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UAAPS78 Men’s Basketball Final Four: Ateneo vs FEU Survival Kit

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It’s the clash between two teams who have shared some of the best basketball games for the past few years as the second-seeded Far Eastern University Tamaraws take on the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the semifinals of the UAAP basketball tournament.

It’s an intriguing match-up with some of the best and brightest stars in the collegiate ranks sharing the floor with reigning Most Valuable Player Kiefer Ravena leading the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles to take on the Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo-led Far Eastern University Tamaraws.

Will Smart Elite ambassadors Bo Perasol, Kiefer Ravena, and Von Pessumal end their collegiate careers with a championship? Or will Nash Racela and his six seniors win championship #20?

Why FEU will win


UAAP 78 FEU vs. AdU - Belo-6647To simply put it, the Tamaraws have the most talented line-up on paper in collegiate basketball today. Their guard rotation is a murderer’s row that includes the likes of Mike Tolomia, Monbert Arong, Roger Pogoy, Achie Inigo, and AlFrancis Tamsi. Majority of those student-athletes are instant starters on other squads but are sharing the court with the Recto-based squad.

But it’s not finished there. Down low, they have an intimidating frontline that includes Smart Elite ambassador Mac Belo, Raymar Jose, Russel Escoto, and the backing of a 6’8 behemoth in Prince Orizu – easily the most intimidating frontline you’ll ever see.

Add that up to the brilliance of the Tamaraws’ coaching staff led by the national team-tested duo of Nash Racela and Josh Reys and this is a team that is built to go all the way.

The most critical thing for FEU right now is to get their shooters started to open up the floor for the likes of Belo and Escoto to operate.

If Tolomia, Arong, and Pogoy find their spots early, Ateneo is in deep deep trouble from the get-go.

Why Ateneo will win


UAAP 78 FEU vs. ADMU - Pessumal-1266Simply because games are won on the court, not on paper.

The Blue Eagles have shown great character after surviving a plethora of off-court issues starting from the uncertainty of coach Bo Perasol’s job, to John Apacible’s drunken outrage, to Chibueze Ikeh’s arrest. The Blue Eagles were eventually able to churn those negatives into positives as, according to their co-captains, it brought the team closer together.

After losing their second round opener against the FEU Tamaraws, they have won five of their past six games with their last loss being a good reminder for them that they need to be at their best heading into the semifinals.

It will also help them that they have the best player in the league in Kiefer Ravena, playing every game from now on as his last game if they lose. Expect Ravena to come out in pure desperation and that is a positive thing for the Blue Eagles.

Come to think of it, they have went through a lot, they’ve been tested. And here they are, still standing. They might be the underdogs on paper, but never ever count a team which has nothing to lose and has survived a whole lot of stuff heading into the match.

X-Factors


Raymar Jose for FEUUAAP 78 FEU vs. NU - Neypes, Jose-0100

Jose’s presence has been sorely missed for the Tamaraws as they struggled heavily in their matches against NU and La Salle, particularly when it comes to energy.

He might not fill the statsheet like what Belo does but he’s a different animal altogether. He fires up his teammates with his hustle plays. He sacrifices his body to get that rebound.

In a team full of scorers, Jose’s style of play is what they need the most.

Adrian Wong for AteneoUAAP 78 ADMU vs. UST - Wong-4084

Steady guard play will be a critical thing for Ateneo granted that they won’t be winning the war on the interior anytime soon. A good game (or games) for Wong is the most critical factor for the Eagles just to unload some pressure off Ravena’s shoulders.

Moreover, another threat on the perimeter aside from Ravena and Von Pessumal is exactly what coach Bo Perasol needs and Wong has shown time and time again that he can deliver when needed.

If Wong becomes Ateneo’s consistent third-man then FEU might have a problem.

Prognosis


UAAP 78 FEU vs. AdU - Tolomia celebration-7067

This is a match-up that’s really intriguing and anything can happen with these two teams playing. Smart money’s still on the Tamaraws taking the series in one game but if Ateneo wins the first game, I don’t see FEU storming back in game two.

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FEU

Rose Vargas all set for UAAP return after four-season absence

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In an unprecedented move, hard-hitting Far Eastern University spiker Rose Vargas will return to finish her UAAP career when Season 80 kicks off on February 3 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Vargas last played for the Lady Tamaraws in Season 75. With a year of eligibility left, Vargas left the Morayta-based program to focus on her academics and pursue a career in the semi-pro ranks.

Five years since her last UAAP game, Vargas says that she did not hesitate when FEU officials asked if she wanted to return to play out her final year of eligibility.

During her time in the V-League, she played for the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns, the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors, the Bureau of Custom Transformers, and, most recently, the Creamline Cool Smashers.

“‘Yung pag-babalik naman dito (FEU) is hindi ko naman pinag-isipan matagal or nag-dalawang isip ako,” said the Season 74 Best Scorer. “Noong tinanong lang sa akin kung gusto ko daw bumalik, ang sagot ko lang, oo.

“Kasi gusto kong makatulong, and gusto kong makuha ‘yung championship namin na matagal ng hindi nakukuha ng FEU.”

Vargas adds to an already solid FEU core which includes graduating captain Bernadeth Pons, Toni Rose Basas, and Jerrili Malabanan.

The last time Vargas suited up for FEU, she was the main piece to a core that included Mari Toni Basas — Toni Rose’s older sister, a young Remy Palma, Gyzelle Sy, and Tin Agno.

Vargas now sees herself as more of a complimentary piece, the hardened veteran looking to guide FEU’s younger guns in a season where much if expected of them.

“Ngayon, nadagdagan siguro yung maturity and ko, pagiging veteran daw, sabi, na pwede ko mai-share din sa mga bata ‘yun, as a leader, as an ate,” added Vargas.

“Nako-contribute ko kung anong knowledge ang natutunan ko.”

League insiders are confident that Vargas, who turned 25-year-old on December 12 last year, will be declared eligible to play in Season 80. Although the UAAP is yet to have their eligibility meeting this week, a source closely monitoring the situation expressed confidence that Vargas will pass the league’s eligibility rules.

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Basketball

23 for 2023 cadet CJ Perez honored to help out Gilas

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Having had the chance to represent the Philippines in FIBA-sanctioned cagefests such the Asia Challenge Cup and the 3X3 All-Stars back in 2016, Lyceum Pirates star CJ Perez is no stranger to the international stage.

But the 24-year-old do-it-all swingman admits that he still gets overwhelmed whenever he sees his seniors — the stars and pillars of the program — in the team. “Nasusurprise [pa rin] ako,” he said. “Mga professionals eh.

“Na-istarstruck pa rin ako sa kanila.”

Perez said so when he finally made his return within Gilas’ realms last Monday night. The last time he was with the National Team was in August 2016, when the SBP built an amateur-laden batch of Gilas cagers that served as the transition from the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers squad to the 2017 SEABA team.

“Sobrang grateful ako (sa invitation),” said the talented six-foot-two guard, after practice at the Meralco Gym.

The reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player is back in the fold for Gilas as his name, along with young, up-and-coming stars, was included in the 23 for 2023 pool — a list of cagers projected to be the contingent for the Manila-hosted World Cup.

“Iniisip ko yun (FIBA World Cup 2023) simula magtawag sila ng practice. Actually nandoon na yung utak ko eh,” the Lyceum Pirate ace bared. “Kailangan ko lang mag work hard pa para makapasok dun sa lineup na yun, kahit malayo pa.

“It’s an honor para ma-represent yung country.”

Unlike in 2016, Perez graced the court and took part in drills with the veterans such as Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, among others. With those type of players around him, he feels that the lessons he can get will be limitless.

“Oo sobra. Kahit kanino naman (matututo ka talaga),” Perez shared. “(At tsaka) Dito parang more on sa mental. ‘Di na iniisip yung conditioning kasi may ibang teams naman sila so about sa mental toughness [talaga].”

For now, the 23 for 2023 cadets are already working out not just for familiarity, but also to help the seniors in preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this February.

“Sobrang happy and grateful na nakakatulong ako sa kanila kahit sa simpleng practice lang.”

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ABL

Blistering Mikey Williams takes home Heritage Import of the Week honor

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Photo from ASEAN Basketball League

The resurgent Saigon Heat have been the thorn to topflight clubs teams Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club and Nanhai Kung Fu, handing both squads their first losses in the eighth season of the ASEAN Basketball League. The Heat would not have done it without Filipino-American import Mikey Williams.

Williams, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Cal State Fullerton, dropped 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and nine assists in Saigon’s 121-115 overtime win over Hong Kong.

The former NBA G-Leaguer followed it up with a sensational 24-point, five-rebound, and seven-assist outing in their 96-93 win over Kung Fu.

Overall, the 26-year-old guard averaged 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.0 steals to edge out fellow Filipino AJ Mandani of the Singapore Slingers for the weekly award.

For the Local Player of the Week, two Alab Pilipinas stalwarts were the runners-up for the crown.

Reigning local Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and his floor general Josh Urbiztondo had stellar weeks that earned them honorable mentions.

Parks averaged 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists for the week that saw Alab lose to the Slingers at home last Wednesday before bouncing back on the road against the Mono Vampire last Sunday.

Urbiztondo, on the other hand, had norms of 14.5 points on a hot 9-for-17 clip from downtown.

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Football

Brazilian football legend Zico to visit Manila

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Contributed photos

One of the best to ever play the Beautiful Game is coming to the Philippines. Zico, who electrified the footballing world in the ’70s and ’80s, is slated to visit Manila on the weekend of January 27.

The Brazilian, whose real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, is considered one of the best footballers in the world during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Zico starred for the Brazilian national team, scoring 48 goals in 71 appearances for the Selecao. In 1999, the attacking midfielder came 8th in the FIFA Player of the Century grand jury vote, and in 2004 was named in FIFA’s list of the world’s greatest living players.

Zico played for legendary Brazilian club Flamengo and also for the Italian Serie A team Udinese. He finished his playing career suiting up for Kashima Antlers in the J-League, the top tier of Japanese football, leading them to an unlikely runner-up finish.

The 64-year-old also had a successful managerial career, leading Turkey’s Fenerbahce, Greek team Olympiacos, and CSKA Moscow to titles. Zico was also in charge of the Japanese national team when they won the AFC Asian Cup in 2004. Because of that accomplishment, Zico is one of the most beloved football figures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Seven Seas Properties, a company that promotes Philippine real estate and Philippine stocks in the Japanese market, is bringing the football icon here.

“We are delighted to welcome Zico to the Philippines. I’m sure he will give a big boost to the growing football scene here,” says Seven Seas Properties President Yukihiro Nishimura.

Zico will attend a CSR event with young footballers from underprivileged communities on Saturday, January 27. The following day, Sunday January 28, he will lead a football clinic for elite young players and coaches in the McKinley Hill stadium in Taguig. Football fans and media are welcome to watch this event, which kicks off at 2:00 pm. Admission is free.

Zico in Manila is also made possible by Otsuka – Solar Philippines, Inter Sports Partners, AgriNurture, and Primex.

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