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  1. 18th Fr Martin Cup Summer Tournament: Up for Grabs

    National University is supposed to be the defending champion in the Fr Martin Cup summer tournament. Unfortunately the Bulldogs of head coach Eric Altamirano have declined the invitation to join the 18th edition this year. In yet another twist of fate, even the runner-up from last summer, Mapua Tech, is also not competing in this year’s tournament. This marks perhaps the first time in many years that the two teams that disputed the title in the previous tournament are not seeing action.

    That means the title is officially up for grabs among the 16 teams who will do battle in the hardcore gyms of Manila.

    Group A: Group B:
    Adamson University Ateneo De Manila B
    Ateneo De Manila A Far Eastern University
    Jose Rizal University De La Salle University
    Lyceum Manila Letran College
    Fatima University Informatics International College
    STI College Philippine Merchant Marine School
    University of the East Trinity University
    University of the Philippines Perpetual University

    By the looks of it, Ateneo A should have a heck of an advantage over all of the other teams in the field. Coming off a historic 4-Peat title run in the UAAP, the Blue Eagles return the same core of 7-foot center Greg Slaughter, reigning UAAP Rookie of the Year Kiefer Ravena, Season 75 Finals MVP Nico Salva and backup big man Justin Chua. Veterans Oping Sumalinog, Juami Tiongson, Tonino Gonzaga and Frank Golla also return, giving the Blue Eagles unmatched experience across the board.

    More than the returning veterans though, the Blue Eagles are hoping to give good minutes to their younger players, like 6-foot-1 swingman Von Pessumal and 6-foot-3 forward Gwynne Capacio. Pessumal was a former RP Youth Team member and was an integral part of the grand slam title reign of the Ateneo High School along with Ravena. Capacio was also a former UAAP junior division champion with La Salle Zobel. “We hope to give some experience to the younger players on the team during the summer,” explained head coach Norman Black. “We really want to develop the younger guys like Von and Gwynne so they’ll be ready to step up when the veterans graduate,” he added.

    Far Eastern University, the team the Ateneo beat in their last two championship runs are expected to challenge the Blue Eagles for the Fr Martin Cup title. For the Tamaraws though, everything hinges on how star guards Ryan Roose Garcia and Terrence Romeo will play together. Garcia and Romeo did not seem to be on the same page in the last UAAP season, especially in critical stretches of the Finals against the Ateneo. Romeo has a well-documented tendency to dribble away half the shot clock when the ball is in his hands, taking precious opportunities away from the quick-hitting Garcia.

    Without Garcia, the Tamaraws were handily beaten by San Beda in the semifinals of the last Fr Martin Cup Open Tournament at the Trinity gym. While Romeo found the range from the three-point arc, he also found himself forcing the action on the driving game against the tall timber of San Beda. “That only goes to show how important Garcia’s steadiness is to FEU,” noted one long-time player scout.

    FEU may have the most talented guards in the UAAP but they won’t be relying solely on their perimeter game to get through the summer. FEU will have 6-foot-4 banger Arvie Bringas, younger brother of veteran Tamaraw Mark Bringas to bolster their frontline. Arvie Bringas, out of San Sebastian high school, was originally recruited by La Salle but spent only one season with the Green Archers. Another former San Sebastian high school star will be debuting for the Tamaraws in summer league action, multi-talented 6-foot swingman Gino Jumao-as.

    All of the current Tamaraws will have to pick up production with the departure of key cogs Aldrech Ramos, JR Cawaling and Ping Exciminiano. Guard Mike Tolomia should get more minutes in relief of and alongside Romeo and Garcia. If Tolomia can find his niche in the FEU scheme of things he could become the best third-guard in the UAAP.

    Letran is another team looking to make some noise in this tournament. They challenged San Beda for the Open Conference title just a couple months back, falling short against the deeper and bigger Red Lions. With a veteran roster long on defensive toughness, the Knights might just have what it takes to go toe to toe with the two powerhouses from the UAAP.

    Guards Kevin Alas and Mark Cruz will lead the attack for the Knights. Alas makes up about half the offensive output for Letran in any given game. Cruz can get into the gut of any defense and pull up for his patented lean-in jumper.

    They will be ably backed up by 6-foot-7 center Raymond Almazan, 6-foot-4 forward Jonathan Belorio, 6-foot-3 center-forward June Alas and 6-foot-1 swingman Kevin Racal. Defense ...
  2. Fil-Oil Flying V Summer Tournament: Ateneo Defends the Crown

    Last summer was supposed to be a period of transition for reigning UAAP champion Ateneo De Manila. They had two big-time recruits in their own former high school star Kiefer Ravena and 7-foot center Greg Slaughter. Preseason summer tournaments are always a time for the Blue Eagles to get in full basketball shape and rediscover their full basketball legs. It is a period for working new guys into the system, and to get familiar with each other in time for the UAAP. Coming as it does on the heels of the last few weeks of class for the semester, the Blue Eagles are often coming off a long layoff and thus prone to rustiness.

    “Finals week for the academic year is when we stop practicing to allow the boys to focus on their final exams, course requirements and everything else that they need to do as students before school is officially out,” explained multi-titled head coach Norman Black. Ateneo college students typically spend the last couple of weeks of every semester catching up on a load of course work apart from the requisite exams. “Since we don’t practice for over two weeks we tend to get a little rusty. You probably notice we always start the summer tournaments very slow, that is why,” he added with a slight grin.

    Black’s Blue Eagles are the reigning Fil Oil Flying V summer tournament champions. They handily beat reigning NCAA champion San Beda in the one-game finale last summer behind veteran forward Nico Salva and Slaughter. Their opening weekend assignment this year is the always-tough Letran Knights of Coach Louie Alas. “Yeah, coming off a long layoff and we get Letran as a reward on opening day,” Black mused with a small chuckle.

    While Black might be downplaying his team’s chances as usual, no one is buying it. No one has in fact bought it the last half decade or so that he has been at the helm. Salva, Slaughter, Ravena and the rest of a battle-tested, veteran squad return this summer. Juami Tiongson and Frank Golla look to complete the starting unit for the Ateneo. Off-guard Tonino Gonzaga, big man Justin Chua, forward Oping Sumalinog, the returning Ryan Buenafe, and backup center JP “Poy” Erram are all back at it as well. “Just when you thought things would be a little easier with the veterans that graduated like Eman Monfort and Kirk Long, you see these guys still around and Buenafe coming back. Now what the heck are you supposed to do?” noted Alan Taule, a former college coach.

    Taking it one game at a time might be a good idea. Letran is after all itself a veteran squad with talent and some depth. Kevin Alas is one of the best guards in the amateur ranks. He is no longer just a volume shooter. His overall game has expanded, especially on the defensive end, where his Coach-Father is uncompromising and unforgiving. Kevin Alas has also learned to be a better and more willing play maker and decoy.

    Diminutive pointguard Mark Cruz rejoins him in the Letran backcourt. Cruz was a high school dynamo who has developed one of the best dribble-drive arsenals in the college ranks. His pull-up jumper and ability to drive-dish and even take a hit against much bigger players have made him a valuable tool for the Knights. 6-foot-7 center Raymond Almazan, 6-foot-4 power forward Jonathan Belorio, 6-foot-1 swingman Kevin Racal and a whole slew of veteran tough guys are ready to backup the dynamic backcourt duo.

    San Beda will also provide a heck of a challenge, and may in fact arrange a rematch of last summer’s Finals against the Ateneo. PBA Legend Ronnie Magsanoc takes over from the charismatic Frankie Lim as head coach of the Red Lions. Lim figured in an incident with San Sebastian’s acerbic volleyball coach Roger Gorayeb in the last NCAA Season; both men are looking at long suspensions. Still, with 6-foot-8 African import Ola Adeogun and 6-foot-3 Filipino-American swingman Julius Armon around the Red Lions are a team to beat. This presumes of course that both men will be playing in the Fil Oil. Both were also involved in the Lim-Gorayeb incident and also facing suspension. Although the Fil Oil is not an NCAA event, one never knows how all of this will play out at least until opening day.

    Speaking of teams to beat, Far Eastern University and San Sebastian College should be in the conversation here. FEU and San Sebastian both feature talented and highly athletic rosters. FEU has arguably the best guard tandem in college with former UAAP MVP Ryan Roose Garcia and former UAAP Rookie of the Year Terrence Romeo. Garcia and Romeo just have to figure out how to live with just one basketball on the floor at any given time.

    San Sebastian on the other hand have Calvin Abueva, a 6-foot-2 freak of nature who routinely gets more points, rebounds and blocks than guys four inches taller and 20 pounds heftier. Abueva will have the highly skilled 6-foot-7 Ian Sangalang keeping him company up front. The Golden Stags ...
  3. PBA Finals: Stand and Deliver

    After one of the most frenetically paced conferences in its history, the 2012 PBA Commissioner’s Cup has come down to two teams: BMEG and Talk N Text. They faced each other only one other time this conference, with TNT beating BMEG 102-96 in the single-round eliminations. TNT is the second best offensive club averaging over 100 points per game, while BMEG leads the league in defense allowing only 87 points per game.

    Both teams went through a bit of a wringer in the Final 4 semifinals against Barangay Ginebra and Barako Bull respectively. In the end though, both powerhouses came in with strong finishing kicks to reach the Finals. BMEG needed four games out of five to get the job done, while TNT survived being down 1-2 before breaking through.

    As this is an import-reinforced conference, the respective American imports of either team are the focal points for this series, although they themselves are not strict make-or-break deals. TNT has NBA veteran Donnel Harvey, a 6-foot-10 center-forward. BMEG leans on international veteran Denzel Bowles, also 6-foot-10. Both Americans are cut from the same cloth: power-playing, board crashing, shot blocking athletes with only average touch from anywhere beyond 10-12 feet. Both are veritable double-double machines who can score inside and clean glass on both ends, but have a hard time making a shot anywhere other than in the immediate paint area. Neither is even an average free throw shooter. This means they could conceivably just cancel each other out. It seems doubtful that one is at any real advantage over the other.

    Bowles had sort of a break going up against Jackson Vroman in their series versus the Gin Kings. Vroman isn’t exactly an athlete although he did match up well enough size-wise against Bowles. Vroman, at 6-foot-11, had the size but just did not have the speed and agility to stay toe-to-toe against Bowles. For his part, Harvey was literally looking down against his counterpart with the Energy. 6-foot-6 Gabe Freeman is a former two-time PBA Best Import and proven champion, but simply gave away too much in terms of size against Harvey. Harvey often found himself guarded by the slower-moving Mick Pennisi or Dorian Pena.

    That means the local players will most likely be the difference between victory and defeat in a series that promises to go down the wire. Neither team is bereft of proven superstars who all have championship experience and all-league credentials. TNT is widely acknowledged as being arguably the most talent-stocked team in the PBA, but BMEG’s roster is nothing to sneeze at either.

    For the Llamados, everything begins and ends with former MVP James Yap. Yap, a strongly-built 6-foot-2 swingman with a deadly trigger and incredible range, is one of the best scorers of the PBA of all time. He can knock down the long three-pointer with many hands in his face as easily as drive and pull up. He has also developed his passing and decoy-playing skills, making him truly a multiple threat. Yap’s biggest sin however is that he is at best an average defender and rebounder. He will normally only take in caroms that come his way, and is not particularly known for getting in the stance and dogging his man. So if for some reason his shot isn’t falling, he has to make himself useful as a play maker and facilitator, or else his Llamados will have a tough time matching the combined firepower of the Tropang Texters.

    Speaking of firepower, this might be the best time to shine for backup swingman Peter June Simon. Simon, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard who sometimes plays 3 in a three-guard set, is almost as good as Yap when it comes to scoring. He certainly has a better sense of shot selection, unlike Yap who does not discriminate as long as he is within 30 feet of the basket. Simon allows Yap to freelance more when the two are on the floor together. Opposing defenses have to respect Simon’s offense almost as much as Yap’s. Unlike Yap though, Simon is a strong and underrated perimeter defender who works hard fighting through staggered screens.

    Both men will be severely tested though since the Tropang Texters have their own MVP backcourt in pointguard Jimmy Alapag and his just-as-talented partner Jason Castro. Alapag and Castro are arguably the best backcourt combo in the league. They have been co-Finals MVP, creating all sorts of problems with their speed, explosiveness and scoring. Both men can hit long jumpers and have range all the way past the three-point arc, can drive and pull up, break down defenses with their dribble penetration, and run like Olympic sprinters in transition. They may not quite be the long-range gunner that Yap and Simon are, but they can score in far more ways and alternate at the 1 and 2 spots with ease.

    Up front, BMEG might be one of the few teams that can boast a real size advantage against TNT. 6-foot-9 Yancy De Ocampo, 6-foot-9 ...
  4. RP-SEABA tryouts

    The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas will be holding tryouts starting tomorrow at the Brent School gym in Pasig for the national team that will see action in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) qualifying tournament from June 24-30 in Singapore.

    This was announced by SBP Executive Director Renauld ‘Sonnie’ Barrios who wrote top management of NCAA and UAAP, the country’s premier collegiate leagues, to seek their “wholehearted support” in the formation of the national team.

    Coached by former PBA star Olsen Racela, the RP-SEABA team will vie for a slot to the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Men from Aug. 17-26 in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia.

    In letters addressed to Rev. Fr. Tamerlane Lana O.P., rector and president of Colegio de San Juan de Letran, and 2012 chairman Junel Baculi of National University, Barrios bared plans of the RP coaching staff to tap some players from both leagues for the 24-man national pool.

    “This will be submitted to FIBA Asian on or before May 24 before it is trimmed down to the Final 12 on or before June 10,” Barrios said.

    At least 40-45 players are expected to attend Day 1 of the tryouts, with ULTRA, also in Pasig, as an alternate venue.
    Philippine Basketball
  5. Llamados, Kings open semis duel

    MORE than a week ago, they figured in a playoff to see who gets the outright semifinal berth. Now, it’s a whole new different ballgame for Barangay Ginebra and B-MEG as both are standing on the same ground.

    The much-anticipated semifinal clash between the Gin Kings and the Llamados, both crowd favorites, unravels today at 6:45 p.m. in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup at the Ynares Center, in Antipolo City.

    Meralco’s Mac Cardona (left) loses the ball to the pesky defense of B-MEG’s Mark Barroca during the 2012 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Araneta Coliseum. The Llamados won to advance to the semifinals against the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings. SONNY ESPIRITU
    Since the Gin Kings knocked the Llamados out the last time they fought, one thing is on the minds of B-MEG coach Tim Cone and his wards—revenge.

    “We want to get back at them and play them again since they defeated us the last time in our playoff game,’’ said Cone. ‘’I feel like we can play them really well. I think we have a good chance against them.’’

    However, that won’t be an easy task as there’s one big cause of concern for Cone in this series. “Ginebra is 14-man deep. Anyone from that line-up can step up and contribute. That’s the thing with them.’’
    Philippine Basketball

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