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Defending champions De La Salle Green Archers suffered its first loss in UAAP Season 71 at the claws of bitter rivals Ateneo Blue Eagles, 73-79 last Sunday before a jampacked crowd at the Araneta Coliseum.
Once again, Chris Tiu delivered the deadly blows to the DLSU Green Archers. The five-year veteran led all scorers with 26 markers including crucial free throws in the final stretch of the game which sealed Ateneo’s victory.
Going into the final 38 seconds of the game, rookie Green Archer Hyram Bagatsing fouled a shooting Chris Tiu from the three-point arc, to the mixed delight and howling of the Ateneo gallery. Tiu converted two of the three charity shots and gave Ateneo a 3 point cushion, 76-73, going into the dying seconds of the ballgame. With time running fast against De La Salle, team captain JV Casio desperately tried to free himself from the pesky defense of the Blue Eagles, and passed the ball to Peejay Barua, who missed a potentially-game tying three-point shot. Ateneo’s Yuri Escueta crushed the hopes of the green and white squad when he grabbed the rebound from the Barua miss, with 20 ticks left in the game.
Although the Blue Eagles had a six-point winning margin, the game was closely fought all throughout, with 15 deadlocks and 12 lead changes.
The Green Archers started slow in the opening quarter, allowing the Katipunan-based squad to surge to an early 6-0 lead. But Casio took charge and joined forces with rookies LA Revilla and Maui Villanueva to bring De La Salle to within one point, 16-17 at the end of the first canto.
In the second quarter, De La Salle found its rhythm as main man Rico Maierhoffer, veteran forward James Mangahas and neophytes David Joshua Webb and Bagatsing alternately pounded Ateneo with their offensive firepower to give the lead to the Green Archers at halftime, 40-35
The Green Archers’ offense continue to operate like a well-oiled machine in the third quarter. But Blue Eagle Eric Salamat proved to be a step quicker than the Green Archer defense, drilling in one basket after another, including a leadgrabbing drive underneath the basket to end the quarter.
The Taft-based squad bounced back in the early part of the fourth quarter and even tasted its highest lead of the ballgame at 67-61 at the 7-minute mark courtesy of a three-point conversion from Mangahas. The Green Archers looked poised to finish off the Blue Eagles, but the latter’s veterans, Jobe Nkemakolam, Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Salamat mounted a 10 to nothing run to erect a four-point lead for Ateneo at 71-67 with 5 minutes remaining in the game.
Coming from a timeout, the Green Archers responded and quickly made two back to back baskets courtesy of Maierhofer and Casio, to even up the scores anew at 71 all. This however, was to be the last deadlock of the ballgame.
Contributing largely to the loss of the Green Archers was their dismal performance from the free throw line. The Green Archers converted only 13 of of the 29 charity baskets awarded to them for a measly 44.8% clip, compared to the Blue Eagles’ 81% (34 out of 42).
Controlling the boards continue to be a problem for DLSU as they got outrebounded by Ateneo, 46 to 41.
The game was marred by uncanny technical fouls called on both sides. Even before the opening tip-off, Coach Franz Pumaren was called for a technical foul for failure to wear his UAAP ID. On the other hand, Ateneo’s Coach Norman Black was also charged with a technical foul, before the start of the final quarter, for “disobeying the commissioner’s orders”
ADMU 79 – Tiu 26, Salamat 10, Al Hussaini 10, Buenafe 8, Nkemakolam 7, Baclao 7, Burke 4, Austria 3, Long 2, Salva 1, Escueta 1, Baldos 0, Reyes 0
DLSU 73 – Casio 19, Maierhofer 16, Mangahas 13, Webb 7, Villanueva 4, Bagatsing 4, Revilla 3, Walsham 2, Atkins 2, Barua 2, Ferdinand 1, Malabes 0
17-16; 35-40; 56-54, 79-73
I remember it like it was today.
Some 2 years ago, an old love came back to haunt me again.
Let’s backtrack. You see, after college I dated this girl for the better part of 4 years on and off, but mostly on. We were never really good at staying away from each other. Even after a separation, we’d do back to normal as soon as we saw each other; right when we have the chance, we always took it. As if nothing happened, we’d go from saying goodbye to planning our lives to drifting apart to getting together. Stop. Continue. We never learn.
Hey, I’m crazy about her. What can I say?
During the few weeks- total- that we weren’t together in that 4-year span, I was obsessing about her, to the point of unconsciously (subconsciously?) sabotaging all other budding relationships I was getting into in my bid to move on. No matter how much I like the girl, I always compared the new to the old. And usually, the new- I would conclude- was much better than her, but still all I could think about was her. Yeah, I was whipped. This was an addiction now officially, a constant yearning, giving into temptation, wanting a taste of what I can not have. “Je ne sais quoi,” as the French would say.
It was not how I wanted our relationship to be. I was stressed for the better part of four years, working so hard to make us work in the only sense that meant anything to me. I wanted a serious, exclusive, perfect togetherness; she was, well, scared of commitment. I will forever remember how cute her face was as she was telling me that she has commitment issues. But I did feel deeply, sincerely for her. So I took her anyway I can have her. No guarantees, no promises. Just me obsessing at night about what we could be but aren’t. We are, until we’re over. She’s the reason that, up to now, sleep is hard for me. I don’t think I’ll ever be back to who I was before her. It changes you.
Anyway, the day finally came when I believed we had to say goodbye for one last time. After a trip from her (our?) OB gynecologist for a not-so-routine checkup, she broke the news to me that she had accepted a job in another country. This, after the most tender-ever-in-a-hospital-in-the-history-of-mankind moment we just had, she was telling me that she was leaving for good. How do you bid farewell for real to the one you love, right after you had just spoken to your doctor about starting a family? Is it even possible?
Yes it was, apparently.
On my way to her house to join the contingent of those who would take her to the airport, I was thinking of every line possible to make her stay. Words like “love” and “need” and “please” and “children” and “I am” and “marriage” kept running through my head. I had flowers, brought along my newly-zeroed camera, wearing my best get-up, with our songs playing on the radio. Why? Because I was prepared to give her THE speech. This was going to be the perfect moment, and I was ready. ready to be in it, ready to direct it, ready to document it.
Being stuck in traffic, though, made me remember all the time she made me wait for no apparent reason for her to get out of the office. Or all the times she made me feel little and unwanted. I love her, but sometimes I feel it was hopeless and that she would never feel for me the same or as much as I felt about her.
Being with her was a constant struggle for for self-worth and acceptance. I was trying to love enough for both of us; maybe she just wasn’t ready.
I want this girl, I want her to stay, but I’ve been so burned by her that I didn’t know if making her stay was the best idea right now- for both of us. For a crazy romantic, ideal optimist like myself, it was a novel, but cruel realization to learn that, like the song goes, well sometimes love just ain’t enough. I’m not certain, but I think God (who else would talk to me from inside my head?) spoke to me in the car and said “Pasensya na, anak. Hindi talaga nakalaan say o ‘yan.”
So I met up with her, kissed her goodbye, and that was that. For the time-being.
Fast forward to 2006. After some two-odd years of wandering into and out of meaningless dates here and in the States where I stayed for a while, I thought “That’s it. I would never find happiness again; never find somebody to devote myself to.” The memory of her held me back, no matter how I tried. I felt hopeless, but I was okay. Over the past year I went from being seriously ill in the hospital to living in the States and being able to reassess my life, and I came to the conclusion that life is not all about the highs and lows. It’s also about the middle ground; that place where you have what you need but not what you want. It sucks to be in the middle, but I learned to cope and focus on other things.
But then, I get a call I thought I would never get. She calls me to tell me that she’s in town, been here for a couple days, that she misses me, and that we should get together.
It felt funny holding her for the first time in two years. It was comfortable; in her arms, for the first time in two years, I finally was home. As we walked hand-in-hand (cheesy) in Greenbelt, we got to talking about things, the way we did before, but much mellower. Coming from an overseas stint, she had a different calm energy about her, like she was ready for real life. It seems that she too had reassessed her life. For a while, being away from it all seemed to do her good, make her realize that having someone to share everything with was not necessarily a scary thing. She had a bounce in her step as we walked side by side.
Could it be? Was this girl finally ready to settle down? I was getting excited, but I was holding it in. I have the urge to reference my life with music, and at this point, one line seemed to have been written for me: my hopes are so high that your kiss might kill me. But I’ve been waiting, girl, so bring it on. I won’t fight fate, I promise.
She started telling about how foolish she’s been shying away from serious relationships. (Okay, we’re off to a good start.) She goes on to say that being with someone who genuinely cared about her should have been enough in life. (Guilty! Go on.) About how being on her own in another country has made her realize how lucky she was to be with me before she left. (You’re on a roll, girl! Don’t stop now.) That she’s finally, finally, ready to stop searching, because she has finally found what she’s looking for. (“Let’s get married!” I thought. How’s that for managing expectations?)
Then she goes on to tell me that she met someone in Thailand, an older Filipino expatriate, and was again relocating to be closer to him. Tomorrow, in fact, was her flight out. She goes on excitedly to tell me that this other guy was exactly everything she wanted in a man, and that being with him came so easy and natural.
All this time waiting for her, she was betrothed to someone else.
Everything I had clung onto for more than half a decade went “pffft” just like that.
It turns out she could make a commitment. Just not to me.
God was talking to me again. “Pasensya na, anak. Hindi talaga nakalaan say o ‘yan.”
I felt like a bag of bricks fell from the sky. I couldn’t move. I can’t even say if it’s because of shock or sadness or stupidity or regret, or immeasurable quantities of all of those. She kept on walking, not realizing that I’ve let go of her hand. I stopped dead on my tracks (hey, I’m pinned by a bag of bricks, remember?).
She finally realizes that I’m no longer beside her and stops too. She turns to me and says “Hey, what happened to you?” She was 15 feet in front of me, urging me to keep up.
And the first thing I did? Lose all my cool, of course. In the middle of the Greenbelt lunchtime crowd I found myself uncontrollably, loudly blurting out “AKALA KO BA MAY COMMITMENT ISSUES KA?!!?!!” I swear, the din around us stopped and everybody was staring. Here I was, portly, happy-go-lucky dude realizing that the past 6 years was only just a game to the one I cared about the most. Quickly realizing what was happening, she runs over to me and pulls me away to a quiet corner so I can calm down. She still cared enough about me to spare me from an embarrassing scene. Or maybe she was sparing herself.
The rest of the day, I was just crushed. We shared a booth in a restaurant, and she was trying to comfort me with an “it’s just not meant to be” speech. That it’s better this way. 6 years of hope, was it really ending like this? Being with her, waiting for her, waiting on her, pining for her, that had defined the last quarter of my life. How do you even begin again? You devote yourself to someone and you think you know their heart. Turns out you know nothing.
You build up to a moment. You’re just never prepared for it to go as badly as it does sometimes. You feel you have some entitlement- a prior claim that needs to be honored. You just never imagine would go in a completely opposite direction.
As I leaned at her shoulder fighting back tears, blankly agreeing with everything she was saying, her phone rings. It’s him. She squirrels her way away from me, but stays beside me. I could hear her every word. She was saying things that make my eyes close. Things that I’d always hoped she would say to me. Only she was saying them to someone else. I can’t even convey to you now how my spirit was dying with every word. My soul was being sucked from inside of me. The girl just keeps breaking my heart, over and over, worse and worse.
Still, I thought it was me and her ’til the end of time. Maybe keep this game for as long as we can, and then get it together and end up together. Ahh, the burden of expectation.
Can you blame me, though?
Predictably, the next day, I was distraught. I found myself numb as I made my way through the streets of Manila, driving around, wasting precious petrol trying to find a spot to get away. I didn’t want to stay at home, where I would mope most likely and drown in my own misery. I just needed to drive. I didn’t even know what I was running away from; all I know was that I could never bear another emotional airport goodbye. I needed an escape. But how do you bounce back from losing the one you’re madly in love with forever?
Just then a friend texts me that La Salle was playing an FMC2 game in about 30 minutes at the FEU gym against San Beda’s Team B. “What the hell,” I thought, and went to the game. I needed an excuse not to be at the airport anyway. And she knew I was a La Salle basketball fanatic, so she would understand. Plus, she’s a Blue Eagle fan, so there you go.
Early on as our team was warming up, I was quiet. I just sat there, alone. Questioning why I was here, where I would go from here. “Shouldn’t I be at the airport?” I thought. As despair and regret was cloaking me once again, the game started.
Before I knew it, I was doing the cheers with the modest La Salle contingent at the game. I was on my feet at the gallery. High-five-ing people I didn’t know, as long as they were in green. For the next one and a half hours, there was nowhere else I’d rather be than here with my fellow La Sallians, cheering our then UAAP-suspended team on in a game that carried no weight. It wasn’t even an exciting game; we were clobbering San Beda by 40 at one point, but just being there certainly made a difference in my outlook.
Do you know what inspiration is? It’s when someone, or something, comes along and reminds you that life goes on, just when you feel your world has crumbled. La Salle basketball did that for me. Being in the stands, watching the nightmare press, doing “let’s go, archers, let’s go”, I belonged. I was part of something bigger than myself. I was with my team, my brothers and sisters, my fans, chanting cheers I knew since I was 5 years old. For a short while, everything in the world was in its rightful place.
The morning after brings a hangover. What was one of the worst days of my life, serendipity led me to spend in a La Salle basketball game, and it turned out to be an awakening. It woke me up to how some people enjoy La Salle basketball games, my friend told me he enjoyed sports betting online when watching them. But I think it had a different effect on myself.
In that hot FEU gym, I was acutely reminded of who I was, where I’m from. I started feeling comfortable with my place in the world, and my yet unknown path in life. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve fully recovered, up to now. When the memory of her crosses my mind I still fall silent, and feel a little sad. Like I said, it changes you. But I’m okay; I’ve learned to embrace it. It is who I am now. There are times that I will be lonely, but I’m not alone. I am part of a family, the La Sallian family. Whatever happens, this is my spot in the sun. I may never belong to the one I love, but I belong here, with my community. I am not an orphan. On the court, that day, I remembered that.
Brother Oca was right. We care so much about the Green Archers and the games they play because La Salle basketball is our rallying point.
It certainly was for me. Cheering for my exiled team that day while I was in exile myself was my rallying point. Probably even my turning point. I’ve often said I owe La Salle my identity, my values, my nourishment, my means in life. Now, I owed La Salle basketball my sanity. I know it’s corny, but being at that game saved me from myself. It opened my eyes to a society that I sometimes take for granted, but that which will always claim me as one of their own. I am the prodigal son; flawed and miserable and truant as I can be at times, I will always consider myself part of the La Sallian family.
“For better, for worse, this is where I belong.” Just being able to say as much, a smile acutely washes over me. I immediately understand that I will be just fine.
I am La Sallian. I’m part of the La Sallian family. That will never change. I may not know much, but most days, just being reminded of that will suffice.
Even for a shattered heart like mine.
Green Archers Prepare to Defend Their Crown
With the start of the UAAP season only a few days away, there is a lot of speculation about whether the Green Archers can successfully defend the UAAP title. Several key members of last year’s rotation are no longer with the team. It will be difficult to fill the void left by the departure of team captain Ty Tang and Cholo Villanueva, who together with JV Casio formed the most potent backcourt in the UAAP last year. Brian Ilad finished his eligibility, while Kish Co and OJ Cua elected not to play out their final year. The experience and on-court smarts of these players is going to be hard to replace.
This year’s team is an interesting blend of veterans and newcomers.
Holdovers from last year are: JV Casio, Simon Atkins, Bader Malabes, Peejay Barua, Rejan Lee, James Mangahas, Rico Meierhoffer, PJ Walsham, Ferdinand, and Marko Batricevic. Newcomers on the team are LA Revilla, Hyram Bagatsing, Maui Villanueva, David Webb, Jovet Mendoza, and Manoj Chandumal.
The Green Archers participated in the Nike Summer League and the Fil-Oil Invitational, and made it to the knockout stages of both tournaments before losing out to San Beda and Ateneo respectively. Injuries to our guards JV, Simon, Bader, and LA made it difficult for the team to compete against the stronger opponents, and the Archers were unable to retain both titles which they won last year. Mendoza, Rodriguez, and Chandumal were not on the lineup of the team that played in both tournaments. Sorela and Noble, two promising aspirants who could have immediate contributions were unable to meet the admission requirements and were dropped from the team.
Interestingly, our final 16-man lineup features five homegrown players: Atkins, Ferdinand, Batricevic, Webb, and Chandumal. This is probably the most of any team in the UAAP tournament this season.
So how does the team stack up for this season?
Guards: Casio, Atkins, Revilla, Malabes, Bagatsing, Chandumal
JV remains our premier offensive threat from the outside, and probably will put in more time as an SG but will also take care of ball distribution. Simon has refined his guard play and has unveiled his offensive abilities from the long court as a catch-and-shoot 2. Bader spent some time in sick bay, but has also improved on his ball handling and still deadly from the 3pt area.
Forwards: Meierhoffer, Mangahas, Barua, Villanueva, Webb, Mendoza, Lee
Peejay seems to have regained his form as a deadshot from the wings, and James is playing with increased confidence. Both figure to contribute heavily with the scoring chores this season. Rico has been spectacular at times, and the LA-Rico connection shows promise once they get it figured out. However, Rico still has to learn to stay away from silly fouls which keep him on the bench during long stretches of the games. Rejan will play guard or forward, and is expected to be one of our perimeter defenders against the gunners of the opponents.
Centers: Batricevic, Walsham, Ferdinand
PJ has become more of an inside threat, showcasing some nifty moves in the NSL games. Ferdinand has become accustomed to playing against taller and heftier players, and is starting to show his mettle on the boards. Marko has not quite recovered his game legs, but can light it up on occasion from the outside. His height and length will pose some problems for opponents around the board.
Rookies: LA Revilla, Hyram Bagatsing, Maui Villanueva, David Webb, Jovet Mendoza, and Manoj Chandumal
LA Revilla reminds many of a young Tonyboy Espinosa, with his speed, quickness, and ballhandling ability. Despite playing against taller guards, LA has shown that he can be a pg to reckon with, and became an instant fan favorite during the summer leagues. Maui Villanueva is a blue collar worker who doesn’t need the ball to be effective. He does the tough jobs around the paint, boxing out, guarding the opposing big men, and going for the boards. Hyram took some time to adjust to actual La Salle games, then showed his abilities from the 3pt territory, and also demonstrated his ball handling and slashing abilities. Hyram will play some pg on occasion as well. David Webb brings the energy and fire he showed during DLSZ’s title run last year, and is a threat in the long court as well as in the paint. Jovet Mendoza was a national youth team candidate from NU high school, and Manoj Chandumal suited up for DLSZ a couple of years ago. Incidentally, Manoj was the MVP of the recently concluded FIBL tournament.
Making the final four is going to be tough this season. Last year’s contenders UE, Ateneo, and UST still have very strong lineups as they retained the nucleus of their teams last year, supplemented by recruits and players who redshirted last year.
UE showcased its strength when it figured in the finals of both the NSL and the Fil-Oil invitational, bagging one championship and losing by a point to Ateneo in the other. Ateneo has the tallest lineup, and reportedly had the best rookie harvest in Buenafe, Chua, Salva, and Burke. UST also parades the core of its champion team two years ago. FEU, a very dangerous team last year which failed to make the cut, is back with a more experienced lineup. Adamson has been rejuvenated by the return of Coach Leo Austria, and gave the Archers a tough time in the encounters during the pre-season tournaments, beating the Archers and dragging them into overtime before losing out in the other. NU still has its wily coach Dandan, and the Bulldogs remain dangerous even as they lay low during the offseason. Only UP might be out if it all, as they attempt to reload after a disastrous season last year.
Outlook at the start of the tournament
Of particular concern at the start of the season is the health of the players. JV, Simon, Bader, and Marko are trying to recover from injuries, with JV and Simon not sure of being ready by next week. After a year off, Marko is not yet in game shape, and played sparingly in the pre-season.
Franz will not be able to devote his full attention to the Archers’ title retention drive, as he will steer the National Youth Team in the SEABA Stankovic Cup in Thailand from July 23-27, and the Asian Youth in September. There are also plans to hold a Manila Youth Invitational tournament from August 14-17. While he has able assistants who can pinch hit during these periods, his presence on the Archer bench will be sorely missed.
In a related development, UE and Ateneo reportedly pulled out Dindo Pumaren and Sandy Arespacochaga from the national youth team to concentrate on coaching their respective school teams in the UAAP. They will be replaced by Derick Pumaren and our assistant coach Tonichi Yturri. While the youth team is participating in the Stankovic Cup (July 23-27) and FIBA Asia Youth championship (August 28-September 5) tournaments, we will lose three of our coaching staff, with only Tyrone Bautista and Cholo Villanueva on our bench during these periods. Bro. Bernie mentioned that La Salle will not request the UAAP board to reschedule our games. Talk about honoring our commitment to the national team!
The team is probably at 60-70% of its peak performance at present, and given the strength of the competition and the handicaps the team is operating under, the first round figures to be moderately successful. A 4-3 finish is probably realistic at this point.
On July 6, the De La Salle University Green Archers begin the quest to defend its UAAP Men’s Basketball title as it collides with the pre-season favorite Ateneo Blue Eagles. Everyone is asking: Can the Green Archers snatch its eight UAAP title and accomplish a third back-to-back feat?
Five members of the team that won the basketball championship for DLSU last year will no longer be around—court general TY Tang, clutch shooter Cholo Villanuva, big man Bryan Ilad, and role players OJ Cua and Kish Co. Although their departure will mean challenges and more adjustments for the team, Coach Franz Pumaren is not a bit worried. “That is the beauty of college basketball– to develop new guys and to recruit the right players who will fit into the system.”
While the team focuses on developing players, leadership responsibilities will rest anew on the shoulders of UAAP Season 70 Mythical Team Members Rico Maierhofer and JV Casio, and both are very much up to the task.
“We’ll take our roles, kung ano ang dapat gawin. We’ll try to lead (and) do our best to work as a team,” remarked Casio, who will be playing his last season as a Green Archer. For his part, Maierhofer promises DLSU supporters his all-out performance. “Last year na ginawa ko, dadagdagan ko pa,” said the 6’4 Puerto Galera native.
Expected to log in more playing minutes are veterans Philip James Mangahas, Peejay Barua and Arthur Peter Walsham, each of whom is itching to finally nail that breakout season. Sophomores Bader Abdullah Malabes, Simon David Atkins, Marko Batricevic, Ferdinand and Rejan Lee will be bringing in to their games the invaluable championship experience they gained from the finals series with the University of the East.
Six rookies earned a slot in the final team lineup. De La Salle Zobel standout and UAAP Junior Basketball Team Most Valuable Player Joshua David Spider Webb, former San Beda Red Cubs Luis Alfonso Revilla and Hyram Bagatsing, former National University Bullpup and RP Youth standout Mark Jovet Mendoza, Filipino-Indian Basketball League MVP and former De La Salle Zobel Junior Archer Manoj Kumar Chandumal, and Maui Villanueva of UPIS.
Notwithstanding its young lineup, DLSU is still seeded along with UE, Ateneo, FEU and UST. Credit this to the Pumaren system that has continuously worked wonders for the team year in and year out, even amidst the loss of key players. Nonetheless, the players and coaching staff admit that a lot of adjustments and practice are needed to be fully ready for the cage war. As Webb stressed, “It is a learning process.”
Judging from the Green Archers’ pre-season performance, it is safe to say that the rookies are adjusting well into the system. Although the Green Archers failed to defend its crowns in the Nike Summer League and the Filoil/Flying V Tournament, placing in the Final Four of both tournaments is a good enough achievement. Nothing was put to naught. Coach Pumaren stressed that “The purpose of joining these tournaments is “exposure for the new guys, (and they) performed pretty well.”
As usual, defense, specifically their highly vaunted pressing defense, will still be the main arsenal of DLSU this season. But, Coach Pumaren is exploring other options. “(Our game style) depends on the materials. I adjust brand of game with the materials available. We have a very small team. Our weaknesses in other departments can be offset by our quickness on the floor” New assistant coach, Cholo Villanueva added that compared to last year, this year’s team is quicker and more athletic, and can run both ends of the floor and execute the designed plays.
As last year, rebounding will be a weakness for the Green Archers. The plan is for the team’s big men to help each other in ensuring that the team earns that extra shot and on the other side, to prevent the opponents from taking second chance points.
One particular concern for the Green Archers for this season is the health and physical well-being of the players. The team was plagued with injuries during the pre-season tournaments. But Casio, Malabes, Atkins and Batricevic are now on their way to full recovery and have been already practicing vigorously with the team. They all confidently claimed that they are ready for the game against Ateneo.
So, can the Green Archers defend the crown?
“Hard to predict. (The) hardest part is staying on top. Everyone will try to unseat you. You will be challenged. But hopefully, we can come up to the challenge. We’re here. Hopefully we can sustain the run,” replied Coach Franz.
He successfully transformed from being one of the team relievers into one of the team’s go-to guys. He skillfully mastered the art of clutch shooting, striking arrow spears into the hearts of the opposing teams. In his final UAAP season, he gave his all out performance to bring the crown back to De La Salle University. And when the final buzzer signalled the Green Archers’ victory, he broke down in tears. Then, he bid the Lasallian community goodbye…but not for long.
When the curtains rise for the opening of the UAAP Season 71, Pocholo “Cholo” Villanueva will once again be back on the DLSU bench. This time, he will no longer don his familiar No. 9 jersey, but will be clad in the usual green and/or white polo shirt and will be part of the talent-laden coaching staff of DLSU. Yes, he is now Coach Cholo and he will join the ranks of fellow former Green Archers, Tonichi Yturri, Tyrone Bautista, Joey Sta. Maria and Assistant Coach Jack Santiago.
Photo courtesy of absolutverde
“Ang task na binigay sa akin ni Coach Franz, ako nag-eexplain sa mga rookies how the system goes and explain to them the timing of the plays, and (I also do) scouting,” said Villanueva. With six rookies in the lineup, the task is not easy, but thankfully the neophytes are responding very well. “They are learning the system but they are very talented, very promising, lot of potential. Give them a year, (they will become) star players,” he added.
Having played the maximum years of eligibility, there is no doubt that Cholo Villanueva is possessed of valuable experience and knowledge about the system of Coach Franz Pumaren and the rigors and pressure involved in playing in the UAAP, and he is more than willing to share some pointers of his own to the new recruits.
“I share with them some things I know, things I learned from Coach Franz,” he disclosed. Villanueva also pointed out that while the DLSU rookies are all promising, it is crucial that the mental conditioning of the players is in top shape. “Halos kalahati ng team, new guys and haven’t experienced playing in the UAAP Senior Basketball. We really do not know how they will react.” This is where Villanueva’s presence in the coaching staff will be of great help.
However, the new road that last year’s Finals MVP has taken is not going to be a walk in the park.
“Of course, I’m still adjusting. It’s very different sa coaching (compared to playing). As a player kasi, you just think about your opponent. Pero in coaching, there are a lot of things going on. You’re supposed to know all positions, you’re supposed to know the tendencies of your opponents, everything. (But) having been a player and then a coach right away is an advantage, because you already know the system and you can empathize with the players,” Villanueva commented.
With only a few days to go before their first game and his debut as an assistant coach, Villanueva is excited and upbeat about his new role in the team and expressed optimism about the Green Archers and its chances for this season.
“Malaki ang chance natin. Kasi, we still have Rico, JV, Walsham and (the) other sophomores and juniors will step up. (This year’s team is) quicker (and) more athletic than last year,” he concluded.
It has been
twenty two (Now thirty two in 2018) years since De La Salle University became a resident of the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). And in a span of a decade and a half, the mighty Green Archers have been a perennial fixture in the finals and have snagged seven (Now nine as of 2018) UAAP men’s basketball titles to the dismay of rival universities.
Older people could remember that before De La Salle’s fruitful tenure in the UAAP, it has also dominated in the oldest collegiate league in the country, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). But not too many know the reason why La Salle decided to leave the NCAA and pack its bags for the UAAP.
On August 17, 1980, La Salle tangled with Letran in a basketball tiff at the Rizal Coliseum. Students from both universities were at their barbaric best, taunting each other even before the tip-off.
Physical play was apparent. The affair turned ugly when Letran, leading 22-18, called a time-out in the middle of the first half.
All that taunting led to an altercation in the bleacher section between the supporters of both schools.
The fracas started when a Letran student was ganged up and beaten by La Salle students, igniting a riot. Fans inside the arena began to throw objects into the hardcourt and sporadic clashes erupted in the stands.
As a result, the players from both teams rushed to the dugouts for safety. So catastrophic was the atmosphere inside the coliseum along Vito Cruz that a large number of spectators were hurt, prompting NCAA officials to call off the game. So serious was the riot that a great portion of the coliseum was damaged.
After deliberation, league honchos considered replaying the game behind closed doors but the Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) took matter into its own hands, ordering the NCAA to cancel the remainder of the basketball season.
Thus, no men’s basketball champion will be crowned for 1980. La Salle tried to appeal to the basketball-governing body for the games to resume but to no avail.
That’s why by September of 1980, De La Salle officially withdrew its alliance with the NCAA, fed up with all the uncontrollable violence that was happening. It became the second university to pull out from the league, its archrival Ateneo De Manila being the first.
La Salle then attempted to apply for admission to the UAAP but was rejected by the member schools, most vocal of which were the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) and of course, Ateneo. The Jesuit-run school insisted that La Salle’s entry would only renew the heated rivalry and the games might be blown out of proportion once again.
La Salle then partook in various minor tournaments. But in 1986, De La Salle’s insistence bore fruit, as it was officially accepted as the 8th member of the UAAP.
And the Green Archers immediately buckled down to work, striking fear into the hearts of their opponents upon their entry while establishing themselves as contenders for the title.
And it just took three years for La Salle to regain basketball supremacy, capturing its first UAAP men’s basketball crown in 1989 thanks to main man Zandro “Jun” Limpot at the helm, who got his Most Valuable Player citation to boot.
And the rest, as they say, was history.