When I turned eight years old I was a Grade 2 pupil. I'm not quite sure if the same mental-psychological-physical age applies to Web sites. All I know is that the leading and only true hardcore basketball media portal of the Philippines turned eight this month, and it has been a heck of an experience for everyone, from us site owners to the moderators, forum members including players, coaches, team management, school administrators, faculty and staff, students, even captains of industry and head honchos of Top 500 corporations that have made www.gameface.ph one of the country's most popular online communities.
Gameface has undergone at least three makeovers over the last eight years, and its Forum, the most comprehensive and most professionally moderated such online community, is still the place to be to get the information on basketball that cannot be found elsewhere.
More than just basketball though, the non-hoops aspects of life in general are also well-represented throughout the site. Everything from local to international news and current affairs, topics philosophical, legal, financial, artistic, gastronomic and controversial are also found in these virtual pages. Gathered from sources both local and international, the current events forum is a treasure trove of some of the best bits of news, analysis and opinions anywhere in the world.
As it evolved through the last eight years, Gameface has come to take on more of an international outlook, as it strives to attract an even greater variety and higher quality of membership. Filipinos and other fans of Philippine basketball based overseas have come to find in Gameface an online tambayan to meet and interface with fellow hardcore hoop nuts, and just about anybody with an opinion and a mind to share it.
"It's been a slow but steady rise I think," said Joseph W Buduan, the chief editor of www.gameface.ph, and one of the original site founders. "It started out as an online tambayan, but now the number and diversity of the membership is just astounding," he added.
True enough the humble beginnings of www.gameface.ph were inauspicious. There was no fanfare when it came online in August of 2005. There was just a handful of members, a lot of them migrants from other online communities. Within a year though the community had grown to a couple hundred distinct members and the daily distinct hit count was climbing to five digits. Soon Gameface mainstays were being invited to guest on sports talk shows and to interviews for the mainstream media. By 2006 Gameface was already a fledgling media organization getting credentials for all of the main basketball events on the calendar from the PBA to the UAAP to the occasional visit from the NBA and FIBA.
Gameface has also gone into the other media as well. Basketbolista was the print offspring of the site and covered basketball from every corner of the Globe beginning 2008, including leagues in Europe and the smaller collegiate leagues with only the hardest of hardcore followings in the Philippines. Gameface partnered with the Makisig Network in 2009 to produce Basketball Crazy, the liveliest hour of basketball in Philippine television. Syndicated reruns of Basketball Crazy continue to be enjoyed by hoops-insane Filipinos in parts of the Middle East and mainland Asia. In 2010 Gameface produced Gameface Radio over at 92.3 FM and we were one of the last media outfits to have a comprehensive interview with the late and much-lamented Bobby Parks, arguably the best import to ever play on Philippine hardcourts.
Now in the middle of the current UAAP, NCAA and NAASCU basketball seasons, and the start of the PBA Governors Cup, Gameface is once again right in the thick of the hoop wars. We are looking forward to providing even greater depth and quality of basketball coverage far into the future.
Anytime the country is competing in an internaitonal basketball tournament the problem for us remains the same: size, or lack thereof. That problem remains even for the upcoming FIBA Asia Championships in August of this year, which the Samahan Basketbol ng Pilipinas somehow managed to bring to the country after some acrimony as to venue a few months back.
Looking back to the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) the forerunner of the FIBA Asia, 1973 was the last time the Philippines won the prestigious tournament on Philippine soil. Legends Ramon Fernandez, Sonny Jaworski, Bogs Adornado, Manny Paner, Dave Regullano, Tembong Melencio, Yoyong Martires, Francis Arnaiz, Abet Guidaben, Joy Cleofas, Ed Ocampo and Big Boy Reynoso beat another legend, Shin Dong Pa and the rest of the South Korean national team at the sweltering Rizal Memorial Stadium to bring home the crown in front of a raucaous capacity crowd.
We had our anxious moments back then, against Shin and also against Yamaguchi and Japan in the semifinals, but we were able to rule the tournament with a combination of talent, skill, grit and good old fashioned patriotism. Fernandez and Adornado were offensive machines, Regullano and Melencio were the enforcers, Arnaiz and Martires provided speed and hustle, Ocampo was the defensive stopper, everybody else delivering as needed. Although the opposing teams were generally taller, we were clearly the more talented and better skilled side.
Fast forward four decades later and we are now on the outside looking in here in Asia. China has not only grown taller but they have gotten much better in terms of skill and talent. At least four players from the Chinese mainland have made full time NBA rosters, led of course by the towering Yao Ming. Iran, coached by former Smart Gilas bench boss Rajko Toroman, made it to the 2008 Olympics. South Korea and Japan remain as hoops powerhouses, and Taiwan has been in the picture for a good long while now.
Our country for its part had its best Asian finish in the 1990 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea, when Jaworski led an all-PBA roster to the silver medal, losing to the mighty Chinese. It has not gone well at all for the country since then. Toroman's best finish in the FIBA Asia was fourth, handling the then-mostly amateur Gilas squad, featuring the likes of Chris Tiu, Mark Barroca and naturalized American Marcus Douthit.
With the tournament coming to Manila on or about the 40th anniversary of the Manila ABC championship, it certainly behooves us to put together the best squad we can. San Miguel Corporation has already given its go-ahead to use three of their best pro players for the FIBA Asia tournament. Noli Eala of SMC said "Junmar, LA and Ping are also available to Gilas if they want them," he said in a Tweet, referring to 6-foot-10 Petron center Junmar Fajardo, this year's top rookie draft pick, 5-foot-8 pointguard LA Tenorio of Ginebra, and 6-foot-5 forward Marc Pingris of San Mig Coffee. Eala also said via Twitter that "SMC position is to postpone it 'til after FIBA Asia in order to give Gilas ample time to prepare," referring to when the PBA third conference would open. Said third conference is supposed to open on February 18, just a couple of weeks from now.
Apart from the three aforementioned players though, the 12-man roster for the FIBA Asia tournament has to be set as sson as possible, preferably within the next two weeks. Size, as mentioned, being the biggest problem for the national team, Fajardo will certainly be a welcome addition. He should make a fine addition to Douthit and 7-foot former University fo the Visayas and Ateneo center Greg Slaughter. Fajardo and Slaughter know each other well from their days as varsity stars in Cebu and should have no problems playing together.
Pingris is a tough and athletic sort who defends the low post, crashes both boards and even sticks in the occasional put-back or alley-hoop. He should ideally be joined by 6-foot-7 Kelly Williams and 6-foot-4 Jared Dillinger of Talk N Text, and current Gilas II cadet 6-foot-5 forward Jake Pascual to round out the forwards spots. Dillinger will provide perimeter scoring and defense, making him a valuable two-way asset, with the size and quickness to keep up with other Asian forwards. Williams will put his athletic ability to good use at the 4/3 spot since the big boys will man the middle. Pascual provides insurance at both the 3 and 4.
Tenorio had a good tournament for Gilas just a couple months back and should have great confidence in international play. 5-foot-10 guard Jayson Castro of TNT needs to join him in the backcourt to provide constant push-up tempo and pressure on opposing defenses in the drving lanes. 6-foot-2 swingman Gary David of Powerade, another successful international campaigner of late has to bring in his long toms. New 6-foot-5 Fil-Am discovery Matt Rosser
After becoming bored shitless winning title after title in the UAAP, Norman Black might be on that same path to boredom in the pro league. Black tread a familiar path: some blowouts, some close shaves, a freak loss here and there. From the quarterfinals on it was a small, new wrinkle, little tweaks in the right places, and always, always saving something for the Finals. By the time it was all said and done his Talk N Text Tropang Texters had swept the surprisingly pushover Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters 4-0 in the 2012-2013 Philippine Cup Finals. TNT thus became only the third team in PBA history to sweep a Best-of-Seven Finals, the other two being Swifty Mighty Meaty and Purefoods. This was also an All-Filipino Grand Slam for the Tropang Texters, another record feat.
If I didn't know any better I would think he was deliberately re-living his UAAP reign in the PBA. Didn't he do this all throughout our 5-Peat? Made the other teams think they had a chance, played nice and smooth in the first round, tightened up a bit on D and played a little faster in transition in the second round, unveiled a side-push here and there in the Final 4, then totally goes medieval on the unfortunate Finals opponent's collective arses in the Finals.
TNT ran up 29-13 on a flurry of transition baskets in the first quarter, allowed the Elasto Painters to come within 65-63 in the third quarter, then took the victory running away yet again 105-82. Kelly Williams set the tone early with a highlight-reel putback slam. Ali Peek kept the furious RoS rallye at bay in the pivotal third period. Jimmy Alapag nailed crucial back-back treys in the fourth to bury RoS 100-78 time down to some four minutes and change. RoS just had no answer for the speed, athletic prowess and discipline of TNT.
Beau Belga, Gabe Norwood, JR Quinahan, Paul Lee, Ryan Arana all muffed open layups, sometimes even in transition. Jeff Chan kept drawing iron without any cord. Chris Tiu and TY Tang wound up on the wrong side of at least a half-dozen switch coverages. Larry Rodriguez kept looking over his shoulder when taking shots in the paint, seemingly expecting an ambush block. Ronnie Matias was about as useful as a rabbit's foot. For a team that already knows what it is like to win a tough championship, RoS sure looked like bungling amateurs in this series, and more so in Game 4. But then again, Black has that effect on teams.
Black turned Jared Dillinger and Ryan Reyes into defensive stoppers. His clockwork ball movement on the motion offense saw Williams put on an alley-hoop show right from the get-go. Ranidel De Ocampo found himself working with more space than he ever got to launch those backbreaking three-pointers and operate in the low blocks. "This championship means a lot because I've been away for so long. I've always wanted to get back into the country's best league," a jubilant Black said. "I'm very happy for my players. I pushed them a lot and they worked hard for it. Credit goes to them," he added.
De Ocampo was adjudged the Finals MVP by the PBA Press Corps, while Jayson Castro won the BPC award.
Opposing PBA coaches better hope Black gets a lemon of an import for the upcoming Governors Cup opening on February 18. Because at the rate he is going, he might just complete a TNT grand slam that Chot Reyes failed to get. "We are of course very happy with this championship. Coach Norman just knows how to win. I'm very happy that he is back in the PBA, and more so that he is our coach. He made Ateneo a successful championship team, and I know he will keep doing the same for Talk N Text," said TNT head honcho Manny Pangilinan.
The rest of the PBA better just give Black his second career coaching grand slam and be done with it, or live with this for another several seasons.