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.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Former UST great Japs Cuan thinks Lee-Sta. Ana backcourt could be good

Former UST great Japs Cuan thinks Lee-Sta. Ana backcourt could be good
by rick olivares

Right now, the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers are at 0-2 but you could see the potential in the team.

There have been flashes such as when head coach Boy Sablan called for Zach Huang to drive against UP. The second year player nearly scored. Center Jeepy Faundo grabbed the offensive rebound but was unable to score. Though fouled, he missed the two free throws that would have greatly changed the complexion of the game.  Even the magic bunot of Jorem Soriano was something not even the most ardent of UST supporters did not see coming. The latter scored eight big points as a player off the bench in the 74-73 loss to the Fighting Maroons.

We spoke to one of the Growling Tigers’ all-time greats in Japs Cuan who led UST to the 2006 UAAP championship about his thoughts and he had glowing remarks about the current backcourt of Marvin Lee and Jordan Sta. Ana.

“Jordan reminds me of a young Jojo Duncil,” said Cuan of his backcourt mate at that time. “He’s just fearless in attacking. Though I hope that he improves his perimeter game like Jojo turned out during our championship year.”

For Lee, Cuan coached against him when the former played for Far Eastern University in high school alongside Wendell Comboy. “he’s got great confidence now that he’s on top of the order unlike last year because he knows that Jon Sherriff and Renzo Subido were there. He was playing safe not to be subbed. I think this year will make him great. Just getting that swag is what a point guard needs.”

Cuan though had a caveat with it comes to comparisons with Lee. “And no, he doesn’t remind me of me because he can shoot. I just did whatever need to be done for us to get that win.”

Lee is leading UST in minutes played with 34 minutes a game while averaging 17.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.5 steals.

Sta. Ana on the other hand is norming 12.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 1.0 steals in 25 minutes of play.

“I am surprised how they are performing now compared to last summer,” summed up Cuan of the Growling Tigers’ play. “I guess they have settled down and that takes away the pressure from them. As a fan and a former Tiger, we always have a chance. It’s just a matter of what you believe in.”

Where to, Red Warriors?

Where to, Red Warriors?
by rick olivares

When you look at the team bus of the University of the East Red Warriors, on both sides are some of the finest players to don not only the red and the white but also go to the professional ranks.

From left to right, there’s Elmer Espiritu, Roi Sumang, Mark Borboran, Hans Thiele, James Yap, Paul Lee, Raffy Reyes, Rudy Lingganay, Rob Labagala, and Val Acuña. Talented, solid, and game-changers – that’s what these players are. However, the one thing they do have in common is they were unable to lead UE, proud UE, back to the Promised Land of an UAAP title.

Unfortunately it looks like they will once again come away trophy-less… for the 32nd consecutive year. The last title they won was in 1985 with Allan Caidic, Jerry Codinera, and Boycie Zamar at the helm. The latter two tried to lead them back to glory but both left, disenchanted. They wanted to serve their alma mater but instead, they got burned by ungrateful players or politics.

And now this season… shake your head here and hold that thought.

Las Sunday, September 17, with 5:47 left to play, and UP leading 74-53, the University of the East Red Warriors seemingly threw the white flag. Their best player, Alvin Pasaol, was subbed out for Nick Abanto.

Pasaol never got back in the groove after he was pulled out in the first half on account of two fouls. Previously, they rode his luck and foul trouble and came out lacking in firepower when they needed him the most. Perhaps wanting to manage his fouls, he was kept on ice. And by the time he re-entered in the third period, UP has seized control and Pasaol simply never had any more influence in the game.

When he got yanked for good, he pulled out his shirt didn’t look like one happy camper. Not because he was pulled in my opinion, but even this early the Red Warriors seemingly are going nowhere fast. At 0-3 and the new UAAP season only eight days old, that sinking feeling is fast creeping in. And they have yet to face Adamson, Ateneo, and La Salle. They cannot even take UST that despite being 0-2 doesn’t look like a bad team. The potential is there.

Do the Red Warriors lack talent?

Not really. They have it. It is just a young team that has to get old real fast. What that means is no way should this team be in the dumps if they still had the team they had. Meaning a lot of players transferred. Where is Edgar Charcos – at Perpetual Help serving his residency? Bon Bon Batillier, who was the first recruit by Derrick Pumaren when he joined UE, is with Letran. Jordan Sta. Ana is making a case for the next King Growling Tiger. Joshua Gonzales is with La Salle. Fran Yu is studying in Thailand. Ralph Penuela is now with San Beda. Gino Jumao-as is somewhere. You can even go as far back in the previous years when Roi Sumang opted out of his last playing year and African players Charles Mammie and Moustapha Arafat were booted out even before they finished out their stint. Yes, there are reasons but when you keep losing people left and right especially when you consider that even assistant coaches Dindo Pumaren and Nonoy Falcasantos are but what does that say? During the Filoil Flying V Cup last summer, Dindo stood at the far end of the bench instead of the customary seat next to head coach and older brother Derrick Pumaren. Word is they clashed and the split was coming.

I thought that Renz Palma could be UE’s version of Ed Daquiaog, a wrecking ball on offense and defense. I thought that Paul Varilla would be really good. But no. Not even in their final years did they improve.

This UE team was so promising two years ago. They found their voice and style after they rebuilt from the ashes of Boycie Zamar’s talented but underachieving team (at least for the UAAP because they won some outside tourneys). Their hellacious defense was fun to watch. Yet theirs was a haphazard way of playing that was half-entertaining and half-maddening.

I thought that the job Manong did was incredible and make no mistake, I am a fan of his. He’s done a great job with La Salle, Jose Rizal University, and initially, UE. The trick about coaching is not to leave the ship in worse shape when you came in.

The four corners of hell defense looks like hell – a wasteland of turnovers and poor shots.

There’s talent. Mark Maloles is going to be good – unless he too bails out. Chris Conner will only get better. I think Jason Varilla will amount to something. Clark Derige could be something. Yet like Mark Olayon, it’s confidence and consistency.

This coming Sunday, they’ll face top-ranked Ateneo. It is both good and bad. Good because in the past two pre-seasons, they defeated the Blue Eagles. The problem is, it was the pre-season because come the UAAP, it was UE that got clobbered.

Not a bad sign? Maybe, but at this point, they have nothing to lose but to go out and flat our play.

And maybe next time, the player they add to the side of their team bus, will have led them back to the Promised Land.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Menudo, hi-jinks with Cris Bolado

Menudo, hi-jinks with Cris Bolado
by rick olivares pic from philstar

Former National University and PBA player Cris Bolado passed away yesterday, Sunday morning, after being involved in a vehicular accidental in Pnom Penh, Cambodia where he had a business.

When I heard the news, I was saddened not because he passed away too young -- -the reports are conflicting and they place him at either 47 or 48 – but because I personally knew him.

People describe him as “fun” and “fun-loving”. And I’ll attest to that. He had this gift for gab despite playing for some woeful teams in college.

At the time, Cris suited up for NU in the late 1980s, the Bulldogs would before or after a game at the Araneta Coliseum or the Ateneo gym would hang out at a nearby eatery along 8th Avenue corner Main Avenue in Cubao. That eatery was owned by their head coach the late Sonny Paguia.

I used to live literally a stone’s throw away and Tito Sonny would call me when his team was there. He knew I loved college ball and followed the fortunes not only of my alma mater, Ateneo, but that of other schools.

Truth to tell, those NU teams weren’t very good. Back then, they were the league’s whipping boys. Yet somehow, they have had chances to pull the rug from under schools especially La Salle. Let me reiterate, chances.

One time, the Bulldogs held a four-point lead and had ball possession with less than a minute left. True to their luck, they lost it to Dindo Pumaren and the Green Archers.

Before another game, Tito Sonny once told the team inside the dugout of the old Loyola Center in Ateneo that if they can beat Ateneo (the Blue Eagles had a number of injuries heading into the encounter), they could eat all the menudo they want.

You see, one of the specialties of Tito Sonny’s eatery was menudo. It was absolutely delicious that when I wasn’t happy with the food at home, I’d walk over to the eatery and gorge on the menudo.

Now Cris wasn’t called “Jumbo Bolado” for nothing. He was the original “extra rice” and he loved Tito Sonny’s menudo. I will never forget what to the old followers of the game call, “the menudo game” when during the match, Bolado pushed Jet Nieto, father of current Blue Eagles Matt and Mike to grab the defensive board and put it back into Ateneo’s basket! Gasp! Yes, horror of horrors. Cris scored two points for Ateneo. The crowd went nuts. Tito Sonny put his hand on his head not sure whether to laugh or cry. Maybe he wanted to do both.

After the game – NU lost – Tito Sonny glared at his players and Bolado and yelled, “No menudo!”

Then a year later, he was playing for Yeng Guiao’s Swift Hotdogs in the old PABL. That was a star-studded team that played Philips Sardines in the finals. They had Alvin Patrimonio, Peter Aguilar, Zaldy Realubit, Ric Ric Marata, Elmer Cabahug, and Ato Agustin to name a few. Bolado didn’t see much playing time but he was already that lucky charm. And that incidentally, was the first sports event that I covered as a budding sports writer while still in college.

During the victory party held at the Swift offices along Pioneer Street, we were served pizza among many others, Cris asked Mr. Joey Concepcion if he could bring home a box of pizza. Sure, Mr. Concepcion said. Now after the party, Cris went to Tito Sonny’s eatery and sought out his college coach. “Coach, para sa inyo,” he said.

Tito Sonny grinned. After all lamang na si Jumbo sa kanya sa championships. Then Jumbo threw a curveball, “Coach, trade ko yung pizza para sa menudo.”

Tito Sonny almost fell off the chair in laughter. And that is why whenever I see menudo, I think of Cris.

When he was winning all these titles in the PBA as a back-up center, he one time said, he’d trade his championship rings for a NU title. Totoo, asked Tito Sonny aloud.

Siguro one or two rings lang, he took back. We had a hearty laugh.

RIP, Cris. Thanks for being a friend.