By Katherine Verances Marfal
As the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) began its new chapter on July 10, 2010, all is set to witness the unveiling of a brand new season. Aside from the glamorous opening where this year’s host De LaSalle University lead the rites, the spectators were also excited about the upcoming performances of all participating schools, especially in the Men’s Basketball.
University of the East Red Warriors and Far Eastern University Tamaraws are parading intact lineups as always. Adamson University Falcons is also a team to reckon after their impressive finish in some pre-season tournaments. Green Archers and University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers are on the rebuilding process but still surrounded with so much talent. National University Bulldogs will now have new voice under head coach Manolito “Eric” Gonzales and University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons is having the best roster in five years.
Of course, the team which caught the attention of everyone is back to back champion Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles. Even they lost three most important players from their title runs, the boys from Loyola are still capable of duplicating what they did in two years, especially with Norman Black in the sidelines. Throughout the years, the system of Black is the key ingredient in the Blue Eagles’ success.
It has been a year since they bagged their fifth men’s title; now, Black is ready to discuss their preparations for the upcoming season.
“We played in Father Martin’s Cup this summer; we played in Filoil Cup this summer, we trained in the states for few weeks. Since then we took one week off, then we came back to practice last Monday,” Black said.
He also insisted that there are not many changes about their preparation as compared to the recent years.
“No, the preparation remains the same, there are no changes. We still try to get the team in the best possible position and condition that we can. We also work on our offense and defense to prepare on the system”
Black also introduced five new guys from team B who will be vital in their quest for another crown.
“Were pretty lucky, we have five new players on the team Jp Erram, Jason Escueta, Jeric Estrada ,Art Dela Cruz and Paolo Balmaceda. Fortunately, we have five guys on Ateneo from team b to team a, who can fill the places of those players who leave. All things will be difficult just like a year before Chris Tiu left, most people said that we may not be strong next year because we will lose leadership and scoring. “
He is still confident that the guys who are coming in will fill up the shoes of the veterans who already graduated. Defensive specialist Nonoy Baclao, steady playmaker Jai Reyes and 2008 UAAP MVP Rabah Alhussani are not coming back this season. Eric Salamat and Ryan Buenafe are no longer assuming the supporting role. Salamat was a starter last year so that he doesn’t have any adjustments to his role according to 52 year-old mentor. Buenafe, former Rookie of the Year awardee is expected to be the focal point of Ateneo’s offense.
For Black, he believes that the players already adjust to their new roles on the team. Since their championship ride last season, the team competed in different tournaments without the three starters who already graduated. Aside from guiding the players in their basketball career, Black and Ateneo management are also making an effort in supporting their studies. Black described that being an Atenean is a big challenge for the players. The management is motivating the players to study and do well in their academic subjects. He also added that this is not a UAAP rule; it’s solely an Ateneo rule.
When asked, what are the similarities between his being a coach and a family man, here is what he said:
“Well you have to be a leader that is no. 1. You have to mange well and set a good example to your children”.
Black has a Filipina wife, whom he met through former Philippine Basketball Association commissioner Jun Bernardino. He has three children Dominic, 25 years old, Aaron, 13 years old, who is also playing in the junior basketball team of Ateneo, and his step son Kristoff who is already 32 years old.
(Photos by Katherine Verances Marfal)
(Katherine Verances Marfal is a freelance writer. Among the publications she writes for are the Manila Bulletin, Sports Digest, Panorama and Pilipino Star Ngayon. She is also a Web Content Writer and teaches Pre-school at Philippine Normal University).