[FIBA Manila OQT] PHL cage program wishes for less heartaches in future world-level play

Jayson Castro drives hard to the basket. But his heroics fell short in the philippines' campaign in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (photo by FIBA).

 

PASAY CITY—Listen to the drum rolls in areas 411 to 413 at the Mall of Asia Arena. They never stopped pounding. But look at the clock while listening to the drums banging: 44.7 secs. left, the near-end of a painful Philippine game over New Zealand.

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[FIBA Manila OQT] PHL’s ‘splash in Spain’ sought in Manila OQT

 

PASAY CITY—The Philippines knows the hard truth of current-day global basketball: while in a reconnaissance as of late, the Philippines is still outside the inner ambit of cage superpowers. Playing like Americans amid Filipinos’ size, height and current level of athleticism is what this basketball-crazy nation is banking on.

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[FIBA Manila OQT] PHL still searches for a FIBA tourney win over a European five

 

MANILA (The Filipino Connection)—A Jimmy Alapag three in the fourth quarter of a 2014 friendly game between his Philippine basketball team and France rattled the latter. It was a 60-55 lead for then coach Vincent “Chot” Reyes and his team, and counterpart French coach Vincent Collet sued for time.

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[FIBA Manila OQT] PHL had France’s number in 1954 Worlds, 1956 Olympics

The 1954 Philippine basketball team, bronze medalists in the old World Basketball Championships held in Rio de Janeiro, was one of two Filipino teams that beat the French national squad (photo from www.cbholganza.wordpress.com blog

 

MANILA (The Filipino Connection)—Today’s French national team had become a global powerhouse that the Philippine cage team is some 23 rungs below Les Blues in current world rankings.

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Pacquiao, PHL cling to global boxing’s spotlight

With how Timothy Bradley fell down on the ninth round given a Manny Pacquiao left to the American's face, do you think this fight ends the Filipino boxer's storied career? (photo from Top Rank Español's Facebook page)

 

Editors note: The fight was watched via pay-per-view.

 

MANILA–In what is perhaps the least-anticipated Manny Pacquiao fight in 13 years for global and Filipino fight fans, the PacMan “retired” with a flourish given a unanimous decision win over Timothy Bradley.

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Comeback of a title win in Manila: A sporting rarity

San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria and his players pulled off a Houdini act that any sport in whichever part of the world had not yet done; winning a championships series coming from a 0-3 deficit. (photo from the Facebook account of the PBA)

 

PASAY CITY—Three minutes and 53 seconds left in a crucial game, a Game 4 —at a basketball series’ championship point.

That’s when a story just begun.

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[Yearender] Why weightlifters became big hits in 2015 for PHL sports

Hidilyn Diaz, in this file photo from the International Weightlifting Federation, wins a silver medal at the Rio Olympic Games.

 

MANILA—Who cheers for less marketable sports such as weightlifting and wushu? Almost none, not unless cheerers in these sports are either national athletes’ teammates, family members or friends.

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[2015 UAAP finals] Uncertainty clouds title series’ sea of yellow

The sea of yellow  that has been swarming this year's UAAP men's basketball title series has been witnessing uncertainty brought about by the thrill of winning the Philippines' most-coveted collegiate championship (photo take from the Facebook page of Far Eastern University)

 

 

MANILA (The Filipino Connection)—When faces of basketball players suddenly become sullen at one point of a game, they jitter in front of their throngs of fans. Then a hoops-crazed country, err a “global nation,” watches over them.

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The 2015 UAAP men’s cage finals ticket that’s so hard to get

A student proudly flashes the tickets she had bought to witness the thrilling 2015 UAAP  Men's Basketball Championship series between Far Eastern University and the University of Santo Tomas. The decider is set for Wednesday, Dec. 2, at the Mall of Asia Arena--the place where not even as many tickets are available. So do the other branches of SM. (Photo taken from Facebook)

 

MANILA—There’s mayhem in Sampaloc. A riot did not cause this.

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Title traditions trumpet today’s Tamaraws-Tigers tussles

 

MANILA–A tradition in Philippine collegiate hoops that’s buried deep in near-forgetfulness rises up from the grave today.

That tradition is a rivalry –Far Eastern University and the University of Santo Tomas– that became the UAAP’s trademark during the then four-school league’s early years beginning 1938.

Other teams, however, took that early collegiate hoops fame from these University Belt stalwarts. University of the East is one of them, starting the mid-1950s. Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University are the others, teams under the Final Four era that made the UAAP a marketing haven –to their schools’ and a TV network’s benefit– since the 1990s.

Sure, in an expanded UAAP, FEU had won its titles between 1978 and last year: two sets of three-peats (1979-1981 and 2003-2005), even a back-to-back (1991-1992). UST, on the other hand, also had its glory over the same period: a four-peat (1993 to 1996, those being the first championships since 1967) and a surprising championship in 2006.

But except for the 1979 final between Morayta and España, those other titles were won in championship series that’re not against each other. There were teams in-between.

This time it’s just them, the Tamaraws and the Tigers. The UAAP is now entering a young era beyond Eagles and Archers. Basketball teams largely financed by students’ tuition fees now hog the spotlight. In the age of social media, today’s collegiate cage fans are transported back to the time when only two teams –FEU and UST– are the UAAP.

Between 1978 and 2014, Gilas Pilipinas had already won a FIBA World Cup game. The San Miguel Beermen, Alaska Aces and the Purefoods Star Hotshots had won their grand slams in the PBA. But FEU versus UST? It’s either a ho-hum elimination round tussle or a Final Four battle.

Not like what we will all enjoy starting today.

Both FEU (19 titles) and UST (18, tied with UE) are the UAAP’s winningest. Beyond UAAP titles, the laboratories for basketball Olympians, Asian champions and the PBA’s greatest players are found in Sampaloc district.

No wonder the pre-war and early post-war UAAP was yellow versus yellow.

National teams have even been painted yellow. Early on, UST had the luminaries. There’s the “Jumping Jack” Jacinto Ciria Cruz, part of the 1936 Olympic team that placed fifth (Asia’s highest placing in the Olympics).

After the war, Ramoncito Campos, Jr. towed FEU to not only the UAAP title but steered national teams to the Olympics, the old World Basketball Championships, the Asian Games and the old Asian Basketball Confederation Championships.

Who could forget the 1948 London Olympics team? Six of them are from Sampaloc: Campos (FEU), Fely and Gabby Fajardo, Francisco “Six by Six” Vestil, Antonio “Pocholo” Martinez and Valentin “Tito” Eduque (UST).

From the 1970s to the late 1980s (the PBA era), there’s William “Bogs” Adornado and Danny Florencio for UST and Yoyoy Villamin and Glenn Capacio for FEU. Coaching? Don’t forget multiple-time UAAP champion Arturo “Turing” Valenzona.

Forward to the Gen-X and millennial generations. Yes UST had its stars in the PBA and in the national team: Dennis Espino, Bal David, Chris Cantonjos, Cyrus Baguio. But FEU had the more recognizable players in the current-day national teams and in the roster of MVPs: Johnny Abarrientos, Victor Pablo, Arwind Santos, Jeffrei Chan and Marc Pingris.

In the PBA’s Fabulous 40 greatest players, UST 2, FEU 3. In the Philippine National Basketball Hall of Fame (with some 22 players on it), FEU has Geronimo Cruz but UST has the Fajardo brothers, Rafael Hechanova, Jr. and Vestil.

See who made the UAAP their nesting ground early on (pre-1979): FEU 1938, 1939 (co-champs with UST and University of the Philippines), 1947 (co-winners with UST), 1951, 1956, 1961, 1972, 1973 and 1976. UST 1939 to 1940, 1946 to 1949, 1951 to 1953, 1955, 1959, 1964 and 1967 (co-titlists with UE).

But today’s the future, recognizable to millennials and the Gen-X. UST’s Kevin Ferrer, Karim Abdul and Ed Daquioag and FEU’s Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia and Achi Iñigo will perhaps think of their schools’ cage ancestors less come game time. What they’ll carry on their backs are dreams of a major triumph in this storied rivalry that dates way, way back.

This new decade, these schools have two botched title runs apiece. This 78th UAAP season, one team relies on a deep bench while another has the habit of eking out comeback wins with style to surprisingly become the top team after the elimination round.

Today’s best-of-three series is UAAP men’s basketball’s immediate future, one that can easily surpass record-breaking crowd attendances courtesy of the U-Belt’s most densely-populated universities. These modern-day Sampaloc squads are trying to morph a nation and their school fans back to an almost-forgotten era when collegiate basketball is either FEU or UST.

Either one of them wants to chart that new FEU-UST title era, a new collegiate hoops era –starting today.

 

 

 

Disclosure: The author teaches journalism at UST.

 

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