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  1. Squires in shining armor

    Squires in shining armor

    by: Sanita Valparaíso
    Blogueros de Filipinas S.A.

    Manila fascinates me. Five years ago I found myself in this place and that first visit craved for more. I like the people and its history.

    Manila is Intramuros, or Intramuros is a reflection of the city's past. I live in the present and I see the city as it is now but the tell-tale signs in the surroundings carry me to live in the past, and this experience is a fascination to me.

    The baluarte, the basílicas and cathedrals, the old colegíos, and the sport of basketball, I like them all in Intramuros. I am a basketball buff and any thud of a ball would always catch my attention so that I skipped the Fort Santiago itinerary upon noticing the Squires in practice at its gym in Colegío de San Juan de Letran. The team is widely considered as the best in the Philippines today.

    Body stretching, weightlifting, plyometrics, drills and scrimmages-- these stuffs I also saw in Europe. Philippine basketball has improved by leaps and bounds these days, and these Squires know that they are in the right track to greatness. I whiled my day watching the boys playing hoops inside that building with championship banners hanging around and trophies flaunted at the entrance way.

    There is one player whose play and athleticism impressed me much. His name is JJ Abao, a 6-1 swingman. But in all indications, this 17-year-old cager can practically play all positions in the hardcourt. With a 40-inch vertical elevation, this aggressive and fighting hoopster could be the rebirth of then-promising Shawn Kemp, albeit the smaller version. At his Facebook account in which I was privileged to see, the JJ Abao of three years ago was a natural power forward with mastery in controlling rebounds. He banged bodies with Porter(Cebu City) and the latter's teammate Julius Cadavis(Cebu City), and these two Cebuanos were both beaten in the paint, not to mention the bitter defeat to the hands of the victorious Cagayan de Oro quintet during the hotly contested 24th Season Milo Pasarelle (14-under) National Championship in Baguio in the northern part of the Islands. The diminutive (Dennis) Rodman-like rebounder from CDO also locked horns with another tall and hefty forwards of NCR team, but at this time losing the Gold Medal to the much bigger team of Gelo Vito, and Andre Paras and Marcial of La Salle GH. These three behemoths took turns in tiring JJ Abao in the paint.

    As there would only be one small rebounder in NBA as embodied in one and only Dennis Rodman, the same is true in high school basketball. At a visit in Milo BEST(Basketball Efficiency and Scientific Training), the director recalled the feats of his illustrious alumni, and he was proud of them. JJ Abao is now playing with the Letran Squires, Gelo Vito in La Salle Greenies, Kevin Porter in Ateneo Blue Eagles, Julius Cadavis in Arellano Chiefs, and both Andre Paras and Marcial in the elite team of La Salle Greenies.

    The Real Madrid is now turning its look on Filipino athletes. Be in basketball or in soccer football, the rich team in Europe is interested in moulding Filipino breeds to play in the ACB and JJ Abao is one of them.


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