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News Magazine
Operated by couple Eddie Flores and Orquidia Valenzuela
News and Views of the
Filipino Community Worldwide

By Mike Cruz-Coach
May 10, 2017


In February 2016 we embarked a journey back home to the Philippines to represent Canada at the SM National High School Basketball Championships in Manila. It was the first time that an international team was invited to compete against the best high school teams in the Philippines.

This was made possible through NBTC Director Coach Eric Altamirano. Back then we had so many lessons learned including a heart breaking loss to 2014 National Champions Chang Kai Shek College. But we did not go home empty handed as we were able to reach the finals of 3x3 NBTC before losing to eventual champion and crowd favorite Team Davao. James Canlas, Evyn Santiago, Robert Ocampo, Matthew Daves and Avan Nava also had college and university interest and offers. James Canlas at that time was religiously courted by National University and San Beda. It even prompted San Beda team manager Jude Roque to come to Canada and make a formal offer to James and Evyn.

A year after, we made our return and hoped to redeem ourselves at the 2017 edition. With us were NBTC veteran campaigners Evyn Santiago, Alvin Florido, Robert Ocampo, Andre Cruz, Matthew Daves with new additions Nic Malabanan, Ben Kwawukumey, Brendon Ocampo and Max Cruz. Aside from the 2017 SM NBTC we were also to participate at the 2nd Dreamers International 18U Boys Basketball Challenge at the Batis Aramin Resort in Lucban, Quezon.

As usual the delegation was very excited but much relaxed compared to last year. We arrived at the dawn of March 12 and played our first game the next day against the current NCAA Jr. Champion MAPUA. We held our ground through the game even leading as much as 17 points at one time but lost 84-82 in the end game where the champs continued to persevere and had steadier nerves to win the game.

But just like a wild fire in the bush news spread out around the basketball community about the Canadians giving the NCAA champs a run for their money before losing the game. Matthew Daves had a monstrous game with 27 points and 19 rebounds. This prompted local university and college coaches to wake up early and watch Team Canada’s second game against New Zealand.

Coaches Boyet Fernandez from San Beda, Olsen Racela from FEU, Tab Baldwin from Ateneo, Bo Perasol from UP, Jerry Codinera from Arellano, TY Tang from College of St. Benilde, Franz Pumaren from Adamson, Derek Pumaren from UE, Boy Sablan from UST, Aldin Ayo from La Salle and many others were in attendance to watch our game and scout for some players. We won our second game handily against the New Zealanders with Evyn Santiago adjudged as the Freego Best Player of the Game. The win led us to a do or die match against the newly crowned UAAP Jrs. Champ FEU for a place at the semis.

Unfortunately, the game was played outside of the Mall of Asia arena and placed us in a big disadvantage due to a very hot weather condition. We played at the Palm Spring covered court and the gym was jam packed with coaches, scouts, fans and supporters. We succumbed to the heat by the third quarter and lost by 12. Although we were not accustomed to such condition and coming from a winter season in Canada we gave our best until our bodies gave up due to cramps and dehydration. But again we gained the admiration of everybody and questions roamed around about what if they have played inside the air conditioned arena would the result have been different?

Once again we have failed to advance to the semis with the loss to FEU but we got lots of invites and interest from colleges and universities coaches and scouts after the tournament. Matthew Daves gained interest from Ateneo, UP, FEU and UST. Nic Malabanan is being courted by Ateneo, UP, FEU and St. Benilde – La Salle. Eyeing Evyn Santiago were Sand Beda, Arellano, UP, UST and FEU. St. Benilde and FEU requested audience with Rob Ocampo. While Andre Cruz is being considered by Ateneo, Ben Kwakukumey by St. Benilde and Alvin Florido by San Beda. We also had the consolation of having Evyn Santiago selected to play for the NBTC All Stars and Matthew Daves was a finalist at the Slam Dunk Competition.

The following week we were invited for a series of friendly games from interested college and universities. First stop was at the Ateneo de Manila where we personally met ex-Gilas coach Tab Baldwin. We were invited personally by Ateneo Team Manager Mr. Epok Quimpo whom I met at the NABA Inter City in Pennsylvania last year and visited in the Philippines last October 2016.  

Next stop was at FEU upon the invite of Coach Olsen Racela who had interest with Matthew, Nic, Evyn and Robert. We also had a chance to play the UP Maroons Junior Team arranged through a former high school mate Ramelson Labao and UST Team B through the efforts of Team Manager Gina Francisco.

We also had a courtesy visit to our Ambassador to the Philippines Hon. John Holmes at our Embassy in Makati. Here he provided us with words of encouragement for our next tournament in Lucban, Quezon.

After a day off to visit our relatives off we went to Batis Aramin Resort in Lucban Quezon where we were warmly welcomed by Pinoy Youth Dreamer Founder and Director Beaujing Acot and Batis Aramin Resort owner Chickoy and Gert Capistrano. We arrived late in the afternoon and right away splashed into the lovely pools of the resort to give ourselves a break and time to relax.

We attended the opening ceremony the next day and played George Washington High School from the US for the opening. Next assignment the following day was a local team from Lucena then a game against PYD Red the next morning that completed our elimination assignment. We topped our group and faced PYD Blue at the quarters and advanced to the semis.

On our semifinals game, we again faced a gritty local Lucban team fully supported by their town mates. The game was so intense with their Mayor watching from the sidelines. But we maintained our composure to win the game and capture the hearts of the locals. At the championship with almost everybody supporting us we faced Guam’s top ranked high school team Father Duenas who also happen to have an unbeaten record throughout the tournament.

The Guam team started very hot form the outside raining threes from all corners of the basket. But the talent and skills of the Canadian players were too much to handle and when the smoke cleared out even before the final buzzer it was all Team Canada. We were crowned as the 2nd Dreamers Boys 18U International Basketball Challenge Champs with Robert Ocampo winning the Most Valuable Player award and Andre Cruz making it to the Mythical Five.

Indeed, it was sweeter the second time around. Our return has been successful. Our overall experience has been amazing and we can’t wait for the next one. We gained lots of friends and interest along the way. Hopefully our Fil Canadian players will take the opportunity available to them and serve as an inspiration to other players here in Canada.

The seeds have been planted and we look forward to harvest the fruits in the near future. We will work to bring more opportunities to our youth for their future. To Mr. Eric Altamirano and NBTC Family I will always be in debt. Mr. Beaujing Acot and PYD Family thanks for the opportunity. Hats off to Mr. Epok Quimpo for helping us get support from SMART and Ms. Cha Junio of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Special thanks to FBL Commissioner Wallie Landicho and its directors Abe Oligane, Dome Florido, Leslie Ruiz and Adrian Vicencio for allowing Team Canada directly benefit from your Filipino Basektball League sponsors. Much respect to NABA Commish Ron Damasco and NABA family for the support and to Mr. Joaquin Taduran for the mentorship and advice. To all media outfits that helped us spread the good news to the community a big thanks from the bottom of Team Canada 2.0 hearts.

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