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Topex Robinson after Finals heartbreak: ‘It just lit a fire’

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Humble in victory. Inspired in defeat.

Coming off a dominant 18-game sweep of the elimination round, the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates had been in a league of their own while inspiring people along the way. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to extend their good fortunes to the championship series, as the young Pirates were overwhelmed by the experience of the San Beda Red Lions in the Finals.

And the whole team cannot deny that to still end up as bridesmaids after such a beautiful run was heartbreaking.

“It’s painful and we’ll cry over it,” admitted third-year Lyceum head coach Topex Robinson. “I just felt that I let the team down, the community down. And I really felt sorry for leading this team.

“I just felt bad for my players.”

NCAA 93 Finals G2 LPU vs. SBC - Perez-6321

Shouts and cheers echoed through the halls of the Red Lions’ side of the SMART-Araneta Coliseum. On the other hand, tears were shed and sobs were heard in Lyceum’s side of the court.

Robinson was weeping as the Pirates crumpled to the floor.

But for the Pirates, they all decided that the best way to get over this heartbreak is to start working again. Cry, then grind.

“Tomorrow is day one for Season 94. Our loss today won’t define us as a team, we know we’re gonna get better and I’m excited for what’s ahead of us.

“We’re gonna prepare already. I think we’re gonna join the D-League as a team. It’s something that I’m excited about,” Robinson said.

NCAA 93 Finals G2 LPU vs. SBC - LPU 2nd place-8494

Lyceum had been regarded as the dark horses way before the season started.

With an elimination round sweep that put them on the express lane to the finals, there is no question that expectations were met — exceeded even. It just so happened that in the end, the championship was still not for them. But Robinson is still holding his head up high, knowing that this season is just a sneak peek of a stronger Lyceum basketball program.

“Season 93 is the tip of the iceberg for us. We have so much things to really be grateful for and we just have to continue doing what we’re doing. We have a vision [to inspire] and there’s no metric for that,” the amiable mentor said.

“It just lit a fire that really’s gonna keep this fire burning for us.”

Lyceum’s love affair with Season 93 was a solid one. Although they fell short to experience, eluded by the happy ending they sought, the mostly-intact Pirates vow to be back fiercer and stronger next year but still with the same vision to inspire.

“We’re excited for what’s gonna be, what lies ahead of us. I always tell them it’s just the tip of the iceberg for us. We have so many basketball to play and so many people to inspire.”

The Pirates will take their time to get over this heartbreak but in the process they will work to become better versions of themselves. Safe to say, the journey of the Pirates is far from over.

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Danine is a graduating Broadcast Communication student who writes about basketball and volleyball in between her classes. Initially just a sports fan mostly influenced by her fanatic dad, she eventually realized that she can make a career out of her passion after her amazing internship with Tiebreaker Times

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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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Low-key Owen Graham out to prove worth as top pick

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When the AMA Online Education Titans announced Owen Graham as the first overall pick in the 2017 PBA D-League Draft, many quickly went to Google to search on who the Filipino-Canadian was. However, there were only a few articles that could be found about his past exploits.

This was in stark contrast compared to their draft haul a year ago that was headlined by heralded Jeron Teng. And that’s just the way the Filipino-Canadian likes it.

“With hard work and dedication, I’m pretty confident that you’re gonna hear more about me,” the 25-year-old shared.

“Maybe not now, not later, but someday you’ll hear more from me because I believe hard work pays off.”

Even with a class that includes the likes of local collegiate stalwarts Alvin Pasaol and Arvin Tolentino, the staff of head coach Mark Herrera decided that’s it is better to stick something that is familiar to them rather than risk getting spurned after one conference just like what happened a season ago.

“Rookie siya sa D-League pero he played for me sa NAASCU na, sa Fr. Martin and NCRAA, so medyo marunong na ‘yung bata,” said Herrera.

“Pretty much, I heard there are tryouts and I just decided to stop by. I just asked to play with them,” recalled Graham, who decided to take the risk of coming back home to the Philippines in 2016.

“They gave me a shot and I just showcased my abilities after that.”

The 6-foot-4 swingman though almost did not get a chance to fulfill his dreams of playing basketball.

Back when he was in college in Toronto, Canada, he, together with close friends Norbert Torres and James Forrester, was recruited by schools such as De La Salle University. However, he had to fulfill a promise to his mother first. He needed to get his collge degree before he could pursue his hoop dreams.

“I’m a late bloomer. I started to take the game serious when I was 20,” shared Graham, who is also close to Matthew Wright and LA Revilla. “When I was younger, they told me to come here, but I had to fulfill my moms dream which is finishing school in Toronto.

“Now I’m fulfilling my dream.”

Graham hopes to achieve the same success as his friends are experiencing in the pros. But it’s a good thing he knows that the journey will be long and tedious. More importantly, he knows that nothing comes easy here in the Philippines.

“They told me nothing comes easy so I got to come in with a chip on my shoulder, stay hungry, stay humble. That’s just my way,” he said. “Nobody knows about me, I like it that way. It just give me a better chance to prove myself.

“You know I’m forever grateful for this opportunity. There’s always be pressure in everything you decide to do, but I’m just gonna stick to what I know which is do my best, work hard, dive for the ball, get dirty if I have to and hopefully, make an impact.”

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Koy Banal downplays Marinerong Pilipino’s tag as D-League Draft winners

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The AMA Online Education Titans may have acquired the first overall pick, but the clear winner of the 2017 PBA D-League Draft Tuesday was the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, with all the talent they were able to acquire in the hour-long proceedings.

The sophomore club team was able to nab the likes of UE Red Warriors’ Alvin Pasaol, ex-Letran Knight Chester Saldua, two-time UAAP champion Abu Tratter of De La Salle Green Archers, and newly-minted UAAP gold medalist Vince Tolentino of the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

“Ang kinonsider ko is mostly makakalaban ko are collegiate teams eh, so we needed young legs who would be able to keep up with our opponents na young legs din,” said head coach Koy Banal of the logic behind his picks.

They may have harvested the best crop of talents available, but the multi-titled mentor was quick to play down such idea, saying that their rookies, despite being heralded cagers in college, have yet to prove that they can mesh well.

“Diyan maraming nagkakamali eh. Akala nila maganda yung mga picks (okay na),” said Banal, who are looking for players who can gel with holdovers Achie Iñigo, Renzo Subido, and Mark Isip.

“So tinitignan namin kung sino magja-jive.

“All of them are good picks and can contribute anytime in any given game dito sa team namin. Kilala naman namin sila. Siyempre meron kaming existing na, and we’re hoping na magkaroon ng magandang chemistry,” he added.

Marinero finished fourth in their maiden campaign in the 2017 Foundation Cup, all thanks to a miraculous ru . And now, with all the pieces they have acquired, Banal and his deputies aim to emulate such feat in the upcoming season.

“That’s the plan. That’s the goal actually,” said the veteran strategist.

“Natutunan namin na after our campaign last conference, more or less we know how to [play consistent] from day one up to the end. Kasi we started so slow eh.”

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Fighting Maroons beg off from D-League commitments

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Studies first

With the University of the Philippines in the midst of its second semester of their academic calendar when the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup begins, Fighting Maroons head coach Bo Perasol asked his players if they could forego of their basketball commitments for the mean time to focus on their studies.

“They will have a really hard time passing, and even attending, their subjects if they’re going to miss classes because of the practices and games,” the incoming third-year UP Men’s Basketball team mentor shared.

Tuesday afternoon, sophomore Javi Gomez de Liano was drafted by the Wangs-Letran Couriers and junior Jerson Prado was selected by Gamboa Coffee-St. Clare Lovers while skipper Paul Desiderio and junior Diego Dario are currently free agents in the league. Desiderio last played for the Cafe France-CEU Bakers during the 2016 Aspirants’ Cup while Dario joined the AMA Online Education Titans as well.

Being a former student-athlete himself, Perasol knows how important the second semester is, especially for eligibility for the 81st season of the UAAP.

“The second semester is very important in their eligibility for the next season,” Perasol added.

With a loaded line-up for the upcoming UAAP season, the Fighting Maroons can’t afford any mishaps.

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