With little fanfare, the San Beda College Red Lions, carrying the name San Beda-Pilipinas, competed in the 29th Dubai International Basketball Tournament.
Though they were unable able to rack up a single win, the defending NCAA champions were able to keep up with the best club teams in West Asia.
San Beda lost their first outing to the UAE National Team, 79-89, before being edged out by Tunisian club team Sousse, 78-79, the next day. After a day off, San Beda could not get the ball rolling against Moroccan club Sale and Lebanese club Sagesse.
Still, it was a fruitful experience for Robert Bolick and the Red Lions.
“Para sa amin, okay na rin yung na-experience namin sa Dubai. Madami kaming natutunan dun. Actually, baka nga mas malakas pa sa PBA teams yung mga nakalaban namin dun,” shared Bolick, who averaged a team-high 24.5 points during the invitational tournament.
“Yung isang kalaban namin, 10 yung above 6-foot-4 players nila tapos athletic pa. Dumidikit kami sa kanila but unfortunately natatalo na kami sa dulo because of the talent and skills,” the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup Most Valuable Player added.
“At least nalaman namin kung hanggang saan ang kaya namin.”
This was the 21-year-old’s first taste of what it’s like to play international basketball. And just like in Gilas, the 23 for 2023 cadet made sure to soak in as much knowledge and experience as he could from the players he got to share the court with.
“Madami akong natutunan dun. Yung mga galawan ng mga beterano at kung paano maglaro sa international. Yung mga kalaban namin from Tunisia at Lebanon. Actually, kahit in game nagtatanong ako sa kanila ng tips,” recalled the 6-foot combo guard. “For sure, magagamit ko yun dito. Kahit dito sa Gilas, palagi naman ako nagtatanong sa mga beterano.
“Importante ito para mag iba din yung flow ng laro ko.”
But what made the experience more special for the Red Lions was that they were able to bring joy to the Overseas Filipino Workers that trooped to the Al Ahli Club just to watch them. Seeing the smiles and hearing the cheers of their compatriots is the moment that will live on in them for the rest of their lives.
“Sarap sa feeling. Kala nga namin naglalaro pa kami sa Pilipinas nun e. Kahit San Beda yung dala namin, at least na-represent namin yung bansa natin. Sobrang saya nila, na nakita nila kami,” beamed the incoming San Beda super senior.
“Nakakataba talaga sa puso.”