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.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Former JRU Bomber Jaycee Asuncion hopes for a chance in the coming PBA Draft

Former JRU Bomber Jaycee Asuncion hopes for a chance in the coming PBA Draft
by rick olivares

For 25-year old former Jose Rizal University Heavy Bomber Jaycee Asuncion, the odds are once more stacked against him. The Valenzuela native who now calls Cavite home, has always had to fight to show what he could do on the basketball court.

He starred for Philippine Christian University in high school and played one year of college ball with the seniors team before it was kicked out of the NCAA for irregularities. Jaycee transferred to the University of Perpetual Help along with former PCU teammates Jett Vidal, George Allen, Harold Sumera, and Marlon Gomez. Unfortunately for that team of Altas that also had Scottie Thompson, Justine Alano, Harold Arboleda, and Jong Baloria they were hit by the NCAA that said that Gomez and another transferee Paul Nuilan were ineligible to play. The accusations were questionable. Nevertheless, the NCAA had its way as Gomez and Nuilan were disallowed from suiting up. What was a promising team was left rudderless one week before that 2008 season.

“That team pressed like no other,” reflected Jaycee in the vernacular on the Altas’ propensity for a full court trapping defense. “It was fun to watch. And we tripped up some pretty good teams in the Filoil and UAAP tournaments. Maybe some teams were afraid of us.”

Unfortunately, despite losing two key cogs in the Altas, Asuncion felt that he wasn’t going to get much playing time in that team that more or less came up together so he made one last transfer of addresses, this time from Las PiƱas to Mandaluyong to JRU where he teamed up with Philip Paniamogan and Michael Mabulac to form a dynamic attacking team. Unfortunately for those Heavy Bombers, they were waylaid by Jiovani Jalalon’s Arellano University Chiefs that booked their first finals appearance in Season 90.

Now, Asuncion is hoping to make the jump to the pros. He has to contend with two drafts – the Special Gilas draft and the regular one on October 30 at Robinson’s Malate. In the meantime, he’s busy trying out for various PBA clubs that have already opened their doors for pre-workouts. “Am up against free agents, players transferring clubs, and rookies,” said Asuncion after his second workout with the Phoenix Fuel Masters at the Green Meadows gym over the past week. “But it’s like that. I just have to go out and do my best.”

Jaycee during workouts with Ariel Vanguardia's Phoenix team.
The 5’11” Asuncion can shoot and drive to the basket and has a defensive streak in him. His career highlights during his lone year with the Heavy Bombers in Season 90 (2014) were wins against Perpetual Help and San Beda. In the victory of the Altas, Asuncion scored 16 points including seven in overtime to pip his former team, 80-76.

During the triumph over San Beda, Jaycee paced his team with 19 points and six rebounds, two assists, and one steal.

In the pros, Jaycee who idolizes Jayson Castro and Kevin Durant, have to play combo guard but will need to work on his shooting.

“All I hope is I am given a chance with a team and I will show what I can do,” said Asuncion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Aris Dionisio: Meet one of the best college basketball players you don’t know

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Aris Dionisio: Meet one of the best college basketball players you don’t know.
by rick olivares

On the strength of his game during the past summer – Fr. Martin’s Cup and the Got Skills tournament, Aris Dionisio drew rave reviews with his blue collar ethic and nose for the ball.

The six-foot-five forward parlayed that into a MVP performance when he averaged 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks a game during the just concluded NAASCU season en route to St. Clare College’s first title in five years.

Dionisio had zero plays called for him. He scavenged for rebounds and put backs, tip-ins, drove for lay-ups. Hit turn-around jumpers. He ran the break and finished them. At times, he zipped no look passes to cutters. He guarded centers and foreign players. He blocked shots with aplomb yet never celebrated boisterously. He just ran to the bench and exchanged high fives. Never engaged in trash talking or taunting.

Aris Dionisio just played ball.

Oh, aside from his double double average, Aris also led the league in rebounds and blocks.

And now, the 21-year old lad from Bustos, Bulacan, is now being targeted by two schools in the UAAP (all based in Manila the city and not Greater Metro Manila) but Dionisio is determined to finish his schooling with SCC before he turns pro.

“Sa akin, good news din na meron kilalang school na nagkaka-intensyon sa laro ko. Pero ayaw ko lumipat,” said Dionisio who after helping the Saints to a title over tough Our Lady of Fatima University last Friday, went home to Bulacan.

St. Clare has had a few players pirated by other colleges including one who after transferring elsewhere was further enticed to transfer to another UAAP school with some sweet package. When the other school said no, this new school brought in a lawyer that threatened a lawsuit.

Former PBA star Jimmy Manansala, father of SCC current head coach Jino Manansala believes that Dionisio has pro material written all over him. While chatting with us during Game 5 of the current PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at the Big Dome last Sunday night, the elder Manansala bared plans of moving their prized player to the three-spot to take advantage of Aris’ ability to shoot from the outside as well as his mobility.

“He’s got talent,” summed up Manansala.

The eldest child of a seaman and a housewife, Dionisio grew up playing sandlot basketball. “Naka-paa, naka-tsinelas mula pagsikat ng araw hanggang gabi naglalaro lang ako,” recalled Dionisio over lunch at Robinson’s Magnolia three days before the opening of the last NAASCU season. “Nagii-imagine lang naglalaro sa Ginebra. Ganun lang buhay ko.”

Eventually, he was brought by a relative to PSBA to play for former Crispa Redmanizer Philip Cezar after which he transferred to SCC.

And now he’s not only a college ball champion but also a MVP. “Hindi ko in-expect ito,” dispelled Aris. “Sa pagkakaalam namin lahat si Paeng Rebugio (the SCC Saints dazzling point guard who also transferred after a less than fruitful stint with JRU in the NCAA) ang dapat. Siya main man namin sa team. Sixth man lang ako sa Saints.”

Sixth man. Mythical Five member. Most Valuable Player. Champion.

Yes, it is about time you heard about Aris Dionisio. After all, some UAAP schools have as well.

Soltones frustrated after Laoag’s loss to UP

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Soltones frustrated after Laoag’s loss to UP
by rick olivares

After the Laoag Power Smashers went down in three sets to the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons last Monday, October 17, 2016 in Shakey’s V-League play at the Philsports Arena, Grethcel Soltones quickly made her way to her team’s dugout.

She quickly made her way out with a pained look on her face.

Since watching her make her debut with the San Sebastian Lady Stags five years ago, Soltones has radiated joy on the court. Outside Alyssa Valdez, there aren’t many spikers in the women’s game who spike that ball with such punishing force. Soltones is like detonating a backpack nuke on opposing foes. Yet even after losing in consecutive NCAA Women’s Volleyball Finals in the past two years, she always found it in herself to smile or even laugh. Not that the losses didn’t mean anything – they did – but hers is such a buoyant personality that it’s always sunny in Soltonesville.

There was one other time that she openly pouted and that was during Game 3 of the NCAA Finals of 2016 when she went to the bench following sustained poor play. Incredibly, her much maligned teammates engineered a comeback without her. Opposing coach would pooh pooh the Lady Stags as Soltones and not much more. Not even the presence of the league’s back-to-back Best Libero Alyssa Eroa swayed anyone’s opinion about San Sebastian being a one-woman team.

At that moment, San Sebastian head coach Roger Gorayeb chided her and said that one cannot be at the top of their game all the time and when one isn’t, she must support her teammates who were on the floor.

San Sebastian gave it a go and with a chance to win it all, Soltones went back in for the kill. Except her game or even series-long malaise continued. St. Benilde took the crucial match and went on to win their first ever volleyball title in the very next outing.

Soltones though has tasted two championships with PLDT in SVL play last season. But with San Sebastian and BaliPure she hasn’t known much success although she was crowned Most Valuable Player of the last SVL Open Conference with the latter team. After winning her second successive MVP Award in the NCAA last season, she said that she’d trade her individual award for a collegiate championship.

The last year and a half have been a whirlwind ride for the young Cebuana. She was MVP in two leagues, made the Under-23 national team (that included Alyssa Valdez who Soltones idolizes as well), and competed in the Southeast Asian Games. Plus, she was reunited with her long lost mother. “Parang panaginip,” she described what was going on with her life at that time.

What would make it a very nice dream though would be to end her collegiate career with a championship. In a few months’ time, the NCAA Women’s Volleyball tournament holds serve. The Lady Stags are favored to win it but that’s just on paper. They have to show it, want it, and will it.

After transferring from BaliPure to Laoag (that was a surprise to many volleyball watchers), her presence along with libero Eroa and National University outside spiker Jorelle Singh was seen as some huge additions to a team in need of weapons especially with Jema Galanza somewhat erratic in her play and losing Mylene Paat to another team.

Soltones and Singh are experienced and veteran players who are expected to step into the starting six to provide not only firepower but also defense in place of Jovelyn Prado and Wenneth Eulalio. The additions including Aiko Urdas who is Singh’s teammate in NU have given Nes Pamiliar’s side a chance to compete and take it to the next round of the ongoing Reinforced Conference.

But early in the preliminary round, Laoag shockingly lost in five sets to a Bureau of Customs team that was without their two Thai imports. They had BOC on the ropes but still lost. In the fifth set, they totally ran out of steam.

Against UP, they equalized after taking the second set. In the crucial third, they had a chance to take a one-set lead but botched their last two offensives to give the Lady Maroons the advantage. Come the fourth set, the Power Smashers didn’t have much left in the tank. UP won and the Power Smashers, instead of going 4-0 are now at 2-2.  Hence, Soltones leaving in a huff.

“Sayang,” was all Pamiliar could mutter following the defeat.

Now Laoag has three matches left in its schedule. They go up against league-leading UST (4-1) on October 19, tournament favorite Pocari Sweat on Monday, October 24, and dangerous BaliPure on Wednesday, October 26.

At stake is a spot in the knockout rounds.

Here’s where we see if Soltones can lift her team.