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  1. Lookie What We Got Here

    Benjie Paras, the legendary Tower of Power of the PBA, the PBA's only rookie MVP, was still a teenager and the center of the University of the Philippines the last (and only) time they won the UAAP championship.

    Back then, the mullet was the "in" hairstyle, and Paras was one of the many young men who sported it.

    Fast forward 32 years, and Paras is now retired and has a new career as a television mainstay on sitcoms and basketball broadcasts.

    His mullet is gone too, although that happened a long time ago.

    His son Kobe, after a star-crossed stint in the US NCAA, is now undergoing residency in UP and will likely suit up for the Fighting Maroons next season, in what should be his third year in college.

    That is how long ago it has been since State was even in the UAAP Finals.

    Last night they overcame Adamson University 89-87 in their win-or-go-home knockout game for the last Finals berth in UAAP Season 81.

    Their reward will be to take on reigning champion Ateneo De Manila in the Finals.

    For the Blue Eagles, Season 81 was supposed to be a validation year, to stamp their class as champions on the entire field, and indeed, save for a couple of hiccups, they did precisely that.

    With 6-11 rookie import Angelo Kouame manning the middle, the boys from Loyola Heights practically walloped the entire field, en route to a 12-2 record at the end of the eliminations and the Number 1 seed going into the Final 4.

    Their only losses were to the Soaring Falcons on opening weekend, and to Far Eastern University, both in Round 1 of the elimination stage.

    Even with those two setbacks, everybody and his brother was betting on the Ateneo to repeat as champions. Clearly, no other team had the tools to match up against them.

    In their opening weekend loss to Adamson, Kouame struggled with one measly point and foul trouble, attributed to opening day / rookie jitters, and they still only lost by a basket.

    In their Round 1 loss to the Tamaraws, it seemed everything including the proverbial kitchen sink was tossed in by the boys from Morayta, and went through the net. Ateneo also lost their top two players, forward Thirdy Ravena to fouls, pointguard Matt Nieto to a finger injury, and having a nightmare of a third period as FEU did them in 7-17.

    All of their wins however were in dominating fashion.

    They got back at both the Falcons and the Tamaraws in Round 1, shredding both teams, although FEU losing big import Prince Orizu in the first period made things a lot easier for the Ateneo to exact payback.

    Looking back at video of their elimination wins, the Blue Eagles, quite simply, were never really threatened by any opponent.

    Kouame remains the primary reason of course, with his combination of size (he's the biggest player in the league), wingspan (7-5), quickness, ability to handle, run the floor, and with touch rare for a player his size. Kouame gives the Ateneo so many extra possessions because he easily out-rebounds entire teams. Kouame's length and athleticism also allow him to be a prototypical modern era rim protector, averaging more blocks on his own than entire teams. If the UAAP thought the Ateneo was a load in Greg Slaughter's two years, they better brace themselves for Kouame, who is only in his first playing year with four more to go.

    UP on the other hand was at various points either below .500 or just at that level. They ended the eliminations with an 8-6 record, besting favored De La Salle in their last elimination assignment to wrap up the third seed in the Final 4. This was their first time back in the Final 4 after a 21-year absence.

    They are leaning on the MVP performance of import Bright Akhuetie, who transferred from Perpetual Help, last season's Rookie of the Year, Juan Gomez De Liaño, and team captain Paul Desiderio.

    Gomez De Liaño has proven to be quite the gunner, scoring 30 against Adamson in their KO game, but he also leads the league in assists, proving he can both score and create for his teammates.

    Desiderio is one of those all heart guys who want the ball in crucial situations. It was his basket, right in the face of the much taller Sean Manganti, that sealed the win for UP and sent the Maroons into the Finals. It was not the first time Desiderio nailed a game winning shot for his team.

    Kouame gets plenty of help from Ravena, who has been described by Coach Tab Baldwin as a "mini Hulk". Ravena might have made the Mythical 5 were it not for a suspension early in the season due to unsportsmanlike fouls.

    Nieto also provides production, leadership, and headiness for the Blue Eagles, having emerged last season as a bona fide star after previous years as nothing more than the guy ...
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  2. In, Out, Drum Roll Please (Part 1)

    In the UAAP it sometimes comes down to whatever the powers-that-be say when it comes to who gets to play and who does not.

    With Season 81 set to open this weekend, quite a few players have been talked about, as to whether or not they will play and how those scenarios all work out.

    Most of the players being discussed in various online discussion boards and social media seem to be the big men.

    Let us start with the biggest one, Ateneo's newly minted superstar center, 6-11 Angelo Kouame.

    Kouame is from the Ivory Coast, and came to the Ateneo about a year and a half ago, first just hanging around behind the Ateneo bench during UAAP games, and later on becoming part of their Fr Martin Cup team.

    In the Fr Martin, Kouame was a huge presence inside, collaring rebounds and blocking shots and also getting the odd put-back. No one really knew he would become as good as he has become now.

    The question with him is whether or not he has actually met the local residency requirement for UAAP foreign athletes.

    This is important because Kouame has not yet enrolled in the Ateneo, having finished high school in some small boutique school. Let us be clear that this is not about whether or not Kouame is a legitimate student, or whether or not he finished high school in a legitimate institution. The question is simply whether or not, having spent only one full academic year at said boutique school, Kouame has already fulfilled the residency requirement of the UAAP and thus allowing him to play already in Season 81.

    There are two schools of thought here:

    1) Kouame is not yet eligible because the student must serve his residency in the school for which he will see varsity action in the UAAP. That is after all the whole point of residency, i.e. you reside with the school. Remember, although Kouame was lined up by the Ateneo on its Fr Martin team, he was not yet enrolled in the school at the time. Fr Martin Cup organizers may or may not have been aware of this, and even if they were, the Fr Martin isn't really as strict as the UAAP when it comes to eligibility. If this holds, then Kouame must sit out one year now that he is enrolled in the Ateneo, making him eligible to play only come Season 82.

    2) Kouame is eligible because residency means only actually being in the country. Kouame has been in the country for at least a year and a half. Heck he even finished high school here. If this holds then he can play right away and we will see more of him throughout Season 81.

    For the reigning champion Blue Eagles, this is a very important issue that must be decided quickly. In all honesty, their prospects of a successful title defense depend about 90% on Kouame being able to play.

    Next up is Taane Samuel, the 6-8 Filipino-New Zealander with Lasalle.

    Samuel's case is a little trickier, legally speaking.

    He was apparently born and raised in New Zealand but his mother is a full-blooded Filipina who migrated there, making her a natural born Filipino citizen, at least when she was born.

    Lasalle would love to have him play as a local, thereby allowing the Green Archers to line up an import, perhaps that Socka fellow who saw action in a few off-season tournaments.

    If Samuel were applying to play as a Filipino-foreigner in the PBA, all he would have to do is present documentation that his mother is a natural-born Filipina who migrated to New Zealand and that would be the end of it.

    Things are not quite that simple in the UAAP, and not always because of what the UAAP rules say or do not say. A lot of times, all it takes is one member-school's representative to raise a shitstorm over a player and suddenly things get messy.

    Samuel also apparently played on one of the FIBA Youth Teams of New Zealand, which was another thing counted against him. How indeed could a Filipino possibly play for another country's national youth team?

    Samuel however can play right away, as an import or as a local, since he has completed the residency requirements of the UAAP, being enrolled in Lasalle the last couple of academic years.

    Samuel will add a lot of quality size and skill to an already imposing Lasalle frontline no matter how he is considered.

    (To be continued)
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  3. How Hard Could It Be

    With the UAAP about to start its 81st season this weekend, Mr Libog's thoughts naturally turned to thoughts of championship.

    "How hard could it be?" He repeated that question probably at least a dozen times over lunch at this new Vietnamese restaurant near where we live.

    (Note to friends: you should all give it a try, its called Ba Noi, inside Kapitolyo, in Pasig, their Pho is truly inspired, and huge, good for two if you have normal appetites.)

    Going back to our conversation, Mr Libog was off on another one of his discussions on basketball common sense.

    "Pare naman, hindi naman imposibleng talunin ng Ateneo ang Lasalle last year. Apat na vetreran starters ang nawala sa Lasalle, apat 'yon ha!," he emphasized.

    "Tapos ang pinalit mo, isang mad bomber na converted point guard, na-dengue pa along the way. 'Yung isa magaling na sana, kaya lang siempre may pagka-bwakaw, tsaka magulo maglaro. Take note, pareho pa silang sophomores, second year lang sa college parehas," he continued.

    I reminded him that they still had arguably the best player ever to set foot on a UAAP court in maybe the last 20 years, the incomparable Benoit Mbala. Plus they also had a veteran transferee in 6-5 slam dunk champion Leonard Santillan, and veteran 6-5 Fil-American Abu Tratter. Heck, they even had Kib Montalbo, Andrei Caracut, Jollo Go, and 6-8 Justin (I am not spelling that with an "e" at the end because that is the feminine spelling and I don't care what it says on his birth certificate) Baltazar.

    "Sino ba point guard dun? Sino may hawak nung bola parati? Nakakarating ba kay Mbala?" he rattled off.

    "Tsaka, pare naman, may nakita ka bang galaw o pukol ni Mbala? Naalala mo ba si Orlando Johnson o kaya si Justin Brownlee sa laro ni Mbala? Hindi 'di ba? Sabi ko naman sa iyo wala naman talaga siyang pukol, matigas ang kamay, kita mo naman sa freethrows niya. Hindi din naman siya tipong kamador na may pullup or may tres gaya nina Johnson at Brownlee," he continued.

    Still, said I, Mbala is a heck of a player, and since this is only college ball, that makes him a titan on the court, plus as much as Mr Libog may have ripped into Mbala's teammates, no one would ever dispute there are probably more PBA players on Lasalle last year than the Ateneo did.

    I further reminded him that he himself made a pre-Season 80 prediction that Lasalle would repeat as champions, due largely, I reminded him further still, to, in his words, "Mbala wala talagang katapat."

    It was in fact the first time he said, "How hard could it be?" And indeed how hard could it be to win when you have a 6-6 titan on your side.

    "You remember I keep telling you how in the US NCAA it is normally the teams that do not have an NBA lottery prospect that wins the national championship?" he said.

    "I'm talking about teams like Villanova, UConn, etc. In the last 10 years, only the Kentucky team of Anthony Davis had a 1-done lottery prospect and won the national title, all the rest are mostly veteran teams," he explained.

    "Ganyan din actually sa UAAP, hindi naman just sheer talent. Look at Mbala's title team. Meron siyang Jeron Teng, Jason Perkins, Thomas Torres, Julian Sargent. Last year Mbala has two ball-dominant sophomores who barely played in their freshman year, a transferee playing for the first time in the UAAP, and a so-so talent whose best asset is he's a 6-5 Fil-Am."

    And he played against what, a bunch of all stars?

    "No, but Ateneo had veterans by then, battle-tested na. Thirdy Ravena, the Nieto twins, Anton Asistio, George Go, Vince Tolentino, even Ikeh, how many years have they been playing together? Graduate na nga sina Vince at Ikeh eh, Thirdy sat out a whole year pa, so that was how old that team was."

    "Same with Lasalle last year as well, nawalan sila ng apat na fifth-year starters. When they had all of those guys, especially Jeron, how hard could it be?"

    (I told you guys he said that a lot over lunch...)

    "So this year, fearless forecast ko, basta palaruin si (Angelo) Kouame, taya ko bahay namin pati lahat ng kotse ko, champion ang Ateneo," he declared.

    What if Kouame is ruled ineligible to play?

    "Sure Final 4 pa din, with a few breaks, or maybe some freethrow help from the referees, Finals pa din ang Ateneo. How hard could it be?"

    Everybody else?

    "UST and UE will dispute the cellar. All the rest rambulan na lang, although lamang na for Final 4 berths siguro FEU tsaka Adamson."

    There you have it folks.

    How hard could it be...
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  4. Recruits and Tryouts

    Quote Originally Posted by bchoter View Post
    I don’t think so.

    In a bit of good news, West Negros’ best HS prospect has committed to us and will play for the Tiger Cubs next season.

    For Season 82, we have Chabi Yo while we are negotiating with the stretch big mentioned above.
    Sir, may foreign blood ba ung under negotiation?
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  5. AZKALS TEAM MANAGER DAN PALAMI CALLS FOR SUPPORT FOR CRUCIAL ASIAN CUP QUALIFIERS

    17 March 2018 – Manila, Philippines: Philippine Azkals Team Manager Dan Palami calls for support for the upcoming matches of the national team, taking place on March 22 and March 27, 2018, to be held at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

    The Azkals will see action on March 22 against Fiji, for an International Friendly Match, which will serve as a tune-up game for the crucial AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifier match on March 27, 2018.

    Azkals Team Manager Dan Palami says, “This is an important match for the country, and the cards are not exactly stacked against us. We are currently on top of the table of Group F with 9 points. We win or we draw, we will move forward and the country will be part of the AFC Asian Cup for the first time.”

    Palami continues, “We want the ‘12th man’ to be there in both the tune-up game and the Asian Cup qualifier match. This sport deserves all the support it can get, as we have already gone far, since 2010, when I took over as Team Manager of Azkals.”


    “We should also be proud of our national team players who are doing well internationally in their various clubs. Such as Neil Etheridge, currently with Cardiff City, and all other previous PFL club players, who are doing well and are now playing for neighbouring Asian countries, such as Ian Ramsay, who is currently with Felda United and Misagh Bahadoran, who is with Perak FA…And maybe this is the only way that the country or the youth can see, that aspiring for an international football career is not that impossible”, says Palami.


    Tajikistan is currently ranked 124th, while the Philippines is currently ranked 122nd, in its latest rankings by FIFA, while Fiji is currently ranked 168th.


    Tickets for both the Azkals vs. Fiji match, and the Azkals vs. Tajikistan match are available at www.smtickets.com.
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