In the world of Philippine collegiate basketball, few rivalries captivate fans and players alike as the showdown between De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University.
This year, a new face entered the scene as Topex Robinson took the helm as the first-year head coach of La Salle, ready to leave his mark on the historic rivalry.
As he led his team to a triumphant victory over Ateneo with a resounding score of 72-59 in the 2023 FilOil EcoOil preseason, Robinson’s elation mirrored that of his players.
“Just like them, I was so excited because, again, I always wanted to play against Ateneo,” gushed Robinson, his passion for the game evident in his words.
However, amidst the celebratory atmosphere, Robinson remained grounded, emphasizing that this preseason victory and their undefeated 8-0 record did not guarantee their path to a UAAP Championship.
He recognized that winning in the preseason was merely a testament to their preparedness for the challenges that lay ahead, particularly in Season 86.
“Just going 8-0 and beating Ateneo doesn’t make us UAAP champions or define us,” explained the former Lyceum head coach.
“Winning here only proves that if we continue to stick to our guns and do what we have prepared for, good things are bound to happen. This success is just a byproduct of our collective efforts in building better individuals.”
Beyond the thrill of facing the Blue Eagles, Robinson looked forward to the invaluable opportunity of learning from one of Philippine basketball’s esteemed figures: head coach Tab Baldwin.
The two had crossed paths numerous times throughout their careers, fostering mutual respect and admiration for one another’s coaching prowess.
Five years ago, Baldwin opened the doors of Moro Lorenzo Gym for Robinson when he coached at Lyceum of the Philippines University. Their collaboration continued as they worked together for Gilas Pilipinas before the pandemic disrupted sporting events.
For Robinson, seeing Baldwin on the opposing side of the court carried a profound sense of respect and admiration. He eagerly anticipated the chance to glean further basketball wisdom from the Kiwi mentor.
“Coach Tab is someone I’ve always looked up to, and I know I will learn a lot from him. I mean, any opportunity I can get to learn from him, I will take it. That’s how much I respect and admire him,” shared the former head coach of Phoenix Super LPG.
Recognizing Baldwin as one of the Philippines’ greatest basketball minds, Robinson felt blessed to share the court with him. He acknowledged Baldwin’s significant role in shaping his coaching career and expressed his intention to leverage this learning opportunity as he continued his journey.
“Whatever I’m doing right now, he’s a part of it. I’m just learning from him and applying it,” Robinson said with conviction.
He emphasized Baldwin’s selflessness in sharing his knowledge, praising his willingness to provide answers when asked questions. Robinson embraced this chance to learn from Baldwin once again, capitalizing on the mentorship that had propelled him thus far.
And come the UAAP, they will have another go-around. Robinson hopes that he can produce better results compared to his predecessors.