They nearly upended reigning champion San Sebastian in the eliminations last season.

For head coach Chito “Pistolero” Victolero, he knows that the core of the Mapua roster he has now must take their game to the next level. “They are all veterans now, and this could be the best chance for them to at least return to the Final 4,” Victolero said in one off-season interview. 5-foot-9 guard Allan Mangahas might be the most critical piece of this puzzle. Mangahas was a high-profile prospect coming out of the Philippine Christian University junior ranks. He learned to play the backcourt with De La Pena, Ian Mazo and Hermes Sumalinog, and he has become one of the most accomplished sentinels in the league. A lot rests on his shoulders because he controls the tempo, calls out the opposing defenses, and is generally acknowledged as the team’s leader.

A slew of other veterans are ready to become stars this season. Up front, there are a pair of unorthodox centers who need to step up to challenge the tall timber of opposing teams. 6-foot-6 Mark Sarangay is already a college journeyman at such a relatively young age. He initially landed on the De La Salle roster in the UAAP. He then transferred to San Beda and spent a year and a half on the B Team. 6-foot-5 Jason Pascual is a banger on one end and a bomber on the other. Vastly improved 6-foot-5 Mike Parala might prove to be the answer.

A bunch of guards who swarm like hornets return for one more shot at glory as well: 5-foot-8 Andretti Stevens, 5-foot-9 TG Guillermo, 5-foot-10 Rodel Raneses and 6-foot Erwin Cornejo. All of them can pass, handle and shoot but must improve their end-game composure. Stevens must prove he can play with his off-hand as well as his strong hand or opposing defenses will just show him his off-side and dare him to beat them. Raneses, Guillermo and Cornejo cannot take turns waxing hot and must strive for volley fire to ease the pressure of their thin frontline.

In the junior division, the Malayan Tech Red Robins might pull a few surprises this season. For the longest time they have been the whipping boys of the best high school basketball league in the country, but this could all change in Season 86. Head coach Randy Alcantara may finally have the personnel and the system to reverse the fortunes of the Robins. Forward Ian Valdez, swingman Andrew Billera and guard Rodolfo Alejandro had a great summer season and should surprise the NCAA.



Dark Horse of the tournament - but showed strength in their first game - could pull off a big surprise. Keep Stevens trashtalking and emotions in check, maybe he did deserve the elbow last game he he :D

coachjake
06-30-2010, 08:49 AM
San Beda: Regaining the Crown

San Beda had a disappointing end to their Season 85 campaign. Looking forward to completing a rare and unprecedented 4-Peat with their fourth straight NCAA championship, the Red Lions instead faltered and were swept in two straight games by reigning champion San Sebastian. With their tall, athletic and experienced roster, they were heavily favored to win the championship and finally get that 4-Peat, and yet they succumbed to the Golden Stags. “No one was expecting that. We really thought we’d win. We even had the celebrations planned and everything,” said a lawyer and long-time San Beda fan.

With that bitter sting of defeat still on their minds, San Beda is looking to bounce back strong and regain the championship glory they feel is rightfully theirs. There will be hell to pay for the rest of the NCAA. They return minus some vital cogs instrumental in helping them win that rare Grand Slam. Center-forward JR “Shaq” Taganas, forward Bam Gamalinda, swingman JR Tecson and pointguard Chico Tirona have all used up their collegiate eligibility. They do however have some newcomers who should prove to be more than apt replacements.

A trio of expatriates is among the most prominent newcomers. Anthony and David Semerad out of Australia, and Kyle Pascual out of North America, bring plenty of size, attitude and athletic ability to the Red Lions roster. Anthony and David are identical twins, each standing 6-foot-5 with meaty arms and broad shoulders. Both of them can crash the boards, can handle the ball even against pressure, and play up to three positions each. Anthony has a better jumper, while David is an enforcer-type in the lane. They play off each other and alternating with each other. Pascual for his part is a 6-foot-6 center-forward with a bruising game and a take-no-prisoners attitude. He used to be with the RP Youth Team under Coach Franz Pumaren. These three figure to bring plenty of size, rebounding and additional offense to an already formidable and huge frontline.

Holdovers include a bunch of players looking to prove that they can bounce back from last season’s debacle. Their biggest player must however prove he is capable of carrying San Beda. 6-foot-8 American Sudan Daniel is itching to get back into NCAA action to prove to all and sundry that he is indeed the player who can bring the Red Lions back to glory. He was thoroughly outplayed in last season’s finals and is carrying 10-ton chips on both shoulders. Also returning is 5-foot-7 pointguard Borgie Hermida. Hermida got injured and could not finish last season. He has bounced back from that injury and is also eager to return to action. Rome De La Rosa, the gifted and multi-talented 6-foot-4 swingman is also back, bringing an expanded game and a tougher attitude.

San Beda is out to exact payback and the rest of the NCAA has been served notice.

In the junior division, the San Beda Red Cubs gave legendary coach Ato Badolato his 16th NCAA junior championship as a retirement gift. With 5-foot-8 pointguard Baser Amer and 6-foot-5 center Alfonso Gotladera returning a year wiser and stronger, defending the crown should be a foregone conclusion. There is no team with the talent and depth to match the Red Cubs.



Finals Forecast= San Beda vs. San Sebastian. But the Red Lions have to work hard for it.

coachjake
06-30-2010, 08:51 AM
Perpetual Help: Building Up

When the ordinary basketball fan takes a look at the last couple of years of Perpetual Help basketball, it might be difficult to imagine that as late as the middle of the decade that the Altas of the amiable Tamayo Family figured in the NCAA basketball championship. That was the time they still had the likes of Vladimir Joe and Fritz Bauzon, and a slew of talented players who competed and battled and and hustled for every possession in every game.

Since then, Perpetual Help has mostly spun its wheels. It is not because they lack talent or even size. They’ve had and continue to have quite a number of players with good skill and big fighting heart. Hotshot guard Ronald Reyes, and the Kong Brothers used to pit themselves shot for shot against the best college stars in the league and in the country. Forward Boy Balboa was also a solid contributor, as was center Nat Salanga. They used to be mentored by the indefatigable Bay Cristobal, a PBA legend and a man with a college championship pedigree. Somehow all this just was not enough to keep them at least over .500 over the last three years or so.

In Season 85, it was another disappointing campaign for the Altas as they failed to even break even in their standing. Some games were close, but a lot of games were blowouts, and not the type that Perpetual Help fans like. It seemed these Altas were always in the game up to the first half only, sometimes only in the first quarter. Suddenly the opposing team would get on a run and Perpetual Help was staring a huge double-digit deficit in the face, seemingly unable to mount a counter-attack or even a credible defense to stem the tide. “We always want to be competitive in a tough league like the NCAA, although it can be really hard,” said head coach Boris Aldeguer in one offseason interview.

Some old reliable and some new faces stepped up last season and are returning to the roster this season. Brawny 6-foot-3 center-forward Raffy Ynion leads the charge. Ynion may not have the height of other NCAA post players, but he does bring his thick and muscular frame into the low blocks where he is nearly impossible to move. Also returning is a pair of hotshot guards: 5-foot-8 Robin Rono and 5-foot-9 Chris Elopre. Rono and Elopre play similar games, and neither is a pure pointguard or a pure off-guard. Both can score from long range and heat up in a hurry. Both can run the wings in transition and even anchor the break after the first outlet. Hopefully they learned how to be better distributors and handlers over the offseason because they will be the primary press break of the Altas.

There are also a couple of newcomers who might be able to contribute right away for Coach Aldeguer. Arguably the most notable of these new guys would be Arnold Danganan, a 5-foot-11 swingman who played a couple of seasons with NAASCU powerhouse STI College. Danganan was a stone scorer who could cut up defenses, fill the lanes and shoot from just about anywhere as an Olympian.

Junior division action has been even tougher for the high school team, since the NCAA is considered the best high school tournament in the country. They did however make some Final 4 noise in Season 85. Joseph Eriobu is no longer with the team, which means pointguard Gino Alolino is their new heart and soul.


Can finish anywhere in the 6th to 9th slots - Coach Aldeguer needs more work with these guys. It isn't "his" team yet but getting there.

coachjake
06-30-2010, 08:52 AM
Arellano: Returning for More

Winding up in the top half of the standings and actually having a chance to crack the Final 4 in the Season 85 campaign, Arellano University showed the entire NCAA that newcomers don’t necessarily make for easy fodder. These Chiefs, formerly the Flaming Arrows, were after all an NCRAA powerhouse who won a couple of titles not too long ago. Behind the wondrously talented trio of swingman Alfie Martinez, forward Lee More Boliver, guard Jordan Melanio and forward-center Orlando Daroya, Arellano was the epitome of hardcore hoop greatness. That they were also beating better-known college teams in the various offseason tournaments only added to their legend. When they came to the NCAA last year everybody expected great things from the program and they did not disappoint.

Forward-center Giorgio Ciriacruz was selected to the Season 85 Mythical 5 after leading the Chiefs with a near double-double average. He showed one and all that not all the good players were in the big programs. He got plenty of help from a solid support crew that played fast-attack basketball and busted out on the early offense at every opportunity. They played strong on-ball defense from the three-quarter court and dogged the handler and jammed passing lanes to maximize their quick hands and fleet feet. It was always a challenge trying to get one against Arellano. Ciriacruz is no longer with the Chiefs, as is slam-dunking swingman Jerry Miranda. Both were vital cogs last season and will be missed.

There are still a few solid veterans left to carry the fight for Arellano though. Chief among these veterans are a pair of multi-skilled swingmen who should become the new leaders of the team: Andrian Celada, a 6-foot-4 swingman who can also see some time at both forward spots and Giorgio’s younger brother Isaiah Ciriacruz, a 6-foot-2 swingman, who also plays some 1 in a tall lineup will spearhead the Chiefs. Celada is probably the most underrated player in college basketball today. He is highly skilled, long, lean and athletic and could have easily wound up in a bigger program. The younger Ciriacruz is literally an image model for Arellano, as he is also on the various billboards advertising the hotel and restaurant program of the school. He is a slightly shorter version of Celada but is also a better passer and handler who helps advance the ball against pressure and can break down defenses with his dribble-drive. 5-foot-9 combo-guard Jon Virtudazo and the highly popular Bimbot Anquilo, all of 4-foot-11 in his sneakers, also return to shore up the perimeter.

Up front the Chiefs must certainly wish that African import Chris Mammi could already play this season, as the highly athletic 6-foot-7 African can rule both boards. As things stand, most of the frontline chores will fall on the shoulders of 6-foot-5 center-forward Ed Rivera. Rivera is yet another underrated player. He plays the 4 and 5 spots and can fill the lanes in transition unlike other more conventional big men. He should get some help from chunky 6-foot-3 center-forward Noy Zulueta, undersized vertically but more than making up for it with his 220-pound mass. Coming in from their own high school team, Prince Caperal should also see a few minutes at the 4 and 5 spots. Caperal is legitimately 6-foot-6 with good shoulders but is raw and tentative.

As for the Baby Chiefs, it promises to be a tough season for them with Caperal now moving up to the senior division. Two young lads with dynamic games should help them through, 5-foot-7 guard Jon Gamaru and 5-foot-9 swingman Toy Bustamante.



With Leo Isaac back as head coach - AU could pull off surprises but don't expect them to finish higher than 7th.

coachjake
06-30-2010, 08:54 AM
EAC: New Battles Ahead

Emilio Aguinaldo College certainly must have learned a thing or two in their maiden season last year in the NCAA. An NCRAA and UCAA powerhouse the Generals found the going very rough and tumble in their first foray into NCAA basketball. “We knew the NCAA would be a tough league with a lot of strong teams, we really just wanted to play our game and try to be competitive,” said head coach Nomar Isla in one offseason interview.

For sure those lessons were all hard ones for the NCAA newcomers. Playing mostly their high-low and swing game, the Generals found themselves facing tightly-packed zone defenses and quick rotations and hard shows off screens. It was a very difficult learning curve, but one that allowed them to improve over the course of the season. Apart from the lessons learned, their own stars emerged in the heat of battle, as certain players distinguished themselves with consistency and toughness.

Arguably the most prominent player for EAC last season was pointguard Argel Mendoza, a well-built 5-foot-9 dynamo. Mendoza had to learn the fine art of guard play in the NCAA the hard way: he led the league in turnovers in the early goings and could not seem to direct the offense for his team. He eventually figured things out and made it to the NCAA All Star team. Mendoza is better built and taller than most players at his position, and this has allowed him to carve up defenses better and take hits even from bigger players.

Another player who emerged last season was 6-foot-5 forward-center Claude Cubo. Cubo was among the league leaders in rebounds and shot blocks and was a consistent interior presence for EAC. Cubo is lean but he is also long, tall and deceptively strong. He can grab rebounds away from beefier players by finding the seams in the box out. He blocks shots with superb timing and tries to keep the ball in play. He also gets opportunistic baskets off the offensive glass.

These two are coming back in Season 86. Joining them are other valuable returnees: 6-foot-4 forward Russell and 6-foot-2 small forward Lowell Yaya, and 6-foot-3 power forward Dan Diolanto. All three players alternate at the 3/4/5 and give Coach Isla more options in his frontline match-ups against the taller NCAA teams. Each can play two or three positions.

Hopefully 6-foot-2 swingman Ferdinand Aquino will finally be able to join the NCAA roster. Aquino will bring a new toughness and offensive dimension to the perimeter if he does join the team. 6-foot-6 Jeff Lapitan, another longtime reserve, played well enough in the summer tournaments to merit serious consideration for the NCAA roster. Lapitan will help bolster the frontline and bring in added toughness, rebounding and post defense. Former UST swingman might also be joining the NCAA roster. Vargas, a 6-foot combo-guard, can help advance the ball against pressure and also look for his own shot.

There does not seem to be much going on with the high school team of EAC, as the Junior Generals are still awaiting other recruits as of press time. Suffice it to say any improvement from last season would be welcome.



Why would the NCAA allow a team made up of thugs in their league is beyond me.

coachjake
06-30-2010, 08:55 AM
JRU: Could and Should

Jose Rizal University has seen two seasons practically slip through their fingers. Last season should have been their season, their championship, the culmination of several years of recruitment and seasoning and training. Instead they could not even muster a way into the Season 85 Finals. Sure, hotshot gunner John Wilson was named the league Most Valuable Player, and he did put up great numbers and placed among the Top 5 in all statistical categories of note. Unfortunately they just did not have enough in the tank to get past the Final 4. However, the unexpected loss to injury of 6-foot-9 Cameroonian center Etame Joe would be telling, as the JRU frontline just could not muster enough production against tall and talented frontlines. Joe might have been a real difference-maker in that regard.

In Season 84, they managed to get into the Finals to face the mighty Red Lions. They were confident they could at least match up against San Beda, anchored on the mighty Nigerian giant and two-time MVP, 6-foot-8 Samuel Ekwe. After all, they did beat the Red Lions in the eliminations of this season with an unorthodox approach that saw a lot of mad outside bombing. They almost made it, forcing a deciding Game 3 in a series that turned out to be a lot harder fought and a lot more competitive than anyone thought. Back then, the Heavy Bombers still had the now-deceased forward-center Jason Nocom to provide added depth in the frontline, as well as buff swingman Maui Pradas. One might say their Season 84 roster was even stronger than their Season 85 lineup.

Plenty of observers really thought with the maturity and unity of a roster that grew up together over the last three or so years, as well as the emergence of Wilson into a legitimate NCAA superstar, the Heavy Bombers would have won it all last season. Alas, such would not be the case. “You know who should have really won it all last season? JRU, not San Sebastian, because that lineup was all-veteran, and ready,” explained a long-time observer and supporter from a rival NCAA school. “It’s too bad they just didn’t have what it took to return to the Finals,” he added.

JRU retained plenty of its veterans, but it just plain looks like an all-new team, with a lot of formerly ignored players now getting the chance to show their stuff. Even the coach is new: PBA legend Vergel Meneses replaced long-time coach Ariel Vanguardia. “We like Vergel’s new approach. It is important to give all your players a chance, so that they gain confidence,” explained a long-time hardcore basketball organizer. With the new approach Meneses and Company are hoping to make a little more leeway in the tournament. Goings will not be easy though. They lost three starters: Wilson, center James Sena and pointguard Mark Cagoco. Those three account for well over 70% of the scoring and at least 50% of the rebounds and steals of the last two full seasons. Joe however is back from injury and regaining his step. Veterans Marvin Hayes, Nchotu Njei, another African, and the likes of Jon Lopez, Jay Bulangis, Reycon Kabigting and Jecster Apinan also return.

For the Light Bombers, they lost Season 85 MVP Louie Vigil and Mythical 5 member Joshua Saret to graduation. Their biggest loss however might be long-time coach Boy De Vera, who has retired. They still have a few good young players, but it is time to look for a new high school superstar for JRU.



Overrated - players are good but Coaches are too big for their britches. Meneses is the face of JRU but not the real coaching brain of the team, more of a puppet really.

coachjake
06-30-2010, 08:58 AM
St Benilde: Rekindle the Flame

It is sometimes a little difficult to believe that St Benilde is already among the ranks of NCAA basketball champions. Some 10 years ago, the Blazers won the NCAA championship behind the likes of Al Magpayo, Ron Capati, Jay Lapinid and Sunday Salvacion. That was a powerhouse team that just stamped its class on the rest of the NCAA that season under the bench direction of Dong Vergeire. Almost every star on that team went on to play commercial- and pro-league ball. Salvacion is still a mainstay now in the PBA. Not too many years ago they even produced an NCAA Most Valuable Player in Jay Sagad. Sagad was a yeoman-like center who quietly but consistently got his numbers and helped his team in every way he could. St Benilde has expanded as an institution, but has since fallen on some hard times, at least in the basketball front.

When one looks at the players who have at one time or another been on the St Benilde roster, it seems unbelievable that they have not had as much success as their rosters would suggest. Aside from those aforementioned, the following have donned the black and green: Paolo Orbeta, Gary David, Jeff Morial, Gelo Montecastro, Archie David, Willy Johnston, Stan Aldover, and a whole bunch of other talents. It seems unfathomable that they have not been more successful as a basketball program. It seems forever since they’ve seen the Final 4, never mind the Finals. For Season 86, it is high time to bring the “blaze” back into Blazers.

There are still quite a few holdovers who will now assume the role of veteran leaders for head coach Richard Del Rosario. 5-foot-7 Pointguard Mac Abolucion had to take a backseat to the bigger name guards on this team the last few years. Having to play alongside the likes of Orbeta, Montecastro and Morial would certainly guarantee less minutes for someone like Abolucion. But going up against those guys in practice also helped him become a better player, a smarter player, and a more patient player overall. Abolucion is now being trusted to take the reins and lead this team as the primary pointguard.

Other notable returning veterans are 6-foot-3 center-forward Robbie Manalac, 6-foot-5 center Jan Tan, 6-foot-3 forward Alex Wong, 6-foot swingman Christian De La Paz, and 5-foot-9 guard RJ Argamino. 6-foot-2 forward David Urra might also return. These men should provide some stability for the Blazers and lead by example for the newcomers. One man notable for not returning however is also the team’s erstwhile superstar: Montecastro is reportedly transferring to another university.

As for the newcomers, there is three of note: 6-foot-2 forward Timothy McCoy came from Philippine Christian University should make the most immediate impact with his athleticism and toughness. 5-foot-7 pointguard Luis Sinco out of Ateneo De Manila saw heavy minutes in the summer tournaments and might emerge as the sleeper discovery of Season 86. 6-foot-4 forward-center Jeff Ongteco is lean and long but very athletic and should help at the 4/3 spot.

Lasalle Greenhills, the Junior Blazers, should also do well in the toughest high school tournament in the country. 6-foot-2 RP Youth Team forward Michael Pate, 6-foot-4 center Ali Carlos and 5-foot-6 guard Luigi Pumaren lead the team.



With 3-4 fresh rookies from high school and 6 rookie transferees, CSB is really rebuilding. Equalling their win-loss of last year would be success for Coach Del Rosario and bettering it would be heaven. But look out for this team in the next 2 years as the new team starts to really gel and ge beefed up with the other players coming up for play and recruitment. They should be able to weather EAC, Arellano and UPHSD plus a couple of surprises with Mapua and JRU.

Joe_c00l
07-02-2010, 12:28 AM
Arellano: Returning for More

Winding up in the top half of the standings and actually having a chance to crack the Final 4 in the Season 85 campaign, Arellano University showed the entire NCAA that newcomers don’t necessarily make for easy fodder. These Chiefs, formerly the Flaming Arrows, were after all an NCRAA powerhouse who won a couple of titles not too long ago. Behind the wondrously talented trio of swingman Alfie Martinez, forward Lee More Boliver, guard Jordan Melanio and forward-center Orlando Daroya, Arellano was the epitome of hardcore hoop greatness. That they were also beating better-known college teams in the various offseason tournaments only added to their legend. When they came to the NCAA last year everybody expected great things from the program and they did not disappoint.

Forward-center Giorgio Ciriacruz was selected to the Season 85 Mythical 5 after leading the Chiefs with a near double-double average. He showed one and all that not all the good players were in the big programs. He got plenty of help from a solid support crew that played fast-attack basketball and busted out on the early offense at every opportunity. They played strong on-ball defense from the three-quarter court and dogged the handler and jammed passing lanes to maximize their quick hands and fleet feet. It was always a challenge trying to get one against Arellano. Ciriacruz is no longer with the Chiefs, as is slam-dunking swingman Jerry Miranda. Both were vital cogs last season and will be missed.

There are still a few solid veterans left to carry the fight for Arellano though. Chief among these veterans are a pair of multi-skilled swingmen who should become the new leaders of the team: Andrian Celada, a 6-foot-4 swingman who can also see some time at both forward spots and Giorgio’s younger brother Isaiah Ciriacruz, a 6-foot-2 swingman, who also plays some 1 in a tall lineup will spearhead the Chiefs. Celada is probably the most underrated player in college basketball today. He is highly skilled, long, lean and athletic and could have easily wound up in a bigger program. The younger Ciriacruz is literally an image model for Arellano, as he is also on the various billboards advertising the hotel and restaurant program of the school. He is a slightly shorter version of Celada but is also a better passer and handler who helps advance the ball against pressure and can break down defenses with his dribble-drive. 5-foot-9 combo-guard Jon Virtudazo and the highly popular Bimbot Anquilo, all of 4-foot-11 in his sneakers, also return to shore up the perimeter.

Up front the Chiefs must certainly wish that African import Chris Mammi could already play this season, as the highly athletic 6-foot-7 African can rule both boards. As things stand, most of the frontline chores will fall on the shoulders of 6-foot-5 center-forward Ed Rivera. Rivera is yet another underrated player. He plays the 4 and 5 spots and can fill the lanes in transition unlike other more conventional big men. He should get some help from chunky 6-foot-3 center-forward Noy Zulueta, undersized vertically but more than making up for it with his 220-pound mass. Coming in from their own high school team, Prince Caperal should also see a few minutes at the 4 and 5 spots. Caperal is legitimately 6-foot-6 with good shoulders but is raw and tentative.

As for the Baby Chiefs, it promises to be a tough season for them with Caperal now moving up to the senior division. Two young lads with dynamic games should help them through, 5-foot-7 guard Jon Gamaru and 5-foot-9 swingman Toy Bustamante.



With Leo Isaac back as head coach - AU could pull off surprises but don't expect them to finish higher than 7th.



Hinde Cguro!!!

izon
07-02-2010, 08:09 AM
EAC: New Battles Ahead

Emilio Aguinaldo College certainly must have learned a thing or two in their maiden season last year in the NCAA. An NCRAA and UCAA powerhouse the Generals found the going very rough and tumble in their first foray into NCAA basketball. “We knew the NCAA would be a tough league with a lot of strong teams, we really just wanted to play our game and try to be competitive,” said head coach Nomar Isla in one offseason interview.

For sure those lessons were all hard ones for the NCAA newcomers. Playing mostly their high-low and swing game, the Generals found themselves facing tightly-packed zone defenses and quick rotations and hard shows off screens. It was a very difficult learning curve, but one that allowed them to improve over the course of the season. Apart from the lessons learned, their own stars emerged in the heat of battle, as certain players distinguished themselves with consistency and toughness.

Arguably the most prominent player for EAC last season was pointguard Argel Mendoza, a well-built 5-foot-9 dynamo. Mendoza had to learn the fine art of guard play in the NCAA the hard way: he led the league in turnovers in the early goings and could not seem to direct the offense for his team. He eventually figured things out and made it to the NCAA All Star team. Mendoza is better built and taller than most players at his position, and this has allowed him to carve up defenses better and take hits even from bigger players.

Another player who emerged last season was 6-foot-5 forward-center Claude Cubo. Cubo was among the league leaders in rebounds and shot blocks and was a consistent interior presence for EAC. Cubo is lean but he is also long, tall and deceptively strong. He can grab rebounds away from beefier players by finding the seams in the box out. He blocks shots with superb timing and tries to keep the ball in play. He also gets opportunistic baskets off the offensive glass.

These two are coming back in Season 86. Joining them are other valuable returnees: 6-foot-4 forward Russell and 6-foot-2 small forward Lowell Yaya, and 6-foot-3 power forward Dan Diolanto. All three players alternate at the 3/4/5 and give Coach Isla more options in his frontline match-ups against the taller NCAA teams. Each can play two or three positions.

Hopefully 6-foot-2 swingman Ferdinand Aquino will finally be able to join the NCAA roster. Aquino will bring a new toughness and offensive dimension to the perimeter if he does join the team. 6-foot-6 Jeff Lapitan, another longtime reserve, played well enough in the summer tournaments to merit serious consideration for the NCAA roster. Lapitan will help bolster the frontline and bring in added toughness, rebounding and post defense. Former UST swingman might also be joining the NCAA roster. Vargas, a 6-foot combo-guard, can help advance the ball against pressure and also look for his own shot.

There does not seem to be much going on with the high school team of EAC, as the Junior Generals are still awaiting other recruits as of press time. Suffice it to say any improvement from last season would be welcome.



Why would the NCAA allow a team made up of thugs in their league is beyond me.


Excuse me, the word thugs is passe', the buzz word in this NCAA tournament now is "manly" defense.

Sam Miguel
07-02-2010, 08:37 AM
It will be San Beda versus San Sebastian in the Finals, and this should be a back-to-back title year for the Stags. San Beda has a taller and more loaded roster this year, but they lost valuable veterans like Bam Gamalinda, JR Taganas and JR Tecson. Against a San Sebastian side with only one significant palyer loss (albeit it is Season 85 Finals MVP Jimbo Aquino) the experience and toughness factor lean towards San Sebastian still. In the NCAA Finals, put toughness, experience and solid coaching together and that makes a champion. If San Beda wins that would be an upset, and it will be in spite of the *ahem* coaching on their side.

JRU and Mapua should complete the Final 4 this season, although I would probably make it a "Final 5" with Letran getting in this mix.