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  1. What A Difference A Year or Two (or Three) Makes, Part 2

    (Continued from the previous)

    "May mga cases kasi talaga na ang galing-galing nung high school player pero it turns out he's just older than the kids he plays against, at nabibisto din naman siya pagdating pa lang niya ng Seniors," Mr Libog exclaimed.

    I then recalled that a coach from a well-known high school basketball program actually admitted to me something that has long been making the rounds in local high school basketball: Yes, he admitted, when a recruit comes to their program, and that recruit is either just the right age or a little younger for his curriculum year, they make him repeat a curriculum year and max out his age eligibility for junior division play.

    He went on to explain that this wasn't done willy-nilly, that there were practical reasons for doing so: First, their program wanted to maximize the recruit's available playing years, especially if he is a transfer who has to sit out a year to establish residency anyway. Let's say a recruit already finished Grade 8 in his previous school, and he was only say 13 years old, or a little young for a Grade 8 student. When he goes to their program, they talk the recruit into repeating Grade 8, and make that repeat year his residency year. That way they will still have the recruit for four playing years, from Grade 9 to Grade 12. By the time he is in his last year of junior ball he will already be 18, in this given case. There were even times they made recruits repeat two years if they were really young.

    Second, they recognized early on that a player who is older than average in junior ball can more easily take on younger players, even if those younger players are objectively more athletic and more talented than he is. Forget about the difference between a 17-year old and an 18-year old; imagine instead the difference between a 15-year old and a 17-year old. Only in the rarest of cases can a younger player whip an older player at the high school level.

    Third, there is of course that adjustment period needed for a player to get used to more organized, more regimented basketball, especially if he came from an unstructured or barely structured background, like say if he came from the countryside and there really wasn't a regular varsity tournament where he comes from. It'll take at least a year even for the most talented and smartest high school player to get used to a more rigorous system than the one he was used to.

    The bottom line, the coach therefore emphasized, is that it makes sense to use older players in high school basketball, just so long as you do not break the rules. If the rules of your tournament allow you to play high school ball up to age 19, then the perfect team, as far as this coach goes, is one where all of the players are 19, or at least half of them are 19 and the other half are 17 to 18. Pit them even against a team of sky walking, slam dunking, running and gunning younger players, and he will put even money on his older team every time.

    "Diyan na lumalabas nga 'yung big question: Kapag nakakaita ka ng player sa Juniors na obvious naman sa itsura pa lang na mas matanda kesa sa mga kalaban niya, at nilalamon niya mga kalaban niya, hindi ba dapat lang naman ganun ang mangyari? So maybe what we are looking at is not an elite player who will be a sure PBA star in the future. Maybe what we are really looking at is nothing more than an older kid beating the shit out of younger kids, in a manner of speaking of course," expounded Mr Libog.

    "Bigyan kita ng example. You remember when we went to watch Rey Nambatac mga six or seven years ago sa Buddha Care? Sino 'yung nakaagaw sa pansin natin? Kilala mo 'yon," he inquired.

    It took me a few seconds. "Si (Koko) Pingoy?" I asked-answered.

    "Correct. Si Nambatac ang pinuntahan natin, pero nakaagaw ng pansin natin si Pingoy. Guess who's older sa kanilang dalawa?" he asked.

    "Si Pingoy?" I asked-answered again.

    "Si Nambatac, by about a year. Pareho silang born 1994, pero Nambatac was January, Pingoy was December, pero parehong 1994," he said.

    "So magkaedad lang pala sila technically speaking, mas matanda pa nga si Rey," I said.

    "Correct. Coincidence kaya na silang dalawa 'yung pinakamagaling sa respective teams nila at that time? At that time they were both around 18, or sa case ni Pingoy pushing 18 na din siya," he said.

    "So nung nag-champion ang Letran under Ayo, legit 21 na si Rey. Nung time naman na nag-champion sa Fr Martin ang Team B ng Ateneo, 'yung first championship nila dun sa Trinity, turning 20 na din si Pingoy, and take note may mga imports siya that time," he added.

    I pointed out that Joma Adornado was on that title team too, as was Mikey Cabahug and a then under-residency Ponso Gotladera.

    "Yes they were. And how old were all of those ...
    Tags: 3, ateneo, feu, letran, ncaa, pba, uaap Add / Edit Tags
  2. UAAP Finals: Make Mine NU

    For the wackiest reasons, I am rooting for National University to beat Far Eastern University in the deciding Game Three of the Season 77 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) menís seniors basketball tournament to be held on Wednesday, October 15, at the historic Araneta Coliseum.

    I am rooting for the National University Bulldogs because ÖÖ..

    Ö I am a NATIONAList at heart. Patriotism runs in my blood. Wander not thousands of miles away to the Far East(ern) to show your love of country, or school.

    Ö The team that defeated my alma mater (De la Salle University) in the UAAP Final Four is an adversary no matter what. The FEU Tamaraws beat the DLSU Green Archers to reach the Finals. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    Ö The Bulldogs have not won the UAAP menís basketball crown since 1954, or a year before I joined the earthly world. No other UAAP team has had a longer title drought. Thus, letís give NU a chance to win it all this year Ė the first-ever No. 4 seed to capture the crown since the Final Four format was instituted in 1994 and only its second championship since the school became a founding UAAP member in 1938.

    FEU last won the UAAP cage diadem in 2005 in the last of its three-year reign (2003-05). In 2004, La Salle whipped the Tams in the best-of-three finals but the Green Archers were forced to surrender the championship trophy (and gifted to FEU outright) after it discovered, a year later, to have employed an ineligible player.

    Ö The owner of National University is a classmate of mine at Xavier School way back in the early seventies. He also attended La Salle for his tertiary studies. No name-dropping here. I am leaving out the name like it is a pang-entertainment ďblindĒ item. Letís just give way to Madame Auring to guess or Boy Abunda to decode the missing name.

    Ö I have always loved an underdog team. Parang si FPJ sa kanyang mga pelikula. Pabugbog muna in the opening scenes (like NUís 75-70 loss in Game 1). Gumaganti at lumalaban sa kalagitnaan (NUís 62-47 win in Game 2). At ang matamis na tagumpay sa huli (NU, I am counting on you).

    The Binondo oddsmakers have pegged FEU as a plus-six-points winner in Game 3 winner. But I will go against the grain and pick the underdog. Just follow La Salleís Finals path a year ago.

    Having said the all the above, I am betting my singkong barko on NU, come hell or high water.
    + + +
    Seriously speaking, though, two sports dictums, specifically in basketball, made me favor National University against Far Eastern University in Game Three.

    Offense wins regular games Ė Mark Belo and Chris Tolomia admittedly can get hot on a good day. But defense wins championship. Offense sometimes takes a day off Ė like a bad day in the office. But defense never rests.

    The untimely departure of two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player awardee Bobby Ray Parks after just three seasons (without a single Finals appearance) left a huge void in the NU offense this campaign. But mild-mannered Bulldogs bench boss Eric Altamirano stepped up to beef up his teamís defense with the entry of first-year import Alfred Dong Aroga as the replacement of the graduated Emmanuel Mbe.

    Altamirano offset the loss of volume-shooting Parks with a share-the-wealth offense built around Angelo Alolino (12.3 ppg), Jeth Troy Rosario (11.2 ppg and 8.9 rpg) and team skipper Glenn Khobuntin (9.4 ppg and 6.8 rpg).

    The 6-7 Aroga, a Roman Catholic from Cameroon, has been the anchor of NUís tenacious defense (is Ateneo hotshot Kiefer Ravena, this yearís league MVP, still unconvinced of Arogaís defensive prowess?) and rebounding efficiency.

    Aroga wound up as the leagueís runaway winner in the shot-blocking category with two swats an outing aside from contributing 10.6 points and 9.6 rebounds entering Game 3.

    In the end, NUís defense will be its passport to greatness and a first UAAP menís basketball crown in 60 years.

    Unless FEU proves us wrong.
    Tags: feu, henry liao, uaap Add / Edit Tags
    Philippine Basketball
  3. End of Summer

    With the start of the rainy season according to our weather bureau and the start of classes this week, that brings the summer to an official end. That means in about a month's time the college basketball season will once again commence. But not before the summer basketball tournaments wrap up though. Fr Martin and Fil Oil would have completed their respective quarterfinals by the time most of you read this. No surprises are expected, with the likes of the Ateneo, San Beda, San Sebastian, National University and maybe Far Eastern University and De La Salle somewhere in the mixed bag of teams who will compete for the two summer titles.

    Interestingly enough, the two great rivals - the Ateneo and Lasalle - may yet end up disputing both summer titles. Ateneo was playing Perpetual Help in the Gabby Severino Quarterfinals of the Fr Martin Cup at the sweltering San Beda gym in Mendiola as of this writing. Ateneo will be taking on FEU tomorrow in the Fil Oil at the Arena. Lasalle will take on University of the East in the Fr Martin quarters later this afternoon, while the Green Archers face a much tougher foe in San Sebastian in the Fil Oil quarters tomorrow afternoon. This would be a first in recent summer tournament history and would be a fitting finale for both tournaments.

    As much as that would be ideal for the rabid partisans of both schools, it will also be a boon for tournament organizers. Ateneo-Lasalle championship fights are always a blockbuster. For the record, Lasalle beat the Ateneo for the fifth straight year during their elimination round encounter in the Fil Oil just last weekend 62-59 behind the game-long heroics of prize rookie Jeron Teng. Teng, the 6-foot-2 swingman who set the new Tiong Lian single-game scoring record last season, led the Archers with 17 points, including a high-pressure three-pointer that sent the game into overtime.

    His feats eclipsed the comeback game of star-crossed Blue Eagle swingman Ryan Buenafe. Still overweight, the 6-foot-2 Buenafe, himself a former high school superstar out of San Sebastian, lead the Blue Eagles with 21 points on 62% shooting. Were it not for a last-second play gone awry with Kiefer Ravena, Buenafe might have salvaged this win for the Ateneo. Still, it was a good game for the man who lost a year in the UAAP due to some off-court drama best left to a Law & Order episode.

    San Beda has not escaped the publicity light themselves this summer. At the start of the summer preseason tournaments, the Red Lions were pretty much penciled in as the incoming NCAA champions. After all they did have the formidable duo of 6-foot-8 African import Ola Adeogun and 6-foot-3 Filipino-American swingman Julius "Juice" Armon. Having these two expatriates in the roster all but guaranteed that the Red Lions would be completing their second 3-Peat, a la Chicago Bulls in the Michael Jordan era. Armon however did not return with the team from their annual summer training in the United States. Some reports have it that Armon decided to forego with a college stint and go straight to the PBA D League when he returns to the Philippines.

    Adeogun has not been spared the nagging bite of uncertainty. Some arcane NCAA rule or other supposedly disqualifies an NCAA athlete from competing in his sport if he has been meted a venue ban in any of the other events. So if a basketball player gets into some kind of trouble at say a volleyball event. and that trouble results in him getting banned from watching any of the other NCAA events, that supposedly disqualifies him from participation in basketball or any other NCAA sport. Does that sound like someone we know? This of course is up for definitive clarification in the coming weeks in that oracular assembly known as the NCAA Policy Board. What happens next is anybody's guess. But one might be tempted to ask who, if any, would benefit from Adeogun being unable to play in the NCAA next season? Ask the nine other NCAA teams.

    Even in the face of these manpower developments, the Red Lions are going into the Fil Oil quarterfinals tomorrow an unbeaten team. They have a battle-tested and veteran core who can win it all with or without Adeogun. We will see the Red Lions in the semifinals of this tournament for sure. Check that, we will see them in the Finals. And they may yet arrange a rematch with the Blue Eagles if the Ateneo holds up its end and makes it all the way themselves.

    NU may have something to say about that though, as the Bulldogs have proven that they are a legit powerhouse now. Apart from San Beda they are the only other undefeated team in the Fil Oil. With 6-foot-3 swingman Rey Parks and 6-foot-6 center Emmanuel Mbe leading the way, these Bulldogs surely will take major bites out of anybody they face. They outlasted the Golden Stags in a rough and tumble elimination game here, and pulled the same escape act against the well-coached Adamson ...

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