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In Your Face!

What Are They Doing, Really? Part 2

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At our most recent lunch over the last weekend, Mr Libog was at it again.

"O ayan, talo tayo sa Lyceum at UE," he said in between bites of crispy pata and long looks at the waitress of his favorite Filipino restaurant. "Biruin mo, sino ba naman ang Lyceum at UE para talunin tayo?"

I said its only the off-season anyway, plus those were only one-basket losses, no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Plus a player or two who rode the pines last season are now getting some much needed burn.

He just chortled, swallowing his umpteenth mouthful of the crispy pata. "Kahit na ba summer league lang, gano ba naman kalakas ang Lyceum at UE para talunin tayo? Kahit pa chamba, dalawang chamba 'yan ha, hindi ba nakakaalarma 'yan?"

I don't really know with him, but the summer leagues, especially the Fil Oil, was never much of an indication of UAAP fortunes as far as I can tell. Lasalle swept the Fil Oil all the way to the championship last year, and then went on to win the Season 79 UAAP diadem as well. But taking a look over the last 10 years, there was never a co-relation between Fil Oil success and UAAP success.

Even during the 5-Peat reign of the Ateneo, the Fil Oil and the Fr Martin summer tournaments were really just for tuning up for the regular UAAP wars. One might even say the annual US training junket of the Blue Eagles is actually more important in the team calendar, since they would willingly play daily games alternating between the Fil Oil and the Fr Martin just to keep in step with the schedules of those tournaments before they made off for the US. They would then come back just in time for the last few elimination games of the summer tournaments. More often than not they'd make the Finals of either or both tournaments. Heck they even won the now-defunct Nike Summer League in 2008, which was their springboard into the first of their five straight UAAP titles, and the launchpad for Rabeh Al-Hussaini's UAAP stardom.

So, really, I don't know why Mr Libog was in such a tizzy.

"Alam mo hindi naman kasi 'yan dapat nangyayari, kahit sa summer, 'yang matalo tayo sa mga patakbuhing teams. Seriously, mukha bang nagfa-Final 4 ang mga 'yan? So bakit tayo natalo sa kanila," he asked rather exasperatedly.

I said these things were bound to happen. Even back in Magic's day, when the Clippers were a joke of a franchise (the days of Benoit Benjamin and Company), there was one time or two that they upset the Showtime Lakers. "Bilog ang bola," as Wang-bu, Jake Salazar, and other old soul Pinoy basketball sages would say.

"Hindi kaya the actual fact of the matter is that sadyang mahina ang team natin? And if this is the case, papanong nagkaganun?" He was warming up to something, I could see the signs already.

"Balikan ko lang 'yung pinagusapan natin dati. Magkano ba ginagastos natin sa team? Every year may US training hindi ba? May gumaling na ba diyan gawa niyang training na 'yan? Si (Frank) Golla ba naging Reynel Hugnatan man lang after niyang mga US training na 'yan? Si Juami (Tiongson) ba naging Terrence Romeo man lang? Hindi naman ah. Magkano ba gastos sa isang biyahe nila? Maybe P4 to 5 million? Just for that trip? Baka annual budget na 'yan ng UST or UE team. And yet in spite of that kind of spending we get beaten by Lyceum and UE. Granted its the off-season, but still." I was sure he wasn't done yet. He was in financial management / cost-benefit mode.

"Kung ganun kalaki ginagastos mo hindi ba nakakahiya na ang team na hindi gumagastos ng ganun kalaki tinatalo ka? And I don't even buy that excuse that we don't take the off-season all that seriously. Assuming that to be true, during the 5-Peat years I don't think we ever opened the Fil Oil with back to back losses to shit teams. Even when we 'weren't taking this seriously', as you say."

"So the only logical explanation is mahina ang team natin ngayon. Which brings us back to the question of bakit ba tayo humina. Hindi kaya humina tayo kasi may problema sa recruitment strategy natin? Do we even have a recruitment strategy? Or do we just see who happens to be the UAAP or NCAA Juniors, or Tiong Lian superstar of the moment and just go get that kid, not even thinking to much if he will continue being a star in college?" He's about to get to his usual point.

"After the 5-Peat we just couldn't seem to get or to hang on to real talent, or we didn't know how to maximize them. Look at New (Chris Newsome). The two years he played he had to take a backseat to Phenom (Kiefer Ravena). Why? Have you seen what New is doing in the PBA? You think Phenom can dunk on an import in traffic? So why did Phenom get to chuck up 30 shots a game while New was second fiddle?"

"We went out and got CJ Perez, at sa Fr Martin pa lang nagpakita na kagad siya, tapos hindi pala natin naalagaan sa aral. Kasalanan ba ni CJ 'yon? Tapos sinipa natin. I've said it a million times, kung ganun rin lang sana hindi na natin kinuha, sayang lang 'yung panahon na nasa'tin siya eh, and I mean sayang for Ateneo at sayang for CJ. Maybe if he didn't make a pit stop with us baka nasa PBA na siya."

"So who made those decisions? Was it the coach? Or were there non-basketball people making basketball decisions? Mahirap yata kung ganun ang nangyari."

"Kelan lang sabi ni (Coach) Tab (Baldwin) na stud daw 'yung Jawuan White. May stud ba na binabangko? Kung nakikita na niya dati pa lang na talagang stud si White, bakit niya binangko? Ibig mong sabihin araw-araw sa practice nakikita niyang dinadakdakan ni White sina Thirdy at Ikeh ng harap-harapan tapos hindi niya binibigyan ng minuto sa actual na laro? Parang may mali yata dun ah," he went on.

"Alangan naman hindi niya type, eh 'di ba recruit na niya 'yang si White, siya na coach nung ni-line up si White ah," he added.

I said White was getting minutes now in the summer leagues and getting some good numbers.

"That's what I mean," he responded, "bakit ngayon lang, at bakit summer lang? Tsaka gumagawa ba talaga? Parang mas gumagawa pa si Mike Nieto ah, I think nasa 15 or 16 points per game so far sa Fil Oil si Mike."

"Kaya nga I want to know what our team management is really doing, kasi building the team is a management responsibility, hindi lang sa coach," he declared.

"Ok lang naman na kumuha na good students eh, kaya lang baka mahirapan na tayo manalo ng ganyan. If we want to win we still need to get good players first and foremost, tapos tulungan na lang sa aral at tutukan, kaya naman natin 'yon eh."

"You remember I told you about that Leonard Santillan kid mga four years ago pa yata? Now he's with Lasalle. Bakit hindi natin kinuha? Don't tell me much better students sina Poy Erram at Paul Siarot kesa kay Santillan?"

And another lunch passed with more questions than answers.
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