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Flying V Thunders: Fueling a dream

Legendary coach Aric del Rosario (right) chats with a ward as once UAAP top guard  Eric Salamat approaches | Contributed Photo
MANILA, Philippines – It has been two weeks since news broke out that television giant ABS-CBN was pulling out of its broadcast deal with the newly formed Country-Wide Basketball League (CWBL), a new regional basketball tournament in the pattern of the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association. 
 
The reason was financial viability – a clause inserted in the contract – that was suddenly pointed out a few weeks before tip-off. The shocking thing was both parties were deep into working for tip-off that was a few weeks away. If money was a problem, one club sponsor was willing to put up the cash as league title sponsor. Interestingly, the television coveror still balked, leaving more questions than answers.
 
The former Flying V Davao Thunders, now dropping the “Davao” from its name, is still practicing. Team management is trying to figure out where to play next — the Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League (PCBL) or the Asean Basketball League (ABL). And there is word that the organizers of the CWBL are cooking up something as well.
 
They’re in the midst of a week-long practices that will culminate with a tine-up match versus the De La Salle Green Archers next week. 
 
It’s 10 a.m. at the Filoil Flying V Centre. That sports arena hidden behind an international school and next to a minimum security prison and the San Juan City regional trial court is quiet on a Wednesday. There’s no collegiate basketball or semi-pro volleyball being played. The Thunders now have the arena to themselves.
 
Under the watchful eye of veteran and multi-titled coach Aric Del Rosario, the team practices.
 
It’s a mixture of former PBA players and some recent graduates from college ball. Basketball is their life. It what fuels them and their professional dreams and it is what puts food on the table. Some are former stars while others aren’t even know; not even receiving some newspaper ink during their time in college.
 
Perhaps the most known ones are former Letran center Mark Andaya who suited up for six PBA teams; the last though as a practice player for KIA during its maiden pro league season; and Eric Salamat, a vital cog in Ateneo’s champion teams from 2008-10, and who also played for three PBA squads although sparingly. 
 
The least known ones are Mikey Cabahug, who played for the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ Team B during his entire college career, and De Ocampo College’s Richard Albo. During the latter’s tryout for the Flying V team, he kept drilling one shot after another from almost every angle of the court save the half-court line, prompting the coaches to ask, “Who is this kid?”
 
Richard Albo, from De Ocampo Memorial College. “Where is De Ocampo Memorial College?”
 
Oh, it’s near Pureza in old Sta. Mesa.
 
The “ohhs” still betray a little ignorance. Where do they play anyway?
 
Now, he’s on this team with high hopes of proving he’s got game.
 
On the side, Del Rosario, the old warhorse, talks about elevating Gwyne Capacio’s game. He likes the former Blue Eagle swingman. He thinks that Capacio can tinker with his shot to improve it and help turn him into a better attacking forward. He pulls the son of former FEU and PBA great Glenn Capacio aside and offers pointers on his drive, his positioning around the basket.
 
Luis Sinco is another player who Del Rosario talks to. “Don’t wait,” he tells the former College of Saint Benilde player. “If the defense isn’t set, attack.”
 
Cabahug has continued to impress. Along with former La Salle and UP sniper Sam Marata, they are the designated long-range bombers. “Patay,” invokes Del Rosario every time either player finds them self open for a shot that hits the bottom of the net. It is Cabahug who is on fire this day. “Sayang ‘tong batang ‘to,” says Del Rosario who wonders why this sharp-shooter of the Cebu’s Cabahug clan didn’t make Ateneo’s UAAP line-up.
 
Like Albo, now, Cabahug is on this team with high hopes of proving he’s got game.
 
There’s Oda Tampus, the Cebuano and former Letran Knights star who went to La Salle but found himself benched. During a pre-season tournament that found the Green Archers playing in Cebu, Tampus, with his family watching from the stands in the Cebu Coliseum, were upset that even with five minutes to play and La Salle certain of victory, their son had yet to get up from the bench. When the crowd began chanting his name, only then did the coaching staff acquiesce to fielding him. And he hit some big shots to stem their foe’s rally.
 
Well now, he’s here and has hopes of proving he’s got game.
 
That is typical Aric Del Rosario basketball. If you watched his teams from the University of Santo Tomas to the Pampanga Dragons to the University of Perpetual Help Altas, you would know they liked an uptempo game where they were repeatedly at a foe’s face and one that played frenetic defense; hounding opposing ball carriers.
 
Del Rosario likes the intensity of the day’s practice with some — Andaya is a notorious talker, Jun Jun Cabatu, and Brian Ilad amping up the level. “That’s the way it should be - intense,” barks Andaya to no one in particular. “But with fun.”
 
In a race to 20, Salamat calls his shot. “Three-pointer to end the game.”
 
And he does.
 
Next practice, the team talks. Some wonder and hope that they’ll finally receive word of where the team will play soon.
 
It is hope that fuels the team's collective basketball dream.

 

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