THE Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup has gone from a merely tune-up tournament that teams didn’t take seriously and where they only wore practice jerseys to one they take seriously. It also provides an ideal setting for squads to test rookies and schemes from new coaches.
Here are some reasons for you to check out the best hoops played outside the Philippine Basketball Association this summer.
- Is this the last run for this San Beda era in dominance?
It has been an unparalleled era of dominance for the Red Lions. This year they stand to lose seven seniors following the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) wars and there is word that the pipeline of studs to wear the red and white has dwindled. But that bridge will be crossed when they get there. For now, these guys keep on trucking and they still play some of the most entertaining basketball around with some really savvy players in Baser Amer and Art de la Cruz. And there’s Ola Adeogun, who not only has become a very good basketball player but someone you watch out for his funny antics and good-natured heart.
This tournament is one of three major tourneys San Beda will compete in this season with the others being the NCAA and the Champions League. Can they achieve a “grand slam” of sorts?
- A prayer was answered for these Perpetual Help Altas.
Before Aric del Rosario decided to agree to coach the Altas the team was in the midst of the fallout of a major tussle with the NCAA for allegedly fielding ineligible players (it is not true but merely the usual power tripping to knock down a team on the rise). True to their promise, they became really good but relied on a Fab Four of players whose production was 90-plus percent of the total team output.
After losing three of those do-it-all players, they are still trucking behind the amazing Earl Scottie Thompson and newcomer Bright Akhuetie, who is probably the best reinforcement in college basketball at the moment not named Alfred Aroga. Akhuetie has a great attitude and incredible athleticism. Really fun to watch. With more experience he will be really outstanding. On the homegrown side, Gerald Dizon is emerging as a go-to player but the Altas will be a whole lot more dangerous if Gab Daganon and Ric Gallardo focus on the task at hand. Aric magic on display for those who missed University of Santo Tomas’s great basketball of the early 1990s.
- How does National University (NU) respond to the challenge of the hunted?
It isn’t like the NU Bulldogs have become instant challengers overnight. They have been good over the last three, four years. They won every tournament in sight, save for the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). That is, until last season. Now there is the confidence of a defending champion in their gait. But it also means that teams really go hard at them. “If they used to go hard at us before,” noted junior gunner JJ Alejandro, “now they redoubled their efforts. They want to prove something to us even if we are clearly not the same team as last year.”
How different is this team? They try to push it up with a three-guard lineup at a time with Rev Diputado, Gelo Alolino and Reden Celda on the floor at the same time. This team is going to run if they can.
- The Centro Escolary University (CEU) Scorpions are probably the best team you have never heard of.
Okay, so the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities champions played in last year’s Filoil tournament and turned a lot of heads with their third-place finish while beating some good teams.
Now, if you claim to be a fan of college basketball (and not merely that of your alma mater), then you must watch these dudes of Coach Edgar Macaraya who play the game the right way. Pass, rebound, hit the open man, play terrific defense, and hit the open man. Kind of repetitive? Nope. They average 18 assists a game as led by the amazing Mon Abundo, who is an underrated passer. They’ve got a very good shooter who can attack the rim, as well in Samboy de Leon (named after some Skywalking dude from Letran). They’ve got a power forward with some nifty moves in the post and probably the best three-guard rotation in college hoops in Abundo, JK Casiño and Aaron Jeruta. And, oh, there’s the amazing Rodrigue Ebondo who will give everyone a lesson in hustle and heart.
- How will these Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws fare?
If you ask me, they could be plenty dangerous. More so if Prince Orizu can be counted on to score from the post and rebound. Last year you weren’t sure what you were getting from Anthony Hargrove day in and out. The key here is Orizu, who backstops a talented team that will lose a lot of veterans following this season. They still have Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy, Mac Belo, Russell Escoto and Achi Iñigo to lead this team. Picking up the slack from the graduated Carl Cruz is Monbert Arong, who first showed his wares two years ago while playing for Southwestern University during their first stint in Filoil. Arong is a better offensive player than Cruz and he will add another dimension to their attack. And there’s guard Jojo Trinidad who will get a lot of minutes if Francis Tamsi cannot get going.
The trick for the Tamaraws of Coach Nash Racela is trying not to peak too early and in time for the UAAP season. If they manage that well, these Tamaraws will challenge once more for a Final Four slot.
Games to watch out for this week at the San Juan Arena:
- Wednesday May 13
3:15 p.m. UE versus CEU
5 p.m. CSB versus NU
- Friday May 15
5 p.m. CEU versus San Beda
- Saturday May 16
3:15 p.m. NU versus FEU
5 p.m. DLSU versus UE