Besides the many championships, Norman Black also has fond memories of the player recruitment process during his time as head coach of Ateneo de Manila University.
“I went all over the country to recruit,” he recalled in the Hoop Coaches International Webinar hosted by Blackwater.
“You name it, I was there. We recruited from just about everywhere.”
And his most memorable recruitment attempt from then, the decorated Black was asked, was Noy Baclao.
“Well, the one that stands out in my mind — there’s been a lot of them — is probably recruiting Noy Baclao,” recounted Black, who took over the Blue Eagles’ head coaching reins back in 2005.
Black remembers that during his time in Ateneo, his team would play in every league possible. Among the tourneys that the Blue Eagles played in was the National University Games.
“People only remember the five championships that we had in Ateneo, but we won sixteen championships because we played in every league possible and we won most of them,” he said.
And it was at the UniGames where Black discovered Baclao, then playing for West Negros College (now STI-West Negros University). He saw a tall yet skinny kid who was “blocking everybody’s shot”.
“We played in the University Games and that was in Bacolod. As you know, West Negros College is in Bacolod, and West Negros College was one of the teams playing in the University Games,” he recalled.
“And Noy Baclao was about six-foot-five, but he was so skinny. He was just a skinny kid at that time. I think he was in his first year in college. He was blocking everybody’s shot,” Black said.
“I mean, anybody coming to the basket, he was just throwing it away.”
Black was left impressed with Baclao’s defensive prowess, and so he immediately put him on his radar.
“I was talking to Paolo Trillo and I was saying, ‘Boy, it would be nice to have a guy like that on our team’,” Black recalled of his conversation with Trillo, then Ateneo’s team manager.
“All that we would have to do is to get him to eat a little bit so he could fill out and gain some weight,” he added with a chuckle.
“His timing was impeccable on the defensive end of the floor.”
So the recruiting began. What Black did first was talk with the school’s owner Tony Agustin, and then went back-and-forth to Bacolod later on just to get Baclao to come over to Ateneo.
Black shared that they even met with Baclao’s parents to convince him. Eventually, all the tedious trips were worth it, since they were successful in bringing him over to Katipunan.
“It became an assignment for us to see if we could actually recruit Noy to go to Ateneo. We had to talk to Tony, and we went back and forth to Bacolod over and over again,” Black said.
“Finally we were able to get him to come to Ateneo. I was just so happy when we were able to recruit him.”
This was in 2006. The following year, Baclao donned the blue-and-white jersey in UAAP Season 70.
And come Season 71, Baclao became pivotal in Ateneo’s championship streak — the first of the historic five title run— and he won Finals MVP honors. He would win another title the next season.
“Obviously, Noy was a big part of our teams in helping us win championships in Ateneo,” Black said.
Black and Baclao’s relationship runs deep. And they have a chance to rekindle the kind of success they have enjoyed together, now that they have reunited in the PBA.
Just recently, the Meralco Bolts picked up Baclao after his contract with the Alaska Aces expired.
The two have already worked together in the pros before. Baclao and Black reunited briefly back in 2013-14 with the Talk ‘N’ Text Tropang Texters, but it didn’t lead to a title.
“He’s also part of Meralco now,” said Black of Baclao, who’s still recovering from a knee injury he sustained last season.
“So hopefully he’ll be well soon by the end of June.”