Friday, 23 November 2007 128 Comments
ANY doubts about the quality of play in this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Collegiate National Championship have to be shipped out of Manila.
The countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s capital city can now lay claim to the reality that it has witnessed the best brand of college ball the nation has to offer. Despite some schools opting to skip the annual tournament for announced (Letran) or rather vague (De La Salle and UE) reasons, the level of play has been nothing but superb.
LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s begin with the squads that literally flew into Manila to sow mayhem. Ex-Philippine Basketball Association sniper Boy CabahugÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s University of the Visayas Green Lancers, for instance, arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the biggest strangers on the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s basketball map. But nonetheless, the school that made an immovable force out of current Alaska Ace JR QuiÃƒÂ±ahan was never tipped to strike it big in this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s affair.
Hypothetically, the top-seeded DLSU Green Archers could have impeded the LancersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ progress. The absence of the current UAAP champions, however, should not be taken against their counterparts from the Cebu Sports Association Foundation Inc., particularly with the way the Lancers demolished their opposition. After drubbing the Lyceum Pirates by 21, UV took apart the University of Mindanao Wildcats by 20.
UVÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stellar play has been spearheaded by 6Ã¢â‚¬â„¢11Ã¢â‚¬? Greg Slaughter, a promising recruit whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got pro teams buzzing. Much of the offensive load, though, has been shouldered by off-guard Ritchum Dennison and polished inside operator Rino Berame, whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. These three players all have the potential to follow in QuiÃƒÂ±ahanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s footsteps and make it big in the Philippine hoops scene.
Outside the glamour of the NCAA and UAAP but within the confines of the National Capital Region are the STI Olympians. Seeded a lowly 13th after copping the NAASCU plum, the Olympians may have benefited from the Red WarriorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ withdrawal, but proved to be worthy opponents by shocking University Games champions Far Eastern University.
STIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s upset, the biggest since the tourneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inception in 2002-03 and possibly UPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 52-41 win over Letran in 2005, should not be taken as a fluke. Instead, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s indicative of the fact that the basketball landscape in the Philippines is changing, with erstwhile unnoticed programs like that of the Olympians inching their way up the hoops ladder despite having relatively littler resources than the big teams.
If anything, the Collegiate National Championship is fertile ground for the talent and development that evades our view of mainstream basketball. Once all this gets noticed, expect even more mayhem in the years to come.