Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Philippines (along with Indonesia and Japan) get to host the FIBA World Cup

The World is the Stage
by rick olivares

You must be positively giddy about the news….

The Philippines – along with Indonesia and Japan – will be hosting the 2023 FIBA World Cup. The bid, crafted after more than four months of planning, endless discussions and the wracking of one’s brains, has been given the nod. Thus, FIBA has spoken.

Thus, we rejoice.

After the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas lost the bid for the 2019 edition, the federation stayed in the game, undaunted, and came away winners for their perseverance and passion for the game.

This plan was certainly a lot more sound that saying welcome to the social media capital of the world.

Breaking attendance records. Check.
Spreading the gospel of hoops in football country (of Southeast Asia). Check.
Bringing three disparate cultures together. Check.

There are a couple of ways to look at this massive achievement by the SBP and its partner federations.

From a basketball fan’s standpoint, more than the three host nations securing automatic slots to the World Cup, this means we will get to see the national squads of the United States, Spain, Argentina, and other world powers up close. The world’s top teams are stocked and loaded with NBA stars so this massive. We get to see the galaxy of stars.

The Greek Freak flying through the air with the greatest of ease? Who wants to see him posterize some unlucky fool?

Karl-Anthony Towns, CJ McCollum, Lonzo Ball, Ben Simmons, Ricky Rubio, Anthony Davis… need we say more?

This is way better than getting a meaningless NBA pre-season game. This is for the big marbles. The US might not use the tag “Dream Team” any more and rightly so but even so. This is a dream for basketball-mad Filipinos.

From a nationalist’s standpoint, the hosting of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships and the 2015 Olympic Qualifying Tournament. As the Beatles once sang, “It’s getting better all the time.”

Now the FIBA World Cup. These are the first steps to bigger things to come. The Olympics is a different one but why can’t we dream? After all, did you ever think we’d get to host these events?

The country has increasingly become a sports tourism destination along with the efforts fort triathlon and football. This is good; way good and boy, is that still an understatement.

We must laud the efforts of the SBP. Clearly the most progressive and forward thinking of all the national sports federations. It takes vision and an iron-clad will to get these things done. You can say it is easier because that’s basketball and it gets all the funding and whatnot. Well, I didn’t see the previous leaders of the sport get anything done remotely with what the current hoops leaders have done.

They helped put us on the map. Correct that, the world’s stage and I like so many other Filipinos will have a front row seat.

Friday, December 8, 2017

LPU defeats UP for Got Skills championship

LPU defeats UP for Got Skills championship
by rick olivares

It isn’t the NCAA, but this will have to do… for now.

The Lyceum of the Philippines University bagged the Milcu Sports Basketball Got Skills Elite Showcase U25 championships at the Buddha Care Gym with a stirring come-from-behind 89-81 triumph over heavily favored University of the Philippines.

The no-name LPU Pirates sported a 10-3 record against UP’s 11-2 and their big names like Bright Akhuetie, UAAP veterans JD Tungcab and Pio Longa plus highly-touted recruit Filipino-American David Murrell. Yet with their swarming defense on Akhuetie and pedal-to-the-metal attack-oriented basketball the overcame the odds to bag this prestigious college cage crown.

Battling foul trouble to its mainstays Jerwyn Guinto, Gab Valencia, Carl Lumbao, and Casper Pericas, the Pirates were kept afloat by Grecco Magbuhos and Red Rubite.

Yet, they still found themselves down by 10 points, 81-71, with 2:02 left in the game after a Murrell spin lay-up. LPU head coach Jeffrey Perlas switch from man-to-man defense to a zone that stymied UP. With Lumbao finally catching fire and after a huge triple by Magbuhos to lift LPU to the lead 84-81, UP succumbed to the pressure as they were held scoreless the rest of the way.

“We didn’t stop playing even when we were down,” said Perlas of his boys’ effort. “We wanted to keep them off balance by constantly going at them. Bright got his blocks (he finished with four) but we didn’t allow him to catch his breath.

LPU got the bulk of their points inside off lay-ups and they also put a crimp on the Fighting Maroons on the defensive end as they pick-pocketed UP’s players for a 14-3 advantage in steals leading to a 37-11 advantage in points off turnovers.

Carl Lumbao led LPU with 14 points while Grecco Magbuhos added 13 markers off the bench.

For the Fighting Maroons, Murrell topscored for the game with 30 points while Akhuetie added 19 points and 24 rebounds. Tungcab finished with 11.

The championship was sweet revenge for LPU who took it on the chin against UP that blitzed them in the elimination round, 71-50, on the Pirates’ home court in Intramuros last August 19.

“It’s a big win for us,” summed up Perlas. “And it’s boost for our program and what we hope to achieve next NCAA season.”

LPU 89 – Lumbao 14, Magbuhos 13, Garing 8, Remulla 8, Guinto 8, Cecilio 7, Rubite 7, Pericas 7, Li 6, Dionson 5, Valencia 3, Japson 2, Pido 2, Soriano 0, Salo 0, Alamo 0.

UP 81 – Murrell 30, Akhuetie 19, Tungcab 11, Madrigal 5, Ong 5, Espanola 3, Longa 3, Santiago 3, Kamga 2, Gomez De LiaƱo 0, Ang 0, Ouano 0, Artez 0, Dela Cruz 0.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

My collection of Ateneo Blue Eagles jerseys (including a few PBA shirts too)

I have two more jerseys not in the picture #15 Wesley Gonzales and #44 Steve Watson. I know it's somewhere here at home. Just looking for them.

If you look at Ford Arao's #13, it has the #14 patch in honor of Larry Fonacier after he went down with a season-ending knee injury that prematurely ended his college stint. 

The #17 Zion Laterre is his Team B jersey while the #21 is his Team A shirt. I was Team B "manager" for a year and Zion was one of those players we saw move up to Team A. There were three of them -- Zion, Eman Nazareno, and Mike Baldos -- who moved up to the UAAP team. It is something I am extremely proud of.

#34 is Ace Basas' Team B jersey. I recruited him for Ateneo.

Also have a Wesley Gonzales San Mig Coffee jersey. Just looking for it.

Talking to Ateneo’s Matt Nieto

Talking to Ateneo’s Matt Nieto
by rick olivares pic by the guidon's zach garcia

The dad is actually a softie. During his heyday as an Ateneo Blue Eaglet and then Blue Eagle, Jet Nieto played the three and four-spot. He shot the three, drove like the Barreling Big J, played tough defense and lots of mind games with folks. In fact, during his very last game in an Ateneo uniform right before he went to medical school, he told the referee that if he continued to call ticky tacky fouls on him (it was the championship match against San Sebastian in the national seniors’ finals), he’d beat the crap out of him and he wouldn’t care if he was banned from the game since it was his last ever.

Nieto, aside from being a big shot producer, also made a reputation as a bruiser. When the Ateneo Blue Eagles won its first back-to-back crown in 1987-88, the team guested on Not So Late Night with Edu (Manzano who also once played for La Salle), the show host remarked after learning Nieto was going to med school, “first you break their bones, now you will mend them.”

His twin sons, Mike -- who was born eight minutes ahead of Matt -- aren’t that sort. Matt played the court general while Big Mike, well, he played like his dad – the tough and barreling forward.

After the twins won the UAAP Juniors title four long years ago, the father was proud of them. But as a challenge, he pointed out that they had to win two more crowns – in the seniors division – so they could catch up to him.

Now the brothers are one title away from tying their dad’s record.

It isn’t a game of one-upmanship between father and son. They are actually close. There is a specific time when all three have their talk before the game; any game. The father, a doctor, always makes time to watch all their games. In fact, after Ateneo’s ninth UAAP chip was secured, the brothers made their way across to the father who was seated courtside. They teared up. An end to a long journey of blood and sacrifice and a family’s support for one another.

Growing up, it was always Matt who was chosen for the team with Mike either cut or the last addition. And he was on the bench. Only later did he find his groove and game. He won the UAAP Most Valuable Player Award in his senior year in high school. He added a second trophy later when he was adjudged the Most Valuable Player in the SM-NBTC High School All-Star Game that is patterned after the American McDonald’s All-American Game.

During Season 79, Mike got props for his great game while it was Matt wo struggled. This Season 80, he found his form as the team’s leader.

We spoke with Nieto three days after the historic Game 3 win.

Rick: It has been a couple of days since the victory. Is it still surreal for you?

Matt: It still feels good. Parang nanaginip pa rin ako. This is really the best feeling. I can’t believe that we made it and all our work and sacrifices paid off.

Rick: What popped into your mind as the seconds of Game Three wasted away? At that point, Ateneo was up by five points.

Matt: I wanted to thank Coach Tab (Baldwin) right away. Hug him and say thank you because he has really given me a lot and I really wanted to show my gratitude for all he has done for me.

Rick: You have narrowed the gap of championships between your dad and you twins. What’s a nice anecdote to share about that?

Matt: We talk about na mas magaling pa rin siya because he won back-to-back. But we were all laughing. Wala naman kami masabi ni Mike because this is all family and trust. But malapit na kami ni daddy. Kidding aside, it is his way of pushing us and we all know he is our number one believer.

Rick: This team really bonded in this journey. Can you reflect on that?

Matt: I love this team! It is one heck of a rollercoaster ride. One thing I noticed though is when something is at stake, we got back to our boot camp in Baler where we learned to rely on one another and not as individuals. We picked up more knowledge and maturity in not backing down from challenges. Why I love this team? We have each other’s backs and we are as strong from the first to the last man on the bench. We have no superstar. We’re just a team that follows the magnificent system of Coach Tab.

Rick: Remember a few months before the UAAP, we talked about Chibueze Ikeh and you told me that he was a player transformed. How big was his in terms of winning the title?

Matt: Ikeh is the backbone of the team. And for me, he was the best African player this season. His stats didn’t reflect it but in my opinion, he did a lot of things that didn’t show on the stats sheet that were big things for us.

Rick: Take us back to Game Two of the Final Four against FEU where you pointed to someone. What was that all about?

Matt: Before Game Two, I promised Vince Tolentino that I will do everything to win that game. I didn’t want that to be the last game of his career. He responded by saying he would do the same. So when I hit the dagger shot, I pointed to him. That was for Vince.

Rick: Did getting bloodied piss you off?

Matt: I was quite mad but I was more pissed about not getting the call. My teammates got even more motivated after that lalo na si Mike. Nakita niyo naman kung anong nangyari sa game niya after that.
Rick: Were you afraid of not coming back into the game after that?

Matt: My teammates initially got scared. I stood up and washed the blood on my face and told them I was going to start the third quarter. At that time, Coach Sandy (Arespacochaga) told them, “Huwag niyo pakialam si Matt. Babalik yan. Kilala niyo yan. Si Matt pa.”

Rick: That monster offensive rebound by Thirdy Ravena that led to your three. Touch on that.

Matt: That’s one Blue Eagle flying high. When I released that ball, I knew it was going in. We practiced that shot so many times.

Rick: This team has had the most number of Blue Eaglets since the time of your dad (they had 10 of the 16 men on the 1987 roster). How cool is that and how do you feel about former Blue Eaglet teammate, Enzo Joson, over at NU?

Matt: It’s big for the homegrown players to also win in the seniors division. It means a lot if we can influence our young players to also excel in college. As for Enzo, we were really close since our grade school days. Mas maganda kung magkakasama pa kami but I am proud of him because he is making a name for himself in NU.

For our former Blue Eagle teammates, I am glad that they still support the school even if they are elsewhere na.

Rick: Who was the toughest player for you to guard this season and why?

Matt: NU’s JJ Alejandro. He can shoot and drive and every time we matched up, I was in foul trouble.

Rick: Lastly, how cool is it to win titles with your brother, Mike?

Matt: Ever since we were in grade school, we talked about winning titles every step of the way. And we have. It so cool. But this college championship is the best.