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  1. PCCL Owes An Explanation

    So there I was on a lazy Sunday afternoon watching the PCCL game between the Lasalle Green Archers and the Jose Rizal Bombers.

    I wanted to watch it for the simple reason that I wanted to see if Lasalle would be able to muster the roster that made the UAAP Final 4 this season.

    That's when I saw them.

    Ben Mbala, the highly touted 6'5" import out of Cebu, was doing the warm-up drills, along with 5'11" Joshua Torralba, formerly with the Emilio Aguinaldo Generals, the controversial 6'5" Daryl Pascual, formerly of San Beda, and 6'5" Larry Muyang, who came by way of San Sebastian then Lyceum.

    Over on the JRU side there was 6'5" import Abduladif Poutouchi.

    Lasalle would go on to win the game behind the nine points, 14 rebounds and one block of Mbala, withstanding a very late JRU rally instigated by Jordan De La Paz.

    But the game itself became a side feature. I wanted to know how all five of those newcomers came to play in the PCCL. I was texting and messaging back and forth with a couple of other media and basketball friends, and none of us could get to the bottom of it.

    Apparently Lasalle asked permission from the PCCL to field in their four newcomers, since all of them were already on their B Team, and had in fact seen action in the recently concluded Fr Martin Cup Division 2 ruled by Mapua B. I assume that means JRU asked for and was granted the same permission to field Poutouchi. Poutouchi also saw action with JRU B in the same Fr Martin tournament.

    Even if that is the case, my query still remains unanswered: Has there been a rule change in PCCL eligibility?

    Unfortunately Gameface has been unable to get a hold of Joe Lipa and Rey Gamboa, the two gentlemen who have been the moving forces behind the PCCL.

    Let me therefore just share some thoughts on this:

    I think Lasalle had to ask if they could field in their four newcomers simply because they might not have enough guys to field. Lasalle only fielded 14 guys on their regular UAAP roster for this season. Three of their main guys have used up their eligibility: Norbert Torres, Yutien Andrada, Almond Vosotros. Arnold Van Opstal apparently is done with Lasalle basketball even though he still has one more year of eligibility left. Two more valuable rotation guys are not on their PCCL roster - Julian Sargent and Jason Perkins, without a specific reason given. That leaves Lasalle with only eight guys, technically only half of a regular UAAP roster. That is most likely why they asked the PCCL to line up their B Team guys, i.e. to make up for such an obvious and massive personnel loss.

    I will assume this is the same case with JRU and Poutouchi, and most likely because their starting power forward Mike Mabulac might have been unable to compete as well. I don't remember seeing Mabulac in that game either.

    With this precedent, other teams will now presumably be allowed to field in their B Team players as replacement players, especially in the case of NCAA teams. NCAA teams allow their players to be drafted by the PBA while still playing in the NCAA, play out the remainder of the NCAA season, then go straight to the PBA right after the NCAA season ends, or their team is eliminated, whichever comes first. That means 6'4" import Donald Tankoua might be able to play for San Beda since the Semerad Twins and Kyle Pascual are now in the PBA. Too nad Perpetual Help has been eliminated already. They could probably have used their bull-strong 6'4" import Akouti Bright as a replacement for Harold Arboleda and Juneric Baloria, both of whom are now in the PBA too.

    For the UAAP, maybe hulking 6'9" import Prince Orizu can be tapped by Far Eastern to replace Karl Cruz, who has used up his UAAP eligibility. University of the East could line up TJ Sumang, to replace his older brother Roi.

    Of course with all of this replacement and substitution the main question remains: Is this still in keeping with the core principle of the PCCL? In its 11-year subsistence the Philippine Collegiate Champions League has always stuck to using only the regular-season lineup of all the teams invited to the tournament. It makes a lot of sense: use the guys you went to war with, especially if you won your league championship.

    What then are we to make of the PCCL seemingly going against its own core principle?

    If the PCCL is going with a mixed A and B Team concept, sorry to say the Fr Martin Cup has beaten them to it. The Fr Martin Cup Open Division held in the second semester is open even to A Team players, and schools normally send a mixed roster of their best B Team players with the end of their A Team bench.

    It's bad enough that the PCCL is not taken quite as seriously as it wants to be by the bigger schools, especially the ones based in Metro Manila. ...
    Tags: ncaa, pccl, uaap Add / Edit Tags
    Philippine Basketball
  2. College Basketball: Student-first, Athlete-second Foreign Players

    Since the mid-2000s, foreign student-athletes have flocked to play in premier college basketball leagues in the Metro Manila area, including the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

    Even Cebu has followed Imperial Manila’s lead as elite schools belonging to the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (CESAFI) also have utilized the services of foreigners in recent years to prop up their rosters.

    Some teams have as many as five imports – two eligible to suit up immediately in the NCAA, UAAP or CESAFI – and three others on Team B or on the reserved list.

    Most of them are of African variety – from Nigeria to Cameroon to Sierra Leone, to Congo (the former Zaire) to Ghana – for the simple reason that they are as athletic as African-Americans but come in cheaper in recruitment payoffs to sports agents and monthly allowances to players.
    Regardless, the foreign recruits are paid handsomely, if not royally. There’s free tuition and tutorship, a rented condo unit, a high-end vehicle for their transport, tutorship for the academically-challenged and, of course, a monthly allowance. All these benefits are courtesy of the rich businessmen among their alumni communities.

    I have called it allowances since the word “salary” has a different connotation.

    In the American NCAA, which remains an amateur league in nature, any form of monetary payments or perks to an athlete runs the risk of his school being suspended or banned from NCAA tournament participation (March Madness) and the player losing his NCAA eligibility altogether.
    Even the acceptance of free mobile phone load, transportation money (even for recruitment trips) or a financial loan (or a doleout) from the basketball team boosters (or school alumni) is disallowed.

    Doing so would compromise their amateur status. The U.S. NCAA has remained an amateur league since its inauguration in 1939 and is independent of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), which has ceased to differentiate an amateur from a pro under its “open basketball” policy since 1990.

    Through the decades, there just have been too many cases of such kind of transgressions in the U.S. NCAA. Some get caught by the NCAA police early while others have been able to camouflage their “dark” secrets for some time before punishment is served years later.

    In several instances, there were a number of schools that participated in the final national championship that had their tournament records struck out due to violations (major or minor) of NCAA rules following post-tournament investigations that sometimes are concluded several years thereafter after more evidence are pieced together.

    Even player statistics from those seasons were deleted from the official U.S. NCAA basketball tournament record books.
    In the past, there were three NCAA tournament teams that had to surrender their second-place trophies because of NCAA violations that were discovered and authenticated years later.

    These are the University of Los Angeles at California (UCLA) in 1980 (a finals loss to the University of Louisville), the University of Michigan (led by the Fab Five that included Chris Webber) in 1992 and 1993 and Memphis University (powered by Derrick Rose) in 2008, have to surrender their second-place trophies because of NCAA violations.

    In the local setting, foreign student-athletes are expected to come in with the mindset of being a student firstly and an athlete secondly.
    Alas, some have come aboard primarily to play basketball (their height is a giveaway) and only look to study when there is a full moon.
    Education must be of prime importance to foreign student-athletes.

    Perhaps they should try to emulate former Atenean Jeffrey Kirk Long.

    With the Blue Eagles varsity, Long was no extraordinary player. But as a student, he was outstanding enough to graduate with a college degree.

    Long, to me and some, is a prime example of a student-first, athlete-second foreign college player from the past.

    Concededly, there also have been former foreign recruits who also did their homework (pun intended) well and even studied hard to graduate with a degree.

    From what I have been told, ex-San Beda College imports Sam Ekwe and Sudan Daniel took their studies seriously when they were at the Mendiola campus.

    But they are more of an exception than the rule.

    There have been foreign imports from other high-profile schools that have spoon-fed them or tolerated their disrespectful acts (including exorbitant material demands) at the expense of team unity and chemistry.

    This is not acceptable. And it will never be.
    Tags: henry liao, ncaa, uaap Add / Edit Tags
    Philippine Basketball
  3. NCAA Season 90: Just Mail in the Results to the Title Favorite Red Lions?

    July is in full bloom and so have the premier collegiate basketball circuits in Metro Manila such as the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) and University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

    The NCAA opened its Season 90 last June 28. Host school is Jose Rizal University. There are 10 member schools in the oldest athletic association in the Philippines.

    Two weeks later on July 12, it was the UAAP’s turn to unwrap its 77th campaign. The University of the East is this year’s host. Overall, eight teams are seeing action.

    The NCAA was established in August 1924 upon the initiative of Dr. Regino R. Ylanan, the athletic director of the University of the Philippines. It is far older than the United States’ own NCAA, which was inaugurated in 1939.

    The eight founding members are Ateneo de Manila, De La Salle College, the Institute of Accounts (now known as the Far Eastern university), National University, San Beda College, the University of Manila, the University of the Philippines-Manila and the University of Santo Tomas.
    By 1936, UP, UST and FEU had withdrawn from the NCAA.

    Ateneo quit the glamorous league in 1978 due to the violence that had become rampant during the games, including the tumultuous best-of-three 1977 finals between the then-two-time defending titlist Blue Eagles and the Red Lions. The series-deciding third game was held on closed doors following the melee that broke out in the opener at the Araneta Coliseum. San Beda won Game Three to deny Ateneo a third consecutive championship.

    At the time of their departure, the Blue Eagles owned the most number of titles in the seniors division, a distinction that has since been acquired by San Beda College.

    Ateneo’s chief nemesis, De La Salle, also left the NCAA in 1981 following a brawl between the fans of De La Salle and the supporters of Colegio de San Juan de Letran during a second-round encounter. The old Rizal Memorial Coliseum was a wreck after the two opposing sides ripped apart the chairs screwed to the ground and threw them as weapons.

    The NCAA, which had been considered the most glamorous and popular collegiate league in Metro Manila at the time (even if the UAAP owned the more talented players), lost much of its luster following the departure of Ateneo and De La Salle.

    Not even the vibrant Bedan faithful could prop up the NCAA’s sagging image through the years, at least until the influx of foreign student-athletes in the mid-2000s.

    By then, the UAAP, which was founded by FEU, NU, UP and UST in 1938, had already supplanted the NCAA as the No. 1 gate attraction insofar as Metro Manila college ball is concerned, aided by the entrance of elite schools Ateneo in 1978 (the year the Blue Battalion squad exited the NCAA) and De La Salle in 1986.

    The UAAP was founded by FEU, NU, UP and UST in 1938. UE, Adamson University, Manila Central University and UM were the first four expansion teams in 1952. Of the four, only UE survived for good although Adamson was readmitted to the league in 1970.

    The eight-school UAAP has prospered by leaps and bounds in the last two decades with its unpredictability, excellent on-court product and a hard-driving marketing strategy by its television coveror.

    Back to the NCAA, I believe powerhouse San Beda College will run away with seniors title this season. Honestly speaking, the championship is for the Red Lions to lose as there is no other team out there that could really offer a formidable challenge against them.

    The University of Perpetual Help System Dalta, Arellano University (under rookie head coach Jerry Codinera) and San Sebastian College-Recoletos look like title pretenders judging by their performances in the early goings of the double-round, 18-game elimination segment but Colegio de San Juan de Letran, the bridesmaid (or runner-up) in the past two seasons (forcing SBC to a Game 3 in both final series), has struggled despite the return of Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal as league Most Valuable Player Raymond Almazan (a Philippine Basketball Association rookie with Rain or Shine this past campaign) has joined the pros.

    San Beda, the only founding member remaining in the NCAA, is bidding to capture a fifth straight men’s championship and duplicate the 1993-97 feat of San Sebastian College-Recoletos for the longest title-winning streak in league history. (Tree-like Romel Adducul earned rings with the Golden Stags from 1994 to 1997.)

    With wily court general Baser Amer and Nigerian import Ola Adeogun in the forefront, coach Boyet Fernandez’s Red Lions appear invincible and ready to collect their eighth championship in nine seasons.

    During the stretch, only the SSC-R Stags were able to squeeze through San Beda’s championship stranglehold, ...
  4. College Basketball Season in Full Swing

    I just had to wait to put together the Gameface college basketball primer / preview / book sheet.

    NCAA Season 90 is now two weeks old and as usual it will be the San Beda Red Lions' title to lose. They have the deepest, tallest team in the league. Ola Adeogun simply has no peer in the NCAA, as the 6'8" Nigerian is simply in a class all his own. That he has not exactly been lighting up the stat sheets is a testament to how good the Red Lions are, or at least how big a difference Adeogun makes. Truth be told there really isn't a spectacularly elite future PBA MVP among the current San Beda locals, but having Adeogun around makes them the cream of the NCAA crop. No one is beating San Beda for the title this year.

    You're probably wondering why I didn't say "most talented" about San Beda as well. I cannot in good conscience append that to the Red and White for one simple reason. That title rightfully belongs to Perpetual Help. Juneric Baloria, Crispin Elopre, Justin Alano, Harold Arboleda, Scotty Thompson, all stand under 6-feet, and no longer have an import to lean on, yet they somehow managed to make life a living hell for anyone they play against with their ability to score from anywhere. Baloria dumped 40-plus on Lasalle, whom they upset in the Fil Oil.

    Arellano, with Dioncee Holts now able to man the middle and shore up their frontline, and JRU, with their veteran core led by do-it-all guard Philip Paniamogan will complete the Final 4 in the NCAA and provide the de rigeur "competition" for San Beda. St Benilde might crash this party if the Blazers have finally grasped the system of Coach Gabby Velasco. They certainly made some noise in the offseason by capturing their first ever Fr Martin championship. The rest of the NCAA just doesn't matter anymore.

    Over in the UAAP it is a similar story, in that it is Lasalle's title to lose. The field here may be more competitive, but even then Lasalle returns a veteran squad that now knows what it takes to win. They are the biggest and deepest team in the UAAP, although here there is more talent spread throughout more of the competition, so Lasalle's path won't exactly be a cakewalk.

    Standing in their way is Season 77 host University of the East. UE still has the two best players in the league at the most important positions in basketball: pointguard Roi Sumang and 6'7" Sierra Leone import Charles Mammie at center. They now have an official Big 3 with 6'8" Cameroonian Moustafa Arafat alternating as the import on the floor with Mammie. Arafat is easily the second most skilled import in the UAAP after NU's Alfred Aroga.

    Speaking of which, NU will not be the powerhouse they once were since it looks like Aroga will be the lone superstar they can count on game after game. Yes, they still have Gelo Alolino, Troy Rosario and the comebacking Henri Beteyane, but those guys are not even secondary go-to players, putting everything almost exclusively in Aroga's hands.

    FEU and UST will dispute the last Final 4 slot and it will come down to some luck depending on scheduling and who gets momentum early in the tournament. The rest of the field, including once mighty Ateneo, will need a few minor miracles to crowd the Final 4 picture.

    Speaking of the Ateneo, the Blue Eagles did not join any local tournament over the summer, making them a mystery team coming into the regular season. That could work in their favor. They trained against taller and more athletic teams in the US, Japan and Korea and are set to unveil a new run-gun game if reports are to be believed. If they can get off to better than .500 in the first round the rest of the UAAP better brace itself.
    Tags: ncaa, uaap Add / Edit Tags
    Philippine Basketball
  5. Basketball in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s

    Basketball caught my fancy at an early age because of the Philippines’ dominance in the Asian scene that earned the Filipino cagers tickets to the Summer Olympics and World Basketball Championship (now known as the FIBA World Cup) during the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

    Traditionally, the national team candidates at the time would come from the post-graduate or commercial ranks.

    My eldest brother often would bring me to the games in the Philippine National Seniors basketball tournament (also known as the National Open), an-anything-goes tournament where players from the colleges and universities, government institutions, commercial clubs and even movie and recording companies competed for the national championship, and the popular Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) league (the harbinger of the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) circuit league that unwrapped in April 1975) with its All-Filipino and import-spiced dishes.

    The Yco Redshirts/Painters, which was owned by sportsman Don Manolo Elizalde, and the Ysmael Steel Admirals, which was owned by prominent industrialist Felipe (Baby) Ysmael, lorded it over in the National Seniors during the fifties and sixties.

    For the record, I bled red and always rooted for Yco come hell or high water.

    Spearheaded by burly slotman Carlos (Caloy) Loyzaga, the Redshirts/Painters put together a record seven straight national championships from 1954 to 1960. Then it was the turn of Ysmael Steel, bannered by Adriano Papa Jr., Jaime Mariano, Narciso Bernardo, Engracio Arazas, Alfonso Marquez and Manuel Jocson, to annex six consecutive titles from 1961 to 1966.

    In 1967, Ysmael Steel looked to duplicate Yco’s feat but losses to the Yutivo Opels and the Painters in the four-team, single-round championship phase eliminated the Admirals from finals contention.

    As a self-imposed punishment for their twin debacles, the Admirals and their head coach Valentin (Tito) Eduque showed up for their third-place game against Puyat Steel at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum with their heads cleanly shaved.

    The then-unprecedented “bald” act, of course, was duplicated during the mid-1990s when the entire Sunkist squad, from the players down to head coach Yeng Guiao to team manager Elmer Yanga, also showed up for a Philippine Basketball Association contest with bald heads following a disastrous defeat.

    The Yco Painters regained the National Seniors crown in 1967 by shellacking the Yutivo Opels in the championship game. Mentored by Loyzaga, the Painters were led by then-fresh college grads Robert (Sonny) Jaworski and Danilo Florencio and veterans Renato (Sonny) Reyes, Freddie Webb, Elias Tolentino Jr., Edgardo Roque, Edgardo Ocampo and Edgardo Gomez.

    The MICAA was the country’s top post-graduate commercial league from the late 1930s to the mid-1970s when the top ballclubs bolted to form the PBA in 1975. (The MICAA actually continued to exist, although as a farm league, until its demise in 1981.)

    At the time, the word “professional” officially did not exist in the local basketball vocabulary even if the players then were already receiving monetary compensation (termed as allowances) for their playing skills in the guise of work-related services to their mother companies.

    For example, a Meralco player drew his salary as a branch executive or an assistant manager of the utility company when, in actuality, the numbers on his paychecks were directly as a result of his playing basketball.

    Alfonso (Pons) Marquez comes to mind only because I remember seeing him way back in the 1970s working in one Meralco branch where I had been paying my electric bills. I was told Marquez was the branch manager there.

    Why the charade in the player’s (or employee’s) status at the time?

    It was done to keep a player’s amateur status intact, thus assuring his eligibility to see action in international events sanctioned by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) such as the Asian Basketball Confederation (now called the FIBA Asia Championship), Asian Games, World Basketball Championship (now known as the FIBA World Cup) and Summer Olympics.

    By 1990, the masquerade came to a halt as the FIBA introduced the “open basketball” policy that provided no distinction between amateurs and professionals.

    How I often watched the MICAA games as a teenager. To be able to witness the championship duels at the Araneta Coliseum from a “ringside” seat – it was called “ringside” at the time because most of the sporting events at the Big Dome were boxing-related; that section is now called “patron” – brought immense happiness to this hoops junkie.

    Those were the days, my friend. Yet, five decades later, the passion for basketball ...
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