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Finals MVP Chris Ross’ relationship with San Miguel is stronger than ever

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After a gutsy PBA Philippine Cup finals performance by Chris Ross which culminated in a historic championship for the San Miguel Beermen and a Finals MVP award, people might have to change their impression on the point guard.

Still, it wouldn’t matter, because Ross stopped listening a long time ago.

For me, I really don’t care what other people think about me,” Ross, whose up-and-down PBA career reflected San Miguel’s finals journey, said. “My teammates know what I bring to the table. The coaches know what I bring to the table. I know what I bring to the table.”

The third overall pick in the 2009 PBA Draft behind Japeth Aguilar and eventual Rookie of the Year winner Rico Maierhofer, Ross hadn’t had a seamless ride in his first few years in the big league.

His career spiralled early as he hopped from one team to another. While he showed great athleticism and speed, Ross’ shooting and other aspects of the game were suspect, and he seemed to never have found a home where he could contribute and make impact.

Ross suited up for Coca-Cola, the team that drafted him; Sta. Lucia; Meralco in his first four seasons in the league, before the Bolts sent him to Globalport for Gary David, AJ Mandani, and Chris Timberlake. 19 days later, the Batang Pier sent Ross to the Beermen (then Petron Blaze Boosters) for Denok Miranda.

Finally, Ross flourished as a premier back-up guard who could inflict damage on both ends of the floor. And it was a feeling perhaps he hadn’t had in the past.

“They had faith in me. They traded for me and had faith in my skills and abilities. The players, coaches, and bosses are trusting me. It is a better atmosphere when everyone has trust in each other,” Ross said of how to management looked at him long-term.

Ross isn’t of superstar or franchise-player material. It would too ambitious to try and turn him into one. And it’s okay, because San Miguel did not have to. But the team put Ross in a position where both sides would be successful in the long run, strengthening the relationship even more.Chris Ross

The 30-year-old playmaker has never averaged more than 25 minutes a game in any season of his three-year stay with the Beermen and in the recently-concluded conference, he only averaged 5.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 1.7 SPG.

But the team saw what Ross can do, and made him thrive.

“A lot of guys think it’s just hustle or defense, but I am one of the best lead guards to lead a team out there. I get people the right shots. I make sure everyone touches the ball. That’s really one of my skills. If you don’t know basketball, you don’t see that. A lot of the stuff I do don’t show up on the stat sheets,” Ross said. “Today, I had a big scoring game but I enjoy when my teammates are doing well. That’s what I enjoy. Today it just happened to be me but I can’t do it by myself.”

Trust played a big part in that. And how vital exactly was the trust factor in building this championship team? Head coach Leo Austria had even praised Ross for the point guard’s Game 4 showing.

“The turning point for me was Game 4. We were down 11 points in the last three (plus) minutes. But Chris Ross refused to give up. True enough he showed it to his teammates and it rubbed off. That was the start. Nanalo kami in overtime and sabi namin, the first three (losses) were all close games and we have a chance,” Austria spoke of Ross.

Such a relationship did not only make Ross and the rest of the Beermen comfortable, but it gave them an extra push when no one else believed the group could pull off a miraculous and seemingly improbable comeback.

“There was never any doubt (for us). Even when we were down 0-3, I didn’t really picture those doubts. Not in our expense. I just knew the type of guys we have in the locker room and I know we could win. Those three games (we lost), we were in every game. We had the opportunity to win and we just did not make the plays,” Ross shared. “We just needed that one game to put us over the top, then the big fella came back and that is a big help also. It’s just always the group of guys who always believed and never had doubts.”

And Ross even deflected the credit, in the same way each player defers pride or ego for team success.

“It was not just me. Gabby (Espinas) in Game 4 had 21 and 14. Marcio (Lassiter) had 26. Arwind (Santos) was everywhere. All the way down the line, it’s not just me, it’s the entire team,” he said.

June Mar Fajardo Stretcher“When June Mar went down it was a blessing in disguise. We struggled in the first three games but we could have won those games. We figured if we can do it without June Mar, if June Mar came back… we just have the talent in this team. If one man goes down, there’s a next man up.”

For years, Ross’ career has been a constant battle against the odds. It has been rocky journey. Every time he hit the floor, he had to prove he belonged in the league.

The series reflected such a ride for the journeyman, who has answered adamantly he is more relevant than ever.

“When you are down, you can’t really look at the numbers. You just have to win it by possession. Possession by possession, win the quarter, win the half. You can’t look at the destination. You have to enjoy the journey of just getting to the mountaintop. It was rocky at first but we weathered the storm and made the top,” Ross said.

“If (he) can bring you to it, (he) can bring you to it. That is one of my mottos. There is never an obstacle too tough to climb. Can’t get over it? Get through it. This is what I embraced in this series and in my whole life. It is still an unbelievable feeling in the end. We couldn’t have done it without a better group of guys in the locker room. When we were down 0-3, everyone still believed. It is just amazing to deal with that.”

Cover photo courtesy of PBA Images

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Calvin Abueva, Raymond Almazan cut from pool

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SMART Gilas Pilipinas’ third session for the second leg of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers ended early on Monday evening.

Prior to the end of the practice, head coach Chot Reyes talked to team veterans Jayson Castro, Gabe Norwood, and June Mar Fajardo. The outspoken mentor told the seniors of the team that he is cutting Calvin Abueva and Raymond Almazan from the pool.

“The reason why we’re dropping Abueva and Almazan for the second window is because they haven’t showed up,” lamented Reyes.

“It’s already our third practice at hindi pa sila nagpapakita. It’s simply a matter of disinterest.

“I guess they’re not interested so we have to move on we can’t wait for those guys,” he pointed out.

Both Abueva and Almazan were part of the teams that competed in the 2017 SEABA Championship, the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, and the first window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

Only 10 players from the pool showed up for the team’s third session. And with the second leg exactly one month away, Gilas cannot let a slip up happen especially against Australia.

“Aside from those two we don’t know where Matt Wright is, while Allein [Maliksi] is attending a wedding in Australia. Other than that it’s really just an issue of Calvin and Raymond if they don’t want to be a part of the pool.” expressed Reyes.

“That’s the reason we’re dropping them for the second window.”

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2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers

23 for 2023 cadets fill up Gilas practice

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With just 31 days until the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, only 10 players from the pool attended the team’s third session, Monday evening at the Meralco Gym.

Suiting up in the session presided over by Coach Chot Reyes were June Mar Fajardo, Gabe Norwood, Troy Rosario, Jio Jalalon, Mac Belo, Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, and Roger Pogoy. Carl Cruz and Jayson Castro were in attendance but were in street clothes.

Not present were Matthew Wright, Japeth Aguilar, and Allein Maliksi. Calvin Abueva and Raymond Almazan have yet to attend practice.

Joining the seniors team to prep them up for the World Cup Qualifiers were 10 players from the 23 for 2023 pool.

Ateneo Blue Eagle Matt Nieto attended his first Gilas practice. Joining him were teammates Isaac Go and Thirdy Ravena.

Completing the night’s cast were CJ Perez, Abu Tratter, Will Gozum, J-jay Alejandro, Arvin Tolentino, and Juan Gomez de Liano. Joshua Sinclair watched from the sidelines as he is still recovering from an ACL injury.

Gilas will take on Australia in Melbourne on February 22. The Philippine will then host Japan three days later at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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CSJL

San Beda fends off Letran for back-to-back wins

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With seasoned setter John Carlo Desuyo steering the wheel to near perfection, the San Beda College romped to their second straight win.

The Red Spikers pulled double-digit outings from four players to upend archrival Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights, 19-25, 25-13, 25-21, 25-22, and register their fourth win of the season, Monday early evening at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

It was the Knights, however, who started on the right foot, overhauling a 4-10 deficit to snag the first set. Better passing from liberos Aljune Centeno and Johnsen Timbreza resulted in kills from captain Bobby Gatdula.

Nonetheless, San Beda picked up the service game in the next three sets to ultimately finish off the blue-shirts.

Despite the win-loss record they currently sport, the Red Spiker playmaker admitted that t

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Basketball

Michael Calisaan tows Che’lu-San Sebastian past Perpetual

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Photo by PBA Images

Michael Calisaan poured 20 points as he captained newcomer Che’Lu-San Sebastian Revellers to a decisive 83-70 win over the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas to start their voyage, Monday evening at the Pasig City Sports Center.

Doing it all for the Revellers, the veteran forward provided the stability for his side as he shot 8-of-15 from the field while also hauling down nine rebounds, two assists, and two steals in the conference-opening win.

But it wasn’t all Calisaan as Che’Lu got contributions from all over its roster.

Samboy de Leon chimed in 16 markers and nine boards. RK Ilagan went 2-of-5 from threes to collect 13 points, eight dimes, and three rebounds, while big men Alfred Batino and Jeepy Faundo combined for 20 in the victory.

Despite the triumph, coach Stevenson Tiu gave all the praise to his players, noting the team’s lack of time preparing for the tourney.

“Nanalo kami dahil sa talent ng players. Medyo mali ko rin kasi nahirapan pa ako mag-adjust sa players. Hopefully, we play much better in the coming games,” he said.

The Revellers used a 16-4 run to finally break away from the Altas, taking a 77-60 lead with 4:03 to play as they punished their foes for their turnovers, turning Perpetual’s 30 miscues to 28 points in their favor.

Prince Eze anchored the Altas with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and seven blocks in their first game under new head coach Frankie Lim.

Che’lu-San Sebastian look to make it two in a row when they take on the Wangs-Letran Couriers on Monday, January 29 at 5:00pm. Perpetual, on the other hand, hope they can notch their first win when they take on Mila’s Lechon Mighty Roasters.

The Scores:

Che’lu-SSCR 83 — Calisaan 20, De Leon 16, Ilagan 13, Batino 10, Faundo 10, Bulanadi 6, Costelo 6, Calma 2, David 0, Lao 0, Santos 0, Valdez 0.

UPHSD 70 — Eze 15, Coronel 13, Villanueva 13, Jimenez 9, Charcos 7, Peralta 7, Gallardo 5, Pido 1, Antonio 0, Aurin 0, Tamayo 0, Tongco 0.

Quarterscores: 17-22, 34-38, 59-53, 83-70.

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