Legendary high school basketball coach Ato Badolato
How Coach Ato Badolato helped many a basketball player
Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - May 29, 2020 - 1:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — Edmundo “Ato” Badolato is a coaching legend in the high school ranks. Under his tutelage, he turned the San Beda Red Cubs into a nationwide power.

Many of his players went on to have bigger careers in the collegiate circuit as well as the pros. Among his galaxy of stars are two of the Philippine Basketball Association’s 40 Greatest Players in Ronnie Magsanoc and Benjie Paras. Other players with storied careers themselves include Eric Altamirano, Dindo Pumaren, Gerry Esplana, Jolly Escobar, Chris Calaguio, Renren Ritualo, LA Tenorio, JV Casio, LA Revilla and Nico Salva to name but a very few.

Many of his former wards have themselves followed his footsteps into coaching, and that includes Magsanoc, Altamirano, Pumaren, Esplana, Paul Du, Ford Arao and Tyrone Bautista among others. Of this storied group, the most successful has been Altamirano, who has won two PBA championships with Talk ‘N Text and Purefoods and a UAAP title with National University.

Reflected Altamirano on his journey with Badolato, “I started my formal basketball with him and he gave me all these opportunities to reach my dreams of playing college and professional basketball. My relationship with Coach Ato didn’t end in high school. Until now, he is a part of my life.” 

Badolato serves as tournament director for the National Basketball Training Center, which has become one of the most eagerly anticipated secondary school tournaments by schools all over the country as well as Filipino teams based abroad. The NBTC was conceived and organized by Altamirano and Alex Compton, but Badolato’s connections across the country helped bring in participation from provincial squads across the nation.

The tournament went from about a dozen teams to over 300 squads competing for the right to play in the NBTC National Finals.

“Our connection remains long, deep, and personal,” added Altamirano, who pointed to his eldest son, Anton, having the distinction of being coach by Badolato himself. “Coach is an institution. Who knows? Maybe even Anton’s children might play for him.”

Not every star player for Badolato has gone on to have a successful career. Former player Britt Reroma succeeded Badolato in minding the Red Cubs team and has gone on to make a name for himself in coaching.

“He recruited me when I was a 12-year-old boy who was a part of the Best Center Philippine team in a Las Vegas and Los Angeles tournament,” shared the Cebu-born Reroma. “When I was unable to finish my varsity season with the seniors team, he made sure that I was able to finish my studies at San Beda. I was a volunteer assistant coach with him with the Red Cubs and yet, he paid for my tuition fee just to finish my course! And when he was finished coaching in high school, he named me as his successor. He is like a second father to me as well as a mentor.”

“He reinforced in me three important values that I have applied as a coach and as a person — the values of discipline, hard work, and humility. Plus, he was never late to any practice or even any game throughout his career. That leaves an impression on you. I owe him a lot.”

Reroma piloted San Beda to three consecutive NCAA juniors crowns from 2010-12 and last coached Zamboanga in the MPBL.

One big name player who played for San Beda was not actually recruited by Badolato. And yet, he became storied player for the Red Cubs. And that is Ritualo. 

Remembered the sharp-shooting guard, who is one of the deadliest in UAAP and PBA history, “I was a walk-on. I tried out for the team. (When I got to the Red Cubs), he helped me a lot. He developed me to be the best I could possibly be.”

Ritualo also shared a time during a scrimmage where he tried to showboat and ended up missing a dunk. For his penance, Ritualo was asked to touch the ring 20 times. “I had to make sure of my shot — sure ball,” laughed Ritualo. “That and simple lang and laro.”

If Ritualo tried out, Tenorio fortuitously transferred after starting out with Adamson.

“We had some coaching changes on the team (that didn’t sit well with me),” Tenorio said of that time. “So I transferred to San Beda and it proved to be the best situation for me. Coach Ato not only helped me improve my game but he guided me as well. I would eat my lunch at his office so I could learn more from the game and his thoughts about the game. Siya naging tatay ko during my high school years.”

For Salva, he knew of Badolato even when he was playing for La Salle Greenhills.

“I knew of coach Ato’s legend status and the players he produced. San Beda was interested in getting me but I opted to stay a few more years in La Salle. By my third year, I decided to transfer and Coach Ato was very gracious in accepting me. He gave me a lot of confidence that allowed me to develop my game.”

Although Salva’s Red Cubs were unable to bag a NCAA Junior title as they ran into Ryan Buenafe’s amazing and talented San Sebastian squads, he found his success in the college ranks when he joined Ateneo. Coincidentally, Buenafe was his teammate there. And in Nico’s five years in the blue side of Katipunan, he won five straight UAAP men’s basketball championships.

“It was the opportunities I got at San Beda that allowed me to go to Ateneo,” summed up Salva. And from there Salva has found a home in the PBA with Meralco under his college coach, Norman Black. “You never forget the people who helped you along the way, and Coach Ato is one of them.”

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