It feels great to start writing again. I had a horrible freak accident while on tour in Istanbul Turkey. I broke my wrist and was in a cast for almost 2 months. However, the cast is out and just in time for me to write my first column in over 2 months.
With the summer leagues going full swing, college basketball season is slowly but surely starting to hog the sports headlines. The UAAP is definitely where my interest lies. As I was recuperating from my accident, I was thinking of last year and what are the things to watch out for in Season 72.
Will the referees again decide the games? After last year’s horrendous officiating, the UAAP Board has to make sure that there is a vast improvement in the way the games are called.
NABRO has been replaced and rightfully so. This year’s host, FEU, was many times the victim of the shabby and at times suspiciously shady calls by the refs. The bad calls made on FEU last year resulted in suspensions for the referees concerned.
Word has it that the officiating chores will be handled by either BRASCU or the pool of referees from the SBP. If it goes to the latter, then the league may once again experience questionable officiating (more on this later in the article).
With Joe Lipa as the new UAAP Commissioner, there can only be improvement here. Last year was the worst impersonation of a Commissioner ever done. It started on the very first playing day with the ID fiasco called on DLSU coach Franz Pumaren. It just went downhill from there.
The responsibilities of the Commissioner cannot be taken for granted. Based on last year’s experience, it is quite obvious how the position can make or break the way the tournament is run. There can be no doubt as to the capabilities of the person occupying the position.
Joe Lipa did a great job as the NCAA Commissioner last year and even if he was the coach of the UP and Ateneo squads, I am very confident that he will act with integrity and fairness.
Samahan Basketbol ng Pilipinas:
This is a very delicate matter that needs to be addressed. We saw how the head of the SBP almost single-handedly stopped the finals of the NCAA when he allegedly communicated with the head of the PBL referees and complained about the officiating in Game 2 of the NCAA Finals. This led to the decision by the head of the PBL referees to pull out their officials for Game 3. Panic ensued and only a last minute meeting of the NCAA Board with PBL Commissioner Chino Trinidad saved Game 3. It is also worth noting that the NCAA Commissioner Joe Lipa also had a big hand in saving the finals.
It’s no secret that the patriarch of the SBP is the financial backer of the team that lost that Game 2 finals match. That alleged interference was totally uncalled for.
This same SBP head has been rumored to be lobbying for the UAAP to use the SBP pool of referees. I pray that the UAAP does not use them. Allegedly, Commissioner Joe Lipa is not keen on obtaining their services and I hope that the UAAP Commissioner stands his ground.
The SBP should stay away from the collegiate leagues and instead should manage the sport of basketball as a whole. The last collegiate league that the SBP got involved in was the Philippine Collegiate Championships and we all know how that ended. They reneged on their promise to send the winning team to the Universiade in Serbia and have not even made any effort to make a public apology or any restitution for their irresponsibility.
PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM THE UAAP AND THE NCAA!
This early, there are already rumors of eligibility problems for some players. There are those who are allegedly scrambling to complete their academic requirements and then there are those who seem to have doubtful eligibility papers.
There is a one player worth mentioning. He is a rookie who was at the center of the controversy that led to the suspension and eventual departure of PCU from the NCAA. It was found that this player had forged identification papers which showed he was not who he said he was. He is now in the UAAP.
The Return of the Smart Gilas Players:
There will be a number of players from the Smart Gilas Philippine Team who will return to the UAAP. FEU is the biggest beneficiary of this return with Barroca, Cawaling and Ramos getting tremendous international exposure. Ateneo will also benefit with the return of Al Hussaini and Buenafe.
But the one player who has shown the biggest improvement is undoubtedly Mark Barroca. He has impressed even the coaches of the opposing teams. He was already the most consistent Tamaraw last year and may just be the pre-season choice for MVP of the UAAP.
Players Who Are Gone:
It will be interesting to see what teams will be greatly affected by the loss of their best players. La Salle will no longer have Casio and Maierhofer. Ateneo’s Chris Tiu will no longer don the blue and white. Marcy Arellano of UE will no longer play. FEU’s Baracael, whose shooting incident last year sparked the Tamaraws, is also gone. UST will definitely miss the presence of Jervy Cruz.
My opinion is that both La Salle and Ateneo will miss their star players most. Casio and Maierhofer are not players that can be easily replaced. Coach Pumaren’s good fortune is that he has had a bumper crop of rookies this year and this might just soften the impact.
Ateneo will definitely need to find someone to fill in the shoes left by Tiu. They may easily find a replacement in terms of skills but it is in the area of leadership where Tiu really will be missed. He polarized his team and many times willed them to victory. It may take more than a season to find someone who cast such a giant shadow of influence as Chris Tiu has done in the last 2 years.
This year’s rookie class will be a very notable one. La Salle seems to have gotten the edge in local talents after bagging Arvie Bringas. Coach Pumaren is still uncertain who among his other rookies will make the cut. Several RP Youth standouts are also in the DLSU squad.
FEU is also parading a prize catch in Cameroonian Pipo Nandou. He will be an impressive addition to an all already impressive team.
With no final line-ups yet, it will be an exciting year for the 2009 UAAP rookie class.