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  1. Lefty NBA Roundballers

    It’s said that 25 percent of basketball athletes around the world are left-handed.

    In the National Basketball Association, some of the prominent southpaws from the past include William Felton (Bill) Russell, David (The Admiral) Robinson, David (Dave) Cowens, Willis Reed Jr., Robert Jerry (Bob) Lanier, William (Billy) Cunningham, Nathaniel (Nate) Archibald, Gail Charles Goodrich Jr., Artis (The A Train) Gilmore, Christopher Paul Mullin and Leonard Randolph (Lenny) Wilkens.

    The aforementioned players were no ordinary roundballers but rather legendary greats who all are members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

    All earned at least one NBA title during their incandescent playing careers with the exception of Lanier, Gilmore, Mullin and Wilkens.

    The 7-2 Gilmore did win a championship with the Kentucky Colonels in the old American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1975.

    Russell owns 11 NBA championship rings from 12 Finals trips with the Boston Celtics from 1956-69 – the most rings by any player in league history – and gained five Most Valuable Player trophies (tied with Michael Jordan for second all-time best behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s total haul of six). The NBA Finals MVP hardware is named after the iconic Boston Celtics center.

    Archibald, a 6-foot-1 guard, is the only player in NBA annals to pace the majors in scoring and assists during the same season when he registered averages of 34.0 points and 11.4 assists in 80 games with the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in 1972-73. (Note that during the 1967-68 wars, Oscar Robertson of the Cincinnati Royals topped the NBA in points and assists per game but he did not win both statistical titles because they were based on totals rather than averages at the time. Robertson appeared in just 65 games out of 82 due to various injuries.)

    Wilkens is one of only three men to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and head coach, the others being all-time University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) mentoring great John Wooden and William Walton (Bill) Sharman, who won four NBA crowns (1957, 1959, 1960 and 1961) as a 6-1 guard with the Boston Celtics and piloted the Los Angeles Lakers to the 1972 NBA crown with a 69-13 record, including an all-time league record 33-game winning streak at one stretch.

    Wilkens secured an NBA title ring in 1979 as the head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics. At the time of his coaching retirement, Wilkens, who steered the NBA-dominated U.S. team to a gold-medal finish during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, owned the most number of regular-season victories in NBA history at 1,332. (The now-retired Don Nelson has since surpassed him with 1,335.)

    Unknown to many, Russell actually was not a left-hander all his life.

    Russell, whose parents named him after William Felton, the president of Southeastern Louisiana College in Hammond, was naturally right-handed. But his Uncle Bob had been unsuccessful in becoming a first baseman in the Negro baseball leagues and blamed the failure on not being left-handed. He was therefore determined to make his nephew a southpaw.

    “One time we bought a 22-pound turkey and Bill started in on the leg,” recalled Russell’s father. “Before he got through he fell asleep with the unfinished turkey leg in his right hand. Uncle Robert went over and switched it to his left. Billy’s been a left-hander ever since.”

    Today, there also are a number of lefties plying their trade in the NBA.

    The list includes James Harden (Houston), Chris Bosh (Miami), Manu Ginobili (San Antonio), Michael Conley (Memphis), Zach Randolph (Memphis), Goran Dragic (Phoenix), Michael Beasley (Miami), David Lee (Golden State), DeAndre Jordan (LA Clippers), Josh Smith (Detroit), Derek Fisher (Oklahoma City), Greg Monroe (Detroit), Brandon Jennings (Detroit), Tayshaun Prince (Memphis) and Thaddeus Young (Philadelphia).

    During the current 2013-14 season, Harden ranked fifth in the league in scoring with a 25.4-point clip for the playoffs-appearing Rockets. (Ahead of The Beard were Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, 32.0 ppg; New York’s Carmelo Anthony, 27.4; Miami’s LeBron James, 27.1; and Minnesota’s Kevin Love, 26.1.)

    Young placed third in steals (2.11 spg) behind the LA Clippers’ Chris Paul (2.48, he also paced the NBA in assists at 10.7 apg) and Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio (2.32).

    Jordan won the statistical crowns in rebounding (13.6 rpg) and field goal percentage (.676) to become the third player in NBA annals to accomplish the feat in the same season, the others being Dwight Howard and Wilt Chamberlain. The 7-foot Clippers center also ranked third in blocked shots at 2.48 bpg (trailing only New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, 2.82, and Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, 2.70).

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  2. 16 boys, 10 girls make it to National Training Camp of Jr. NBA Philippines 2014

    From the ageless Tessa Jasmines - - -

    797 join Regional Selection Camp

    MANILA – 16 boys -- 9 from Metro Manila, 2 from Bacolod, 2 from Cavite, 1 from Rizal, 1 from Tarlac and 1 from Batangas -- emerged as the best of the Manila Regional Selection Camp of the Jr. NBA Philippines 2014 presented by Alaska held at the Philippine International Conventional Center (PICC) Forum Tent at the CCP Complex April 13.

    10 girls – 6 from Metro Manila, 2 from Laguna, 1 from Cavite and 1 from Sorsogon -- will join the first-ever pool of Jr. WNBA aspirants who will compete in the inaugural Jr. WNBA tilt this year.

    The Manila Regional Selection Camp is the last tryout for this year’s Jr. NBA Program and immediately precedes the high point of the Jr. NBA – the National Training Camp – which will be participated in by 50 male players and 30 girl players -- top picks from the various regional selection camps conducted in Surigao, Iloilo, Cebu, Dagupan, Puerto Princesa, Manila and the Alaska Power Camp.

    709 boys and 88 girls from Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bacolod, Rizal, Quezon, Pangasinan and Baguio City joined the Manila tryouts. The Top 50 male players and Top 30 female players with the best scores on the vitals tests, skills stations and fitness challenges were asked to return on Day 2. The players chosen from the April 13 pool will move on to the National Training Camp.

    The 16 boys are : John Gates, Paul Manalang, James Pradella and Rhayyan Amsali from National University; John Lyndon Sayong and Joshua Fetil of Divine Life Academy; Jan Narvasa and Rean Relucio of the University of Santo Tomas, Sean Patrick Catsao of Philippine Christian University, Sean Barranco of Diliman Preparatory School, Luigi Velasco of La Salle Greenhills, Christian Duane Anterola of Elizabeth Seton Academy, Anthony Desoyo of Escuela de Sophia, Sam Joseph Bedangel of Taitung High School in Bacolod, Kyle Chua of St. John’s Institute of Bacolod, and Kobe Monje of Tarlac College of Agriculture.

    The 10 girls are : Roxanne Salvador and Kreecie Binaohan of University of Perpetual Help, Andrea Penetrante of Balombong High School in Caloocan, Arielle Lanot and Akami Marteja of De La Salle Zobel, Micaela Pentecostes of Bangkal Elementary School, Makati; Romina Manahan of St. Theresa’s College Quezon City, Julianne Ebio of Sorsogon National High School, Stephanie Villapando of Trace College, Laguna and Luisa San Juan of Amazing Grace School in Laguna.

    The Manila finalists were chosen by the Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA evaluation committee headed by Jr. NBA coach Chris Sumner, Specialist, Basketball Operations of NBA Asia and PBA Legend Jojo Lastimosa of Alaska. Their all-around basketball skills and how they exhibited the Jr. NBA’s core S.T.A.R. values of Sportsmanship, Teamwork, (a positive) Attitude and Respect.

    The National Training Camp will be held at the PICC Forum Tent on April 25 and 26 and at the SM Mall of Asia on April 27. All the best players from each region will pit skills and the ways in which they express the STAR values during the three-day boot camp that will prepare them to be exceptional athletes and total persons on and off the court. The 10 best male performers selected in the National Training Camp will be this year’s Jr. NBA Philippines All Star Team, while the 5 best female performers will be the first-ever Jr. WNBA All-Star Team. The male and female All-Stars will be rewarded with an authentic NBA experience and the chance to play with a counterpart youth team abroad.

    NBA player Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz and WNBA Legend Tina Thompson will arrive in Manila for the National Training Camp and join the coaching staff of the Jr. NBA.

    Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA is presented by Alaska Milk. Gatorade and Phoenix Petroleum are Official Partners, while KFC and Spalding are Supporting Partners. The SM Mall of Asia and SM Cinemas are the Official Venues for Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA. Official NBA Broadcasters are Basketball TV, NBA Premium TV and ABS-CBN Sports. Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA is also supported by the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines (BCAP).
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  3. Lefties: A Special Breed (2)

    Here are more prominent left-handed personalities that made it big in the sports scene.

    In local basketball history, there have been a handful of lefty cagers from the past and present that became household names and even earned a slot on the Philippine national team.

    Any Filipino hoops fan worth his salt would easily remember the exploits of the late Lawrence (Larry) Mumar, Fortunato (Atoy) Co Jr. Rodolfo (Rudy) Soriano and Marte Samson during their halcyon days in the collegiate and post-graduate ranks like the old Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA). All once donned the national colors during the sixties and seventies.

    Among the current stars in the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) league, the well-known southpaws include Alex Cabagnot, Yancy de Ocampo, Gabby Espinas, Willie Miller, Ian Sangalang, Mick Pennisi and Gilas team member Jeff Chan.

    All the aforementioned basketball players are natural left-handers.

    In the case of Co, he became ambidextrous because of an accident early in his life.

    Growing up in Daet, Camarines Norte, the chinky-eyed Chinese mestizo of Mapua Institute of Technology and Crispa fame broke a bone in his left hand at age seven and had a choice but to learn to shoot with his right.

    “Siguro dahil sa pagkabali ng kaliwa kong kamay, hindo na alo maka-asinta sa kaliwa,” recalled the 6-foot-1 Co, a one-time King Cardinal with his shooting prowess.

    “Kaya nag-aral akong tumira sa kanan. Pero ang maganda roon, naging magaling ako sa parehong kamay.”

    Renowned for his fadeaway, turnaround jumpers, Co would dribble with his left hand and shoot with his right.

    Co eventually distinguished himself as one of the most prolific shooters in PBA annals.

    To date, Co still ranks fourth on the PBA’s all-time scoring list, trailing only Ramon Fernandez, Alberto (Abet) Guidaben and Alvin Patrimonio. In 14 seasons (1975-8 with Crispa, Manila Beer and Presto, he appeared in 749 games and totaled 12,994 points for a 17.3-point average.

    The 62-year-old Co is entering his second season as the head coach of the Mapua Tech Cardinals in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
  4. Lefties: A Special Breed

    Left-handed people are a special breed.

    While they concededly are in the minority, some of them went on to become distinguished men and women in different fields of endeavour.

    There have been seven southpaw United States presidents in the past, including the late actor-politician Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush (the father of current president Barack Obama’s predecessor George Walker Bush) and William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton.

    Locally, we had a left-handed chief executive in Joseph (Erap) Estrada.

    Lefty foreign celebrities who have made it bid in the entertainment world include (without regard to billing), actors Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Pierce Brosnan and Robert Redford and actresses Nicole Kidman, Angeline Jolie, Demi Moore, Whoopie Goldberg, Diane Keato, Kim Basinger and Julia Roberts and the highest-paid television talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

    In the music industry, there’s 71-year-old (James) Paul McCartney of the iconic Beatles and later the Wings who still plays the guitar with strings in reverse order.

    If you are a Baby Boomer (like this Hoopster), I am sure you would remember Phil and Don Everly or better known as The Everly Brothers. Lefties both are.

    Now, we turn to some of the well-known left-handed international athletes in the past and present.

    U.S. major league baseball’s renowned homerun hitters Baby Ruth and Barry Bonds were southpaws.

    Great left-handed boxers include the likes of “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, Oscar De La Hoya and, of course, our very own 35-year-old Pambansang Kamao, Emmanuel (Manny) Pacquiao.

    Last April 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (USA), the world record-setting eight-division titlist avenged his controversial June 9, 2012 split-decision defeat to Timothy Ray (Tim) Bradley with an easy unanimous decision over the previously unblemished American boxer (in 33 fights, 31-1-1) and regained his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title.

    Swimming produced a lefty Olympic hero in American Mark Spitz.

    Among the greatest athletes ever to pick up a tennis racket were southpaw Jimmy Connors, Rod Laver, John McEnroe and Monica Seles.

    The all-time greatest bowler in the world happens to be a Filipino and a left-hander as well.

    Rafael (Paeng) Nepomuceno was a six-time World Bowling champion and topped the World Cup of Bowling an unprecedented four times in three different decades (1976, 1980, 1992 and 1996).
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  5. Ed Ocampo: Football and Basketball Greatness

    Who does not remember the multi-faceted athlete Edgardo (Ed) Ocampo?

    At his prime, Ocampo was Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball rolled into one.

    That’s how versatile an athlete Ocampo was during the 1950s and 1960s.

    In the book “Legends and Heroes of Philippine Basketball,” Ocampo, the basketball player, was described as such:

    “With his speedy hands and quick anticipation, Ed distinguished himself as the country’s ace defensive player during his time. Ocampo’s guts, speed, stamina and quick anticipation on defense helped establish the Ateneo alumnus to basketball greatness.”

    Ocampo not only distinguished himself in basketball. He also made a name in Philippine football.

    Ocampo was named “Mr. Football” in 1955 when he was barely 17 years old.

    Five years later, he was voted “Mr. Basketball.”

    Both awards were handed to Ocampo by the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA).

    Ocampo’s love affair with football and basketball began in his grade-school days.

    Denied a berth on the Ateneo Archdiocesan Athletic League midget basketball team because ‘he was too short,’ the Pampanga-born Ocampo honed his craft in football (or soccer).

    Ocampo was on the Philippine national eleven (soccer) that saw action in the Asian Cup in 1956, touring countries like South Korea, Italy, Spain and France.

    That same year, Ocampo broke his collarbone during a rough soccer contest and doctors advised him not to engage in any sports for half a year.

    Less than six months later, however, he managed to get back into action, trying out with Ateneo’s seniors team in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

    Ocampo made the grade after several Blue Eagles dropped out of the team.

    He debuted with the Blue Eagles in the second round of the 1957 NCAA season.

    A guard at 5-7, Ocampo was a bit short but he overcame his height disadvantage with his stamina, speed, power, quick reflexes and tenacious defensive skills.

    Ed helped lead the Blue Eagles to back-to-back men’s basketball crowns in 1957 and 1958.

    Following his graduation from Ateneo in 1959, Ocampo played basketball with the tradition-steeped Yco Redshirts/Painters in the old Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) and other top commercial leagues.

    He was a key figure in Yco’s MICAA title conquest of arch nemesis Ysmael Steel in 1960, having held the Admirals’ high-scoring forward Narciso Bernardo to just nine points in a crucial game. That same year, the PSA voted him “Mr. Basketball.”

    Internationally, Ocampo suited up for the Philippine national basketball team that ranked eighth during the 1959 World Basketball Championship (now known as the FIBA World Cup) in Chile.

    The defense-oriented Ocampo also was a three-time Olympian, donning the national colors during the Summer Ganes in Rome (1960), Mexico (196 and Munich (1972). Note that Ocampo saw action in the 1964 pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Yokohama, Japan but the Philippines landed only sixth among 10 participants (four to qualify) and failed to earned a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics that year. As the reigning Asian titlists, the Filipinos would have automatically made it to the Tokyo Games but the FIBA stripped them of that incentive as a punishment for the country’s failure to stage the 1962 World Basketball Championship in Manila. The WBC was aborted after then-Philippine president Diosdado Macapagal refused to allow players from Yugoslavia (then a communist country) to step on home soil.

    At the Asian level, Ocampo played for the national quintet during the 1966 Bangkok Asian Games (sixth place) and in four Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) tournaments (the forerunner of the FIBA Asia Championship) – 1960 Manila (Philippines – gold), 1963 Taipei (Republic of China – gold), 1965 Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia – silver) and 1967 (Seoul, South Korea – gold).

    After hanging up his jersey, Ocampo went into commercial and professional coaching.

    He won three championships with Yco, including one in the MICAA (1976), and four more in the Philippine Basketball Association – one with Royal Tru-Orange (1979 Open) and three with Toyota (1981 and 1982 Open and 1982 Reinforced).

    Ocampo, who also endeared himself to hoops fans for his sportsmanship,passed away in 1999 at age 61.
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