The author with former UST star Val Rosabal
Ex-UST star Val Rosabal weighs in on Ayo’s Tigers
Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - November 11, 2019 - 11:44am

MANILA, Philippines – “Once a Glowing Goldie… always a Growling Tiger.”

Valentino Rosabal was in a happy mood following the huge 89-69 win by his alma mater, the University of Santo Tomas, over the University of the Philippines in the first game of the step-ladder series of the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball tournament. 

The 80-year-old former UST basketball star of the early 1960s (he led them to the 1961 title and was named Rookie of the Year) watched the game from the comfort of his sofa at his home in the Timog area of Quezon City. Time was he would be in the stands to watch and cheer, but now at 80 years of age and battling some ailments, it is almost impossible for him to go. 

“I try to watch every game of UST,” he conceded.“But now, on television.”

Rosabal may not be physically in the game venue, but he has some fingerprints left on this team. He helped bring graduating forward Zachary Huang from Ateneo de Cebu to España. And he is also pushing some players toward some of his friends in the PBA, Yeng Guiao included.

Ever the point guard… pointing the way.

When Rosabal came out of Cagayan de Oro, he was still in high school and already playing for a seniors squad. A coach, Herr Silva, spotted him and brought him to UST. At that time, high schoolers playing in the college level were few. Caloy Loyzaga was the first and perhaps is the most celebrated. The only other big name to accomplish that was Ateneo’s Steve Watson and that would be a good 15-plus years after Rosabal followed Loyzaga.

Rosabal did win an MVP award while playing for UST then went to play for Yco and then Ysmael in the old MICAA. 

“I was lucky because I got to play for some of the best coaches in Philippine basketball,” related Rosabal. “I played for Fely Fajardo in both UST and the Ysmael Steel Admirals, for Leo Prieto with the Yco Painters, Baby Dalupan in the UAAP selection, and Caloy Loyzaga.”

His first car was a second hand Italian car, Fiat, while playing for Ysmael. Every player was given a car via salary deduction and he loved that Fiat. Sadly though, once he hurt his knee, his career was over by 1969. “Back in the day, when you hurt your knee that was it.”

Nevertheless, he found work and as he was a Commerce graduate of UST, it was an easy transition for him. 

He formed lifelong friendships with of his opponents such as Turo Valenzona, who played for FEU, and even those who he didn’t play against such as Ateneo’s Ricky Palou (who was an officemate of his in the old Far East Bank where they worked after they hung up their sneakers).

Watching the Growling Tigers, he is thrilled no end. “If (Aldin) Ayo wins it all this year, they should put up a statue of his inside the campus and give his family a scholarship for life.”

Rosabal also has a soft heart for Ateneo. “I nearly went there,” he confided. “I was afraid because the school is known to be a stickler for making the grade. I wasn’t sure if I could cope.” Had he gone to Loyola Heights, he would have been teammates with former Blue Eagles Dodie Agcaoili and Dodo Martelino who led the blue and white to the 1961 NCAA crown.”

“But you go where you need to go,” he said. “And I am a happy Thomasian.”

Rosabal marvels at the speed of current UST rookie Mark Nonoy. But he is impressed with graduating guard Renzo Subido because he gives it his all and plays the game the right way. 

“I couldn’t shoot though,” he says with modesty when comparing himself to Subido. I disagree. One does not win a Rookie of the Year or Most Valuable Player Award by simply passing the ball and great defense. He has to be able to score. 

After UST’s win, he celebrated with a spring chicken meal (from Max’s) that is his favorite. “A big win deserves a good meal.”

He hopes his UST can go all the way. “If that happens, I will find a way to attend even one championship game. With my friends Turo, Ricky Palou and Dodie Agcaoili.”

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