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, May 28, 2017

Coaching Gold(wyn Monteverde)

Coaching Gold(wyn Monteverde)
by rick olivares

Goldwyn Monteverde bristled at the suggestion that he is like an architect. A builder of championship basketball teams.

“I am just a coach,” he says.

Sure he is. But a bemedalled one at that. He’s guided the Chiang Kai Shek Blue Dragons to a multitude of secondary school titles. He should have won one with the Adamson Baby Falcons last UAAP season too. “It is a shame because we were building something long term there,” he sighs. “Only to get knocked out by a technicality.”

What happened in Adamson also played a part in his not getting the job of Batang Gilas coach in the last Seaba U-16 tourney held in Manila this past month. He was a shoo-in. He had the cred and the trophies to prove it.

“Move on na lang,” he says. But he would definitely like another shot at it.

Monteverde admits that what happened played a large part in his decision to leave Adamson. “Yes,” he admits. “It played a huge part. It was disappointing. I do not like unfinished business. But it was time to go.”

Seeing the team that he put together scattered to the four winds of the UAAP landscape pains him. “Ako nagtanim, iba ang aani.”

He isn’t only an architect but he’s also like a farmer; one who plants championship seeds.

“I am just a coach,” he parries.

It’s easy to say that success is also due to a program. A program with money to fund the machine. If it were that easy then why doesn’t everyone do it? Why doesn’t everyone win?

He bristles at the suggestion that he is a top basketball mind.

Before he can speak, I cut him off, “Yes, you’re just a basketball coach.”

Monteverde smiles. You understand, he seems to say without any words.

When I asked if he found it ironic that he is now with National University, the team that filed a complaint about a supposedly ineligible player – who wasn’t really – he smiled. “That’s basketball. It takes you to places where you least expect to go. The important thing is to look forward and not dwell on the past.”

After his NU Bullpups – in his second game with NU – lost to the Ateneo Blue Eaglets in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup – he knows that his team is still young. Besides, Rhayyan Amsali wasn’t available.

“The goal is the UAAP,” he points out.

Looking forward. Right, coach?

He isn’t a seer.

“I’m just a coach.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

Jerrili Malabanan: California sunshine in BaliPure

Jerrili Malabanan: California sunshine in BaliPure
by rick olivares

During the first set of BaliPure’s match with Creamline was Tuesday, the former’s head coach Roger Gorayeb sent in Jerrili Malabanan late in the first set for struggling Aiko Urdas.

“Jer Jer” as her teammates call her, didn’t do too well either. Except she wasn’t yanked even if Creamline took the first set, 25-20. She started the second set where she eventually settled down. Malabanan finished only with seven points – her conference average for BaliPure – but she did contribute in other aspects such as defense.

The Purest Water Defenders won in five sets with Thai import Jang Bualee and outside hitter Grethcel Soltones coming alive late in the match with American import Jennifer Keddy providing steady offense and defense. Yet, during the post-match press conference, Gorayeb made sure to point out how Malabanan stabilized the team with her play in the second set.

The vote of confidence wasn’t lost on Malabanan, “It’s feels good that he trusts me and that he knows that I can contribute. It’s such a nice feeling.”

Transitions aren’t normally easy as one moves from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Malabanan has first-hand experience in that as well. After graduation from high school in California where she was born and spent her first 18 years of her life, Malabanan moved to the Philippines.

“I lived in the US my whole life,” recalled the soft-spoken lady. “I would come here every few years for family reunions but that’s different. Changing addresses and lifestyles was a tough adjustment for me especially because I wasn’t able to see my family and friends. You don’t really know anyone and you’re starting from scratch.”

Her first choice for her college schooling was the University of Santo Tomas but she was late for her enrollment. “I ended up going to FEU because an uncle of mine is a good friend of FEU’s athletic director.”

With the Lady Tamaraws, she has become a key component in their return to competitiveness. Yet this past season, Malabanan sat mostly on the bench. “My sitting on the bench – it was a little bit of struggling with my game and the coach’s decision. It’s hard when you sit. You want to help the team but you can’t. And when you want, the confidence isn’t there. It went really down.”

Signed to BaliPure, her first volleyball team outside FEU, it was quite a smooth transition for Malabanan: “I think I started off well because I wanted to show very badly that what happened last UAAP season wasn’t really me or my game. Coming into this tournament, I wanted to show that I am better than that. When I first trained with BaliPure, I didn’t know any of my new teammates personally. The first day of training, they all made me feel welcome. They were very nice. We’ve all become good friends since.”

For the Purest Water Defenders, she was moved from her middle position – where she was played in FEU – to a utility spot where she forms a tag team with Urdas. And she has shined. “Actually, Jer Jer is very soft spoken. But she is eager to learn.”

Added Bualee who is no stranger to the Philippines volleyball scene having served as an import time and again for Gorayeb’s teams, “Jer Jer is a big help to our team. Ako kasi matanda na.”

Like a ray of sunshine?

Bualee laughed. “Sunshine.”

Now the Purest Water Defenders are in the semi-finals. Following the end of their preliminary round matches, the team is given three days off before returning to practice next Monday. “I think we’re fortunate to be able to top the elimination round,” said Malabanan before their last outing against the Power Smashers. It feels to be able to contribute to the team.”

The girl from California has her confidence back.

Jeron Teng brings the (Flying V) Thunder

Jeron Teng brings the (Flying V) Thunder
by rick olivares

Watching Jeron Teng score the game winning basket for the Flying V Thunder in their D-League debut, stunning 86-84 win over the defending champions, Cignal, I couldn’t help but marvel at the young man’s abilities.

When he scored 104-points against Grace Christian High School in a Tiong Lian League game while playing for Xavier that said something about him as a basketball player. And he played the one-spot for Xavier! He displayed the full range of talents – he could score, rebound, pass, and defend.

As a rookie with the La Salle Green Archers, he showed uncommon steadiness and a willingness to ask for the basketball and to take the big shot. He did drop one in his rookie year against UST. And almost immediately, he seized the role of King Archer and he led the team to two UAAP championships.

The 6’2” Teng is one of those special players – a winner in high school and in college. And now he is bringing is winning ways to the D-League (playing his second conference but first with the Villavicencio franchise). He is one of those players with a knack for buying a basket and can affect a game on both ends of the court. Furthermore, he’s got top game intelligence.

When the Thunder were being put together, his signing was crucial. A key piece to a team that despite lacking in frontline strength, would make Flying V competitive. Along with Eric Salamat, Jeron is one of the team’s leaders.

During Flying V’s debut, with many of the team’s players in foul trouble in or in the midst of a horrible shooting day, Teng was incandescent. He tallied 33 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two blocks. And once more, the game winner.

With 1:45 left in the game clock, Teng drove and scored to give Flying V its first taste of the lead, 80-79. After a huge defensive stop on the other end, Teng waved off his teammates. He wanted the one-on-one challenge with Cignal’s Harold Arboleda. He initiated his attack and as Arboleda backed off, he passed to an open Gab Banal, his Thunder teammate. Bang. It was 83-79 with 1:06 left.

A Pamboy Raymundo bucket and a Davon Potts’ trey gave Cignal an 84-83 lead with 7.6 seconds left. Enough time for Teng’s heroics.

As the Thunder walked off the floor last night at the Ynares Center in Pasig City, assistant coach Joey Guanio sidled up to me and said, “Iba yung puso nung pinakita nung Teng (at ng Thomas Torres). Ayaw magpatalo.”

Inside the joyous Thunder locker room, head coach Eric Altamirano said, “Kung meron sila (Cignal) Davon Potts, meron tayong Jeron Teng.”

And the team erupted into cheers.

In a few months’ time, when the 23-year old Teng goes to the PBA Draft, he will surely be a Top 10 pick. Any team that adds him will bring in an impact player and a game changer.

It is going to be exciting and interesting to see how he fares in the pro league. However, I wouldn’t bet against Jeron Teng.