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An Ode to Kuya Marcus

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Five years ago, you were — in the eyes of people newly-acquainted to you — basically a “nobody”.

Head Coach Rajko Toroman of Smart-Gilas I kept saying we were a big man away from becoming a powerhouse, or at least being as competitive as the giants of Asian basketball.

He was right, and so the process began. It was a long, tedious search.

From CJ Giles to Jamaal Sampson to Darian Townes to Milan Vucicevic, it was tough.

Nobody seemed to fit the mold. Well, it’s tough to do that in the first place, because you will not only play hoops, but you shall also be under the scrutiny of millions of basketball-loving fans.

Basketball here is different; it is already embedded in Filipinos’ lives, which makes the task even more challenging. People will look after you. They will pin their hopes on you and the rest of the team. Succeed or fail, even if you do your very best, there is still a possibility to be criticized.

The Smart-Gilas program was looking for the perfect fit to bolster the roster, and make it the best team assembled for a chance to crack the 2012 Olympic basketball tournament.

You were brought here for the 2010 MVP Cup, which had Jordan, a Chinese club team, and PBA teams Talk ‘N Text and Ginebra. It was primarily to test whether you’ll be a good naturalization candidate for the Gilas program after failed attempts.

We won that tournament, and you showed flashes of brilliance. An ability to shoot from the perimeter, an ability to put the ball down, post up, face up, and finish strong. Plus, you had the mobility, and you were a legitimate rim protector.

And so, the process of making you become one of us began. While waiting for your papers you worked tirelessly and quietly under the radar to become Smart-Gilas I’s go-to guy.

What I liked about your attitude even more is you never seem to complain, and you were down to earth. You always perform the task at hand, and do what is required from you.

There came the debate between fielding an all-Filipino team instead. A division between you and the 11 other players who will banner the Philippines in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship.

Because you know, this naturalization thing is new to them, so you have to be really patient and understanding about it, and you were.

You’re mindset was always, “you’re with us.” You connect with us. It was never 11 plus 1. It was always 12. Twelve Filipinos presenting the red, white, and blue.

I remember that exhibition game against Jordan at the San Juan Arena just a few days before you guys flew to Wuhan, China for the FIBA Asia.

That was the final game Smart-Gilas I played on home soil in its close to 4-year existence and I was grateful to be part of that crowd at the Arena.

After the game, you approached some fans holding markers and shirts, and you signed them voluntarily just by noticing it even if you were in the middle of talking to somebody at one corner of the court.

We came just a bit short of fulfilling the Olympic dream in 2011, yet you dominated that tournament, proving you were doing it for the team, as you were sacrificing blood, sweat, and tears for the nation as well.

You led the entire league in scoring (21.9) and rebounding (12.2), yet you were still not named part of the All-Star 5 in the end. We seriously felt you got robbed, but it is what it is.

Stakeholders were impressed with the entire Gilas I program even if we failed to reach the ultimate destination, and so they pushed for the program to continue.

With Gilas 2, you were back as our main big man. We won the Jones Cup in 2012, and booked a ticket to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain after a silver-medal finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship at home.

My best recollection of that tournament? The second round game against Qatar.

We went on an onslaught and led by a sizable double-digit margin. Then, you went down on the floor, grimacing in pain. Something hit your knee, and it, we could see, was something serious from the way you reacted.

You were taken out of the game, which was initially fine because we were already ahead by a good distance.

However, Qatar suddenly bounced back and trimmed the deficit down to a manageable one. You were forced to return, played with virtually one leg, and still managed to make impact by putting the game away for good.

That was indeed the #Puso game for you, and you earned more respect for that. With that courageous performance you put up, you erased every bit of remaining doubt if ever one still existed.

And it did not end there. Gilas 2 struggled to put away Hong Kong the next day, and you played heavy minutes despite nursing an injury.

You showed you were willing to help no matter what.

After you blazed the trail for players wishing to play for the nation, a handful of top-level centers expressed their desire to play for us.

Then Andray Blatche arrived to the fold after his naturalization papers was signed into law.

People would say perhaps the move is quite disrespectful, or that the team just should have rewarded you with a slot for the World Cup, since you were the one who worked hard for it anyway.

But the Philippines surely wanted to field the strongest team for the 2014 World Cup, and being the ever-professional athlete that you are, you accepted it whole-heartedly, passing the torch to the next after serving the country for about half a decade.

Until the very end of our World Cup stint you were there at the sidelines, assisting our players during pre-game shootarounds and egging them on from the bench.

Just last month it was made known that your contract is officially expiring by September, and that you will not be renewing it anymore.

It’s been a fun-filled last five years for you, and we are all grateful and appreciative of your contributions to Philippine basketball.

We will always remember how you kept fighting, and your contributions will always transcend the hardcourt.

Everyone is talking about June Mar Fajardo’s stratospheric rise right now. For sure, all those years of training with you helped him become who he is today — the best center in Philippine basketball.

You made us realize we can compete in the highest level of hoops, and because of that, Philippine basketball is enjoying success in this new era.

We enjoyed the ride. Thank you, Kuya Marcus.

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Christian Standhardinger goes perfect from stripe in Hong Kong’s rout of Formosa

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After going a horrid 5-for-17 from the stripe during their first loss of the season last January 9, Christian Standhardinger made sure to make good on his free throws to power the Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club to a dominant 99-79 rout of the Formosa Dreamers, Thursday evening in Southorn Stadium.

The 6-foot-8 Filipino-German, who tallied 37 points and 19 rebounds in the overtime loss to Saigon, went a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line. He finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

The contest itself was not close, as the defending champions were able to impose their will on the bottom-ranked squad, leading by as much as 23 points, 93-70, after two free throws by Standhardinger with 2:58 remaining.

If Standhardinger was having a good day with his free throws, the entire Formosa squad could not say the same, going 13-of-27 from the line.

Tyler Lamb had 25 markers as well for Hong Kong, while Marcus Elliott grabbed a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Lenny Daniel paced Formosa with 25 points and 11 rebounds. World Import Ronnie Aguilar had 14 points and 16 rebounds but went just 5-for-14 from the field.

With the win, Hong Kong goes to 8-1, while the Dreamers fell to 1-8.

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Chooks-to-Go President hopes 3×3 World Cup breaks Philippine Arena record

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Last October 27, 2017, Game Seven of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals between heated rivals Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco Bolts saw 54,083 people troop to the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The attendance broke all records for both the venue and the PBA.

Come June this year, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and Chooks-to-Go are hoping that the upcoming 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup will surpass that record.

“We look at 3×3 as our best hope, really, to get a medal in the Olympics. Kami naman sa Chooks, we are behind SBP realizing that dream. Kanina pinag-uusapan na, if we’re going to break the record in attendance,” said Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. president Ronald Mascariñas on Thursday afternoon during a press conference held at BGC High Street in Taguig.

“I think the question there is not if we’re going to break, but how many more times. Because FIBA should see how passionate the Filipinos are about basketball. That’s a given,” one of the patrons of Gilas Pilipinas added.

Besides the event itself, the local government of Bulacan has pledged to make the week of the tournament filled with activities to celebrate the Philippines’ 120th year of Independence.

For their part, Chooks-to-Go vowed to help out the SBP in organizing the event and in building the team.

“We are throwing our support not to improve on our finish, but we want to help SBP organize, to win the championship — not just to improve our ranking,” Mascariñas shared.

And the experience he and his company gained after backing the Pilipinas 3×3 team during last year’s tournament will only help.

“In past tournaments, we’ve lost some games na maninipis lang talaga,” he recalled about the team composed of Kobe Paras, Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng, and JR Quinahan that competed in Nantes, France.

“This time around, with five months to go, we need to organize and put in the best t

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Football

Ilocos United takes leave from PFL

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Another one bites the dust

After months of speculation, Ilocos United has formally announced their absence from the Philippines Football League for the 2018 season.

A statement signed by Ilocos Chief Executive Officer Tony Lazaro and posted on the club’s Facebook page broke the big news.

“Unfortunately, after months of negotiation, efforts to attract a new naming sponsor for the Team were unsuccessful,” the statement opened. “Consequently, it has become financially prohibitive to continue participation in the PFL.

“Primarily, the lack of broadcasting exposure in 2017 created an apprehension in the corporate community, cascading into a series of afflictions that has ultimately led to our withdrawal from the competition.”

Ilocos finished last during the inaugural season, tallying 1 win, 6 draws, and 21 losses with a -49 goal differential.

Still, Ilocos gave their thanks to those who supported the club during the inaugural PFL season.

“We are cautiously optimistic of a potential return to the PFL for the 2019 season, whereby secured broadcasting exposure will hopefully lead to higher confidence from potential sponsorship partners.”

While their PFL operations will fold for the time being, Ilocos will continue the grassroots programs they have started within the area. ¨In the meantime, the foundation of football development we helped to build in Ilocos will continue, including grassroots initiatives at local schools, women’s futsal, Special Olympics, and, of course, the IUFC Academy.¨

The latest development will be another big blow for the young league. Meralco Manila pulled out of the competition beforehand, and now Ilocos´ absence leaves only six teams in the competition.

Now more than ever, something needs to be done by the PFL or even the Philippine Football Federation to ensure the feasibility of the clubs and the league itself for years to come.

Football is a hard sport to build in the Philippines despite its resurgence since 2010. There are limited corporate boosters for the sport which is in dire need of a financial push to sustain its growth.

Ilocos´ leave and Meralco´s folding now forces local football´s stakeholders to take a step back and examine the next moves to build the sport.

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Basketball

CJ Perez, Jaycee Marcelino in unison: D-League is a whole other level

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After falling just two games short of copping Lyceum’s first-ever NCAA crown, the Pirates went to the PBA D-League to gain experience. However, in their first foray in the second league, the Lyceans realized that it was a whole different beast.

Going up against the veteran-laden Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, the Zark’s Burgers-backed squad suffered a slow start as they adjusted to the tougher calls of the league. The Jawbreakers were down by as much as 17 points early in the third frame, 37-54.

“Yung physicality hindi naman ako masyadong nagulat pero sa mental toughness, yung pagod ka na, tapos may babanggga pa sa ‘yo, ang iniisip ko kailangan mas maging tough,” admitted reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player CJ Perez.

“Nangangapa kami nung una lahat kasi first game namin ito, pati dito sa court na ‘to first game din namin,” added Jaycee Marcelino.

It served as a wake-up call. Adjusting on the fly, Perez and Marcelino rallied the Jawbreakers back — even fashioning multiple attempts to take over the contest late in the game. However, they fell short, 92-94.

“Binalik lang namin yung laro namin dati, pass the ball, hindi yung puro dribble, i-run lang namin yung plays,” shared Marcelino, as he and Perez combined to score 16 points in the final frame.

The 21-year-old Marcelino finished with a game-high 20 points on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting to go along with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block. The 24-year-old Perez added 19 points, five assists, two steals, and a block.

With their first game in the bag, the duo — and the rest of the Jawbreakers — now have the experience under their belts. And they plan to put in the work to prove that they belong.

“Sa NC naman kasi puro ka-level namin kalaro namin, dito puro beterano ang naglalaro,” said Marcelino. “Hindi talaga namin masabi na yung ginawa namin sa NC magagawa din namin dito.

“Mageextra work pa kami para masustain namin kung ano kami sa Lyceum.”

“It’s a good experience. Ibang iba pala talaga yung laro ng D-League sa NCAA,” expressed Perez, who is a consensus top three pick for the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft.

“Sobrang grateful kami na nakalaro na rin kami sa D-League.”

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