UE's Chris Javier dreams overtime for his college career

Javier, left, jockeyeing for position against Ateneo's Alfonzo Gotladera | File Photo

MANILA, Philippines - Time is a precious commodity.
 
More so when your college basketball career is winding down.
 
There are five games left in Chris Javier's five-year career with the University of the East Red Warriors. Unless his squad makes the Final Four that is all he has left.
 
If he could turn back the hands of time, Javier would. This is the first real season where he has gotten serious playing time with serious productivity. During his sophomore year, his star looked to shoot up. He hit back-to-back game winners - first against UP and then against five-peat seeking Ateneo. That campaign, Chris averaged 10.6 points and 6.9 rebounds, an increase from his rookie numbers of 4.6 points and 4.6 rebounds an outing.
 
Of those game-winning shots, each of those passes came from teammate Roi Sumang, his former foe turned teammate.
 
Sumang was a star for the Letran Squires along with Kevin Alas, Glenn Khobuntin, and Jarelan Tampus while Javier played behind Alfonso Gotladera in San Beda where he counted Baser Amer, Van Abatayo, and Francis Abarcar as teammates. At UE, they were lost souls.
 
They lost heavily in those early years in UE more than they ever did in their high school careers. It didn't help that there was a revolving door of coaches - both played for three head coaches in UE -- Jerry Codinera, Boycie Zamar, and Derek Pumaren. "The hardest part was adjusting to a different system almost every year," explained the 6'5" center.
 
After one win, Sumang blurted out, "We have forgotten what winning is like. We are just so sick and tired of losing that I want to enjoy this moment."
 
It wasn't just that UE was overmatched against some teams; they also suffered from chemistry issues. Javier admitted that he didn't adjust well to playing alongside former center Charles Mammie. "I played off-position at power forward. Looking back, maybe I wasn't mature enough to handle it," he reflected. "I have to admit that Charles was a big part of our team. He gave us a chance to win."
 
Those Red Warriors began making serious noises about barging into the Final Four with a now veteran crew whose biggest problem was big game experience. The Red Warriors won a bunch of pre and post-season tournaments but faltered in the UAAP. 
 
Growing up in San Pedro, Laguna, Javier learned the game of basketball by default. He was more oft than not the tallest kid. "I didn't know about the three-second violation. The only thing I knew was I had to put my hands up to try and block a shot." He soon learned the game from relatives and began watching the PBA where he rooted for the mid-1990s Ginebra teams that featured Marlou Aquino, Noli Locsin, Vince Hizon, Bal David and Pido Jarencio among others.
 
There was a choice between playing for De La Salle Zobel and San Beda but he opted for the latter. "I didn't know anything about San Beda, its tradition of winning, nothing. I was just a kid whose world was in Laguna," Chris admitted. He helped in maintaining the Red Cubs' legacy and when it was time to go to college, he was supposed to go to La Salle with Gotladera after being recruited by then head coach Dindo Pumaren. However, Bedan alumni advised to him to play elsewhere because he they felt he would always play in the shadow of his teammate who started every match.
 
"And it was a chance to play in the UAAP where my father once played." Chris' father Randy once played for the Adamson Falcons. 
 
But the Red Warriors were such a roller coaster ride that Javier thought about leaving school. "The losing, the constant changes, the frustration, it gets to you after a while," he thought of those turbulent days that wasn't too long ago.
 
As fate would have it, Dindo and Derrick Pumaren took over two years ago. "I didn't play for Coach Dindo in La Salle but now I am with him and Coach Derrick in UE," said Javier. "It was fate. And it turned out to be good for us. This is the first time, I felt that we as a team were more committed defensively. And that goes for me as well."
 
More than that, "Manong" as the head coach is affectionately called by all his current and past players, has demanded top fitness and conditioning. And the young Red Warriors, with few veterans, has been slugging it out even with a 3-6 record. 
 
The renewed passion finds Javier posting career numbers - 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in six matches. Not the numbers he likes as he feels he can do much more. "The key is to do more to help my team get to the Final Four. Kulang pa kami sa maturity as a team. But we have to try."
 
While UST and FEU are pulling away from the pack record-wise, the middle teams are close to one another. The margin for error getting smaller each game. "Our situation isn't just in our hands. We have to do our part to win all our last remaining games and hope the others drop a few as well. If that's how it is then we have to go out fighting," said Javier.
 
While every player dreams of making it to the pros (and Javier has his dreams too), Javier wishes he had another year with UE. "Coach Manong has stabilized the program. Everyone is excited about what is going on. Of course, we'd love to have a better record but when you think of the turnover of players we've had it's hard. We've had chances to win many games this year but the problem has been closing them out. Obviously, we need more maturity as a team. But it is good situation."
 
"What would be good though is to make it to the Final Four to make the UE students and alumni happy and have another playing year."
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