(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
There is an old saying, "age doesn't matter", which means that age does not necessarily have to factor in to the philosophical and practical matters of life. We of course do not necessarily mean here things such as age restrictions on marriage and family relations, voting and suffrage, etc.
With that out of the way, we go back to my favorite interlocutor, and source of many a good meal on him, Mr Libog.
In our most recent lunch together with Snorgy at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants, his topic for the day was none other than age and talent, particularly in high school basketball.
"Hindi ba naglaro ka ng PAYA Juniors nung high school ka? Umabot ka ba ng UAAP?" he asked.
I shook my head and answered in the negative.
"Bakit, hindi ka ba nag-try out?" he asked further.
I explained that I tried twice and failed twice, in my junior and senior years in high school. I said that if in my senior year I still wasn't good enough to make the UAAP team then I'll simply never be good enough, ever. Heck, a few guys from lower batches were just having their way with me during the tryouts, and I was even playing Ginebra-level dirty just to have a chance, and it still didn't work.
"Ayun pala. Pero nag-try out ka ba ever nung freshman and sophomore years mo?"
I said I never bothered back then, simply because I knew there was just no way I was going to beat out the older, tougher players already on the team or trying out. As an example, I said Richie Ticzon and Rico Santiago were both just a year ahead of me, and those two had to wait their turn to make the UAAP team. What bloody chance did I have?
"That's what I'm trying to point out with this whole (Encho) Serrano (of Adamson high school) mess that was recently dug up," he said. "Ang mahirap sa Juniors kapag pineke ang edad ng isang player hindi mo malaman tuloy kung magaling ba talaga siya or magulang lang?"
"Isipin mo na lang, kunwari 16 years old ka, kalaban mo 19, kahit na sabihin mo pang mas matangkad 'yung 16-year old, sa gulang nung 19-year old at the very least mahihirapan sumabay 'yung mas bata. Ilan beses ko na kayang nakita na 6-2 na payat na 16-year old kinakaya ng isang 5-10 na 19-year old sa high school."
Just as a background, ABS CBN came out with an online article last week that stated that some questions had arisen regarding the true age of their star player, 5-9 guard Encho Serrano. Serrano had led his Adamson Baby Falcons to a pristine 7-0 sweep of the first round of eliminations in UAAP Season 79's junior division, and he emerged as the leading MVP contender in the high school ranks.
Serrano may be a totally new entity to most UAAP junior division fans, but Mr Libog and I already saw him in action about a year and a half ago in both the Buddha Care tournament and the Fil Oil summer league. Serrano at that time was still with the Mapua Red Robins of the NCAA, although he never got to see action in the NCAA tournament proper.
Serrano, Rob Junsay, and Mike Enriquez formed a heck of a backcourt for the Red Robins and even beat Jolo Mendoza, Gian mamuyac, and the rest of the mighty Ateneo Blue Eaglets in the Buddha Care semifinals. Mr Libog and I liked him but didn't exactly love him the way we did with the likes of Mark Cruz, Roi Sumang, and Jio Jalalon. The reason? Serrano is like a smaller Bong Alvarez, likes to jump over everything, doesn't really show much in terms of talent or skill, just has a stud body.
Then he dropped off the radar and I didn't even hear his name in the NCAA Juniors.
Then he pops up in Adamson. It never even occurred to me to look him up when the news articles for the UAAP Juniors was all about how strong Adamson had suddenly become behind this newcomer named Serrano. Mr Libog texted me that it was the same Serrano we saw with Mapua.
And now we have this little controversy as to Serrano's eligibility, centering on his true age.
"Alam mo bang tatlong taon tumigil ng school si Serrano bago napunta sa Mapua?" he said. "So that's three missing years, tapos siempre nag-residency pa siya for Adamson, so one more year 'yan. Assume natin he stopped schooling at age 13, plus three years na out of school siya, plus one year residency, so he should be 18 now at least. Ina-assume pa natin na 13 lang siya nung tumigil siya ha. Malay natin baka naman 14 or 15 na siya nung tumigil siya, tapos naka-residency na din siya ng one year sa Mapua. Ako ang estimate ko he's probably legit 19 by now."
If he is 19 then he can still play in the UAAP Juniors, because the rule, as far as I know, is that you can play up to age 19.
"Assume na nga natin na sa edad pwede pa naman siya maglaro, ang actual tanong ko is magaling ba talaga si Serrano or matanda lang for a high school
To local basketball fans, he may not ring a bell. But in the international stage, Dionisio (Chito) Calvo stood tall.
The late Calvo is lone Filipino who is enshrined in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Hall of Fame.
Calvo was among the first batch of 43 personages to be inducted into the FIBA Hall in March 2007.
Calvo was one of the 24 posthumous inductees under the ?contributors? category.
Calvo was the head coach of the Philippine Olympic team that ranked fifth during the 1936 Berlin Games. The games marked the first time that basketball competitions were held. The fifth-place finish remains the highest ranking by an Asian country in Olympic men?s basketball history.
Calvo also piloted the PH national team to 12th place in the 1948 London Olympics.
Likewise, he mentored the Filipinos to the men?s basketball gold during the inaugural Asian Games in New Delhi, India in 1951.
As an organizer, Calvo initiated the formation of the Asian Basketball Confederation in 1960. The ABC has since been renamed as the FIBA Asia Championship.
According to the official FIBA book ?The Basketball World,? the idea of putting up the ABC was first brought up in 1958 in Tokyo by basketball leaders from various Asian countries competing in the Third Asian Games, a multi-sport quadrennial event that included basketball.
An urgent need was felt to set up a regional controlling body for basketball in Asia and a temporary committee under the chairmanship of Calvo was constituted to look into this possibility.
Through the efforts of Calvo, the first Asian Conference and Basketball Championship for Men was initiated in January 1960 in Manila.
Seven nations ? Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Malaya (now Malaysia) and the Philippines ? saw action in the tournament.
Along with Pakistan, they also attended the Conference at which the draft constitution of the ABC was adopted and the participating countries admitted as members.
Call it homecourt advantage, the Philippines romped away with the first ABC title in 1960, winning all of its nine assignments.
Carlos Badion was named the tournament?s Most Valuable Player.
The ABC was not officially founded until the second Asian Conference and Basketball Championship for Men was stage in Taipei in November 1963.
Attended by representatives from nine countries, the ABA constitution and bylaws were ratified during the gathering. Officials such as then-Philippine Senator Ambrosio Padilla, president, and Calvo, secretary general, were elected to lead the organization.
The Conference additionally resolved to hold men?s championships biennially, while avoiding the even-numbered years wherein the Summer Olympic Games and Asian Games were staged.
In the local basketball scene, Calvo also organized the post-graduate Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) league in 1938.
The MICAA, of course, was the precursor of the professional Philippine Basketball Association PBA).
A side note: The late Gonzalo (Lito) Puyat II was once a candidate for the FIBA Hall of fame but the former two-term FIBA president (1976-84) failed to make the grade.
Danny Biasone, the owner-president of the Syracuse Nationals (the forerunners of the Philadelphia 76ers) during the early years of the National Basketball Association, was credited for the creation of the 24-second shot clock rule in the National Basketball Association.
The Italian-born Biasone was turned off by the constant stalling tactics that were being employed by the teams during the games played in the 1950s.
The dull and farcical games had to stop and so Biasone convinced his fellow NBA club owners to adopt a shot clock rule for games starting with the 1954-55 season.
How did the shot clock come down to 24 seconds?
Said Biasone: ?I looked at the box scores from the games I enjoyed, games where they didn?t screw around and stall. I noticed each team took about 60 shots. That meant 120 shots per game. So I took 48 minutes ? 2,880 seconds ? and divided that by 120 shots. The result was 24 seconds per shot.?
Together with Nats general manager Leo Ferris, Biasone developed the 24-second shot clock.
The novel rule prevented the teams from holding the ball without any restrictions and forced them to hoist a field goal within 24 seconds of gaining ball possession.
The rules change also would mean a faster game and higher scoring.
True enough, the NBA game became fast-paced and the offense perked up with the introduction of the 24-second shot clock during the 1954-55 wars.
The league?s scoring average leapfrogged to 93.1 points per game (from 79.5 ppg) and the clubs combined to hit .385 from the field (up from .372 in the previous season).
From 150.7 field-goal attempts per game in 1953-54, the two teams combined for 172.8 floor shots in every game during the following season.
The 24-second shot clock rule made its NBA debut on October 30, 1954, with the Rochester Royals (the predecessors of the Sacramento Kings) knocking off the Boston Celtics, 98-95.
Ironically, Biasone?s Nats were the biggest winners in 1954-55, snaring the NBA championship with a 4-3 decision over the Fort Wayne (now Detroit) Pistons in a seven-game Finals that saw the home team emerge triumphant each time.
Biasone died in 1992 but he will always be remembered as the creator of the 24-second shot clock rule.
In 2000, Biasone was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame under the contributor?s category.
With half the UAAP basketball season done, Mr Libog and I were having one of our regular dinner sessions and he was, as usual, being his loquacious self.
"Bakit kaya parang ang hina ng UAAP ngayon (Season 79?" he asked.
I wondered what he meant, although I had some inkling.
"Tignan mo up to last year, nandun pa si Kev (Kevin Ferrer of UST), (Ed) Daquioag, Karim (Abdul), andun pa si Phenom (Kiefer Ravena of the Ateneo), sa FEU sina (Mac) Belo, (Mike) Tolomia, (Russell) Escoto, kahit si (Roger) Pogoy, andun din siempre si Jeron (Teng of Lasalle). Bakit parang wala ng mga ganyan ngayon?"
I said we have Ben Mbala this year, an elite talent if ever there was one, and Mr Libog agreed, saying Mbala is "the best import to ever play in college basketball."
I also mentioned Adamson rookie Jerrick Ahanmisi, who at the end of the first round of eliminations was among the league leaders in scoring and three-point shooting.
"Magaling nga si Ahanmisi, kahit rookie pa lang siya. Pero aside from him and Mbala and Teng, sino pa ba mga kasinggaling nung mga players last year?"
Very interesting indeed. Could this group of players now, in Season 79, be the weakest field in recent memory?
Again, I am not quite into the number crunching, so I don't think I'll be able to give a quantitative answer to that question. And of course the question of "magaling" carries with it a lot of subjectivity, i.e. an elite talent for one guy may not necessarily be an elite talent for another guy.
Mr Libog of course is very simplistic in his approach. "Mahirap bang makita kung magaling ang isang player or hindi? I don't think so; it is not rocket science," he said in between bites of a well-fired pomfret and some "noble vegetables" that looked suspiciously like local kangkong.
"May nahanap akong Bonbon Custodio dati, may Roi Sumang, sinabi ko din na big mistake na hindi kunin si Mark Cruz dati pa nung college pa lang siya, tapos ngayon andiyan si Harvey (Pagsanjan) sa Hope Christian. Sinsabi ko sa'yo, hindi naman mahirap makita kung magaling ang player or hindi. Isa, dalawang minuto pa lang ng laro, takbo pa lang, minsan lakad pa lang, alam mo na kung magaling ang player or hindi."
This reminds me of a book I love by Pat Conroy, "The Great Santini", in which one of the characters is a high school boy named Ben Meecham, a varsity star. Ben described good players as having "the walk", that indication just with his stride and gait if he was already a good player or not. Ben had seen "the walk" in the streets of Baltimore and the Capital, when his father, a Marine fighter pilot, had been assigned in Washington DC.
"Kapag nanunuod ako ngayon nakakatamad, kasi meron lang isang saksakan ng lakas na team, ang Lasalle, tapos the rest parang wala lang, parang ganun kahina talaga ang field ngayon," he said.
I told him Mbala was something like 20-plus points ahead of the second-running player in the MVP race. That got him going even more.
"Kita mo na. Ganun kalakas 'yung Lasalle this year. They have the best import ever, tapos mahina pa ang field. Alam mo kahit nung time nung 5-Peat ng Ateneo, never ko naramdaman na ganun kahina ang the rest of the field."
He had a point. In the first of the Ateneo's five straight UAAP championships in 2008, Lasalle still had JV Casio and Rico Maeirhofer, FEU had Marc Barroca, JR Cawaling, Reil Cervantes, Aldrech Ramos, UE had Pari Llagas, Elmer Espiritu, Ken Acibar, Paul Lee wasn't even a star yet back then. UST was only two years removed from their 2006 title, and still had an MVP-level Jervy Cruz, with Dylan Ababou, Badong Canlas, Alein Maliksi. In other words, that most certainly was not a weak field.
All throughout that 5-Peat, when everybody and his brother were just dying to have someone knock the Ateneo off its perch, there were legitimate contenders who had a chance. That might not necessarily be the case now.
"Huwag na tayo maglokohan, the truth is that there is nobody who can challenge Lasalle this year, period," he said, this time already tackling a dessert that looked suspiciously like cold taho.
"Sino ba may enough talent na talunin ang Lasalle? Hindi 'yung chambang talo ha, na parang nung 1997 (1996, I corrected him) nung umulan ng tres para sa Ateneo at tinambakan nila Lasalle team nila Telan, huwag ganun. I mean a real chance, na alam mo kahit papano may ipapalag sila. Wala naman 'di ba?"
We have the national team coach who knows how to beat Iran, said I.
He almost choked on his taho (quite a feat in itself) with that one. "Tinalo na nga kayo ni Bo Perasol eh! Wasn't that the same Bo Perasol na sinabi niyo bano, walang alam, hindi makapanalo with a talent like Phenom? O ayan, tinalo kayo. Anong national team, national