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‘There is no room for kindness’ next season, hopes Mike Nzeusseu

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Lyceum’s 23-year-old big man Mike Nzeusseu was the first one to leave the Pirates’ locker room on Thursday evening. Clearly frustrated with what had just happened, the Cameroonian student-athlete tried to keep his head up high.

“It was a tough loss, everybody was crying but at the end of the day, this will only help us better for next year,” Nzeusseu told Tiebreaker Times after the Lyceum Pirates were swept in the Finals by the San Beda Red Lions.

“Nobody even expected us to reach this point so for me, even if it’s a tough loss, I’m just grateful that we were able to get this kind of competition.”

Expectations were high on the Pirates entering the Finals. Seen as the favorites, Lyceum had been expected to win at least one game in the best-of-three series.

Nzeusseu did his part, posting norms of 14.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in the two games. But the experience of the Red Lions, especially in the close out situations, proved to be too much for the young Pirates.NCAA 93 Finals G2 LPU vs. SBC - LPU 2nd place-8494

Though it was tough to admit, the Lyceum sophomore conceded that it was the lack of experience that proved to be their downfall.

“Championship experience was really shown in this game. San Beda was different from the elimination to the championship. They had the championship mentality, they were a better team,” shared Nzeusseu.

Unlike the Pirates, the Red Lions played with a hint of viciousness in them. The defending champions had vengeance in their mind all throughout the series. And this mindset is what Nzeusseu wants the Pirates to have entering next season.

“We need to be tough, we need to be more aggressive. There is no room for kindness from the first game to the last game. We need to play with a champion’s mentality in all our games,” he said.

“There is no room for excuses anymore.”

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PBA considering creating schedule in line with FIBA WCQ windows

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With the full schedule of the 43rd season yet to be finalized, the PBA board of governors is strongly looking to create a league calendar that will mesh accordingly with the windows of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“I think the board has already [discussed things] regarding the schedule,” said commissioner Chito Narvasa during the PBA’s presser Wednesday at Okada Manila. “It was taken into consideration, the schedule of the FIBA tournaments. 

“That’s what the board has agreed on already.”

The Asian Qualifiers yield various windows spread across 2017 all the way to early 2019. The qualifying windows for 2018 will be held in the months of February, June, July, September, and November.

Four of the mentioned months — February, June, July, and September — will intersect with the upcoming PBA season. And that is what the league and its’ board will have to look upon to cater the needs of the Gilas Pilipinas.

The second window for Gilas begins on February 22, 2018 when it faces Australia in Adelaide. This will then be followed with a home game against Japan on February 25. This will coincide with the Philippine Cup.

Things may have yet to be smoothened out between the PBA and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, but vice chairman Mon Fernandez lauded the Philippines’ recent victory that is the hosting of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

“We should be very happy and proud that the Philippines won together with Indonesia and Japan,” said the former NLEX governor. “We look forward to the hosting and we have a couple of years to prepare for it.

“It’s a significant event for Philippine basketball.”

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San Miguel still seen as team to beat for Philippine Cup

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Despite missing top overall pick Christian Standhardinger for the entirety of the 2017-18 Philippine Cup, the PBA board of governors still see the San Miguel Beermen as the consensus favorites to bag the All-Filipino crown for the fourth straight year.

Besides San Miguel, the teams are also wary with what the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and the TNT Katropa will bring.

“TNT, Ginebra, and San Miguel,” said Magnolia Hotshots governor Robert Non.

“TNT, intact ‘yung line-up. They also have bigs who can match-up with June Mar [Fajardo], same is true with Ginebra, Greg [Slaughter] is back in the line-up, so are their rookies.”

“TNT,” quipped Ginebra governor Alfrancis Chua.

“SMB hindi pa malakas yan wala pa si Standhardinger. Second conference pa.”

“Of course, San Miguel. And then Ginebra, and TNT,” added Rain or Shine governor Mert Mondragon. “They have good players, they have extremely good coaches. Basta mahusay sila lahat.”

“Kami sa Rain or Shine, for the information of the rest of you, we have five players who are out. [Raymond] Almazan, Jericho Cruz, Jireh [Ibanes],” disclosed Mondragon.

Same as Rain or Shine, the Meralco Bolts are also saddled with injuries to start the season.

“I think we’re coming this season with a lot of injuries, Ranidel de Ocampo and Reynel Hugnatan are sidelined, Cliff Hodge as well. We have four new players, KG Canaleta, Jason Ballesteros, Mac Baracael and Nico Salva,” shared Meralco alternate governor Ryan Gregorio.

Kia governor Bobby Rosales and TNT assistant team manager Magnum Membrere though gave an interesting take on who they think is the darkhorse for the conference.

“I think a darkhorse in the all-Filipino is NLEX,” Rosales said.

“For me number one yung San Miguel, Ginebra, sa tingin ko ‘yung NLEX,” furthered Membrere.

The representatives of Alaska, Blackwater, Phoenix, and NLEX though are confident that they can shock the league.

“For Alaska, hopefully, we’ll be performing better this season. Reason being, intact line-up,” expessed Alaska’s Dickie Bachmann.

“Just like Dickie, we’re hoping we could improve. There’s no way to go but up, we were losing last conference. We got the coaches of Alaska and we’ve got a good rookie so it’s nowhere to go but up,” said Phoenix’s Raymond Zorilla.

“Personally For Blackwater, we have Raymar Jose and I think he will be a big help to Poy Erram. We depend on Poy Erram and when he gets injured, the whole team collapses. Now we have a second option and hopefully he will give the team a good chance,” said Silliman Sy.

“You’ve seen NLEX in the first two conferences, we were in the bottom, but in the last conference, NLEX performed reasonably well and we will continue to improve,” vowed incoming chairman Mon Fernandez.

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PBA governors stand united to open Season 43

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Despite the on-going leadership struggle in the league, there’s no stopping the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) from resuming operations, as Asia’s first pro league will open its’ 43rd season this Sunday, December 17.

“As what I said in the PBA Press Corps Awards Night, December 17 is still the date for the season opening of Season 43,” league chairman Mikee Romero said during the PBA’s presser, Wednesday afternoon at Okada Manila.

“Ang sabi ko nga ho eh hindi pwede mawala ang PBA sa Pilipino, or ang Pilipino mawala sa PBA.”

Gracing the event were the vast majority of the governors — Mon Fernandez of NLEX, Robert Non of San Miguel, Alfrancis Chua of Ginebra, Rene Pardo of Magnolia, Dickie Bachmann of Alaska, Mert Mondragon of Rain or Shine, Raymond Zorrilla of Phoenix, Silliman Sy of Blackwater, Bobby Rosales of Kia. Joining them were TNT assistant team manager Magnum Membrere and Meralco alternate governor Ryan Gregorio.

And for those who had attended the press conference, it was definitely a sight to behold, that it speaks volumes that even just for now, differences were set aside all for the betterment of the beloved league.

“I think we’re a very solid group at this point in time,” Romero opined. “As what we promised — that promise did not come from me, the promise came from all 12 teams… Ito pong December 17 suportahan natin. Business as usual.

“This Sunday, what we should be watching are the players, the superstars of Philippine basketball. 43 years, ang masasabi ko lang, let the games begin.”

The impasse wasn’t discussed during the presser, as the league requested moments prior to the event that the members of the press refrain from asking questions about it. Commissioner Chito Narvasa though was in attendance, but did not grant any interviews.

With the league still in a bit of a turmoil, it is still a mystery on how the 43rd season will roll out. Vice Chairman Mon Fernandez did not go into detail about their plans, but he promised to “make the PBA very relevant to the Filipinos.”

“There are a lot of plans but we cannot reveal yet,” said the former NLEX governor. “Definitely, what the board promises you is we will have a more exciting year and we’ll continue to delight the millions of fans of the PBA.

“We promise that with your support, we will continue to make the PBA very relevant to the Filipinos.”

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Where is Joshua Munzon?

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Still remember Joshua Munzon?

The uber-athletic Fil-American made waves in the ASEAN Basketball League last season, producing highlight-worthy plays and excellent numbers for Vietnamese squad Saigon Heat and the Westports Malaysia Dragons.

He had also gained ground with Filipino fans when he and Saigon came the Philippines back in January to face Alab Pilipinas. The Heat may have lost 99-79, but Munzon won the hearts of Pinoys that night with the way he played.

But now, with the new ABL season rolling, he is nowhere to be found.

It is baffling, to say the least, that such a talented cager like Munzon isn’t suiting up for an ABL squad this season, considering that he posted commendable numbers of 19.4 points and nearly five steals in his rookie year.

He still made strides in the Thailand League with club team PEA, after his ABL stint last March. However, it was still a mystery why Munzon isn’t in the ABL, especially with the amount of teams that want his services.

But he has finally shed light on the issue.

“Me and KL (Westports) couldn’t agree to terms on a contract, so I tried to sign with another team. But I guess KL would have to release me to play for another team, although I’m not under contract with KL,” Munzon told Tiebreaker Times.

Munzon added that the apparent “gentlemen’s agreement” among the ABL team owners — which means he has to wait for a year before signing with another club — is what landed him in this unfortunate situation.

“KL told me they won’t release me to sign with another team this season, so I’m going to have to wait ’til next season to sign with another team,” revealed Munzon, who also shared that five ABL teams had reached out to him.

The California State-LA alumnus is currently at his home in Los Angeles, continuing his workouts and waiting for developments, if any. But Munzon did not hide the fact that being held like this is extremely disappointing.

“Very tough. It’s been a very unfortunate situation that I definitely don’t feel I deserve to be in.”

Back in January, Munzon had actually made clear his intentions of playing in the Philippines. Not for a Filipino ABL team, though, but in the PBA. And he was also aware of what he has to do first: play in the D-League.

“Yeah, play in the D-League first,” Munzon was quoted saying back then. “We’ll see after the (2016-2017) season. I’ll weigh my options first and go from there.

“But definitely get in the D-League first, and hopefully move forward from there.”

When he wasn’t seen anywhere in the ABL, those who have been following Munzon’s career assumed that he was bound to fulfill his plans, and it was expected that he will make himself eligible in the 2017 D-League Draft.

Unfortunately, that did not happen.

“I wasn’t aware of the deadlines to apply,” admitted Munzon, the consensus top pick, as the deadline of submission of requirements for Fil-foreign applicants was due last November 10. “I think I’m too late for PBA D-League.”

Had Munzon joined this year’s draft, teams would definitely show strong interest. Standing at six-foot-five with the ability to attack the rim, shoot from downtown, and defend, he perfectly fits the Filipinos’ style of play.

But until then, the fans still have to wait.

He may be clouded with uncertainties in the ABL, but that does not spell the end of Munzon’s young pro career. In fact, he might even fly back to Southeast Asia and return to Thailand for yet another campaign.

“I could possibly be playing in the upcoming TBSL season in Thailand,” Munzon shared. “[But] I’m not sure which team yet though, but I should know sooner than later.”

Munzon is slowly carving a niche for himself as a journeyman in this part of Asia. Asked if he will soon fly to the Philippines to play in the PBA, the 22-year-old said that that possibility will happen “in a matter of time.”

“I would have to play D-League before [going into the PBA], or wait until I’m 28 — but I’m 22,” he quipped. “But I definitely see myself playing in the PBA eventually.

“It’s just a matter of time.”

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