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In Your Face!

What Are They Doing, Really? Part 1

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Mr Libog treat my self and my wife to lunch over the weekend.

As is the usual practice, talk at our table centered mainly around basketball, specifically recruitment.

"Malapit na Fil Oil ah," he stated, referring to the Fil Oil-Flying V Premiere Cup, the summer basketball tournament organized by the local petroleum company that bears the same name.

I nodded, knowing this tournament would begin after the Holy Week, so it was only about a week or two away.

"Sino mga bago natin?" he inquired, referring to who the new players might be on our varsity roster.

I shrugged. Apart from transfer student Gab Reyes, and two players who failed to make the last season's regular roster for different reasons, I actually had no clue who any of our new talent (if any) there might be.

I told him about Reyes, and the other two guys: Tyler Tio and Gian Mamuyac. He was of course familiar with all three, since we had followed their developments even as far back as their high school days. I said they were doing well in the offseason tournaments like the Fr Martin Cup and the Milcu Got Skills Challenge Cup.

He didn't sound too impressed. "That's it?"

I nodded.

"So what we have is an athletic forward who Lord only knows has been doing what the last couple of years we haven't heard a thing from him, a guy who should have been lined up last season were it not for paperwork that had nothing to do with his game, and another guy who we both agreed should have been lined up ahead of at least three other guys who didn't actually do shit for us last season. Would that be accurate?"

I nodded again. Although I did add that at least we're getting three guys who aren't total greenhorns and who could come in and play right away within the system of the team and the coach, which is always valuable.

"Valuable, yes, but doesn't guarantee us a title does it?" he asked, rhetorically as usual.

My wife was busy putting fried rice, squid heads, beef, broccoli, tofu, and clams on our plates while we were engrossed in our little discussion. It pays to marry the right woman, I tell you. She will make sure you can keep enjoying a good meal without having to skip a beat in your in-depth basketball conversation.

I said that with Reyes, Tio, Mamuyac we would have a better perimeter now, that can provide firepower, defense, experience, and much-needed speed.

"I hardly think Tyler and Gab will provide speed, only Gian is a natural runner in that bunch. You are correct though that Tyler can provide additional firepower, Gab too, because Gab I think is a better shooter than Thirdy Ravena. But then again Gab might be what, in his fourth year in college by now, dapat lang naman sigurong gumagawa na siya, athletic naman siya, may pukol, sa edad niya dapat lang naman kaya na niya gumawa. So once again we have to thank Lasalle for another guy they couldn't use, because now he gets to play in a blue uniform," he expounded.

"Alam mo totoong tanong diyan: ano ba ginagawa nung mga tao na dapat naghahanap ng talent para sa team? Bakit pa sila pinapasweldo? Troy Mallilin hindi nakuha. Justin Baltazar hindi nakuha. Ricci Rivero hindi nakuha. Aljun Melecio hindi nakuha. Lahat ng mga players na gusto ko, 'yun ang mga hindi nila nakuha. Wala na ngang clearance na kailangan, wala na ngang residency, hindi pa din natin sila nakuha."

"So sino-sino ba mga nakuha natin? Mga good students? Kung good students kailangan natin huwag na natin padala sa US ang team tuwing summer, magtayo na lang sila ng separate scholarship fund specifically for good students who make the basketball team. OK lang naman kung ganun ang gusto nila eh, pero pupusta ko lahat ng yaman ko, never mananalo ng UAAP championship ang team na good students ang lahat ng players. No way," he declared.

So was he saying we would have a losing season?

"Far from it, I think we will return to the Finals at the very least, where once again our problem will be how to match up against (Benoit) Mbala. Sino pantatapat natin sa kanya, sina (Chibuezee) Ikeh at George (Go) na naman? Hindi porke nakapalag tayo kahit papano last year ganun-ganun lang magagawa natin ulit 'yon this year."

"We can be thankful na wala na si Jeron (Teng), and he really is a big loss for them, kasi hindi ganun kadali replace ang scoring at veteran leadership niya. Kaya lang papano kung mag-step up naman sina Baltazar, Ricci (Rivero), Melecio, makabalik din ng maganda 'yung Gboy Gob, or maka-contribute right away 'yung Troy (Mallilin), talented players lahat ang mga 'yon ha."

"Pero sabihin na lang natin na lahat nung mga locals nila hindi gumawa as expected, andiyan pa din si Mbala eh, at 'yon walang katapat sa buong liga. So papano na tayo niyan?"

We have a good coach who has the kinds of players he likes, and that can play within his system, so there is always that, said I. After all, we did make it into the Finals last year and put up a good fight against the consensus Number 1 team. If they beat us and they won the title, that was to be expected right?

"Yes, expected naman 'yon, pero what I'm trying to say is they won because they had the players that I've been telling you for so long are exactly the players we needed. So bakit sila nakuha nila, tayo hindi? Magaling na kung sa magaling ang coach natin, and you know how I really feel about that, pero assume na nga natin na good coach ang atin. Only so much a coach can do pa din hindi ba? Don't tell me superior coach si Aldin Ayo. Sabihin pa nga nating lamang na lamang as coach si Tab (Baldwin) over Ayo, we still lost, and it is simply because they had the superior players. Maybe hindi naman magiging PBA superstars ang mga 'yon, pero clearly they were better than our guys, especially of course si Mbala. Ito na lang honest question: if you could pick, who would you pick, Mbala or Ikeh? No-brainer 'di ba?"

"So again we have to go back to sino ba ang kumukuha ng players para sa atin, at ano ba talaga ang gusto nila na players? Kasi mukhang lahat ng ayaw ko, na proven nananalo, 'yon naman ang ayaw nila. Ayaw ba nila manalo?"

I then went on to discourse rather freely about how a good coach can make a big difference.

He cut me off.

"Pare naman, alam ko namang maraming factors ang basketball success, pero come on, may nakita ka na bang team na nanalo, all things being equal, na walang talent, na talagang dinala lang ng coach? When was the last time? Has it happened in the last 25 years? You need talented players to win. So the guys getting you those players have to understand the game and what it takes to win. Ganun ba mga tao natin?"

We eventually finished lunch without a resolution yet of our little discussion.
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