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Freeman Cebu Sports

Grassroots basketball update

BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro - The Freeman

With the CESAFI basketball tournament shifting into high gear and later the playoffs, it’s time to take time out and check out what’s happening at the grassroots level, the source of majority of players who are now seeing action in the CESAFI high school and collegiate divisions. If you check out the games at the CESAFI, one can’t help but notice that many of them played during their younger years, albeit not as popular and as high profile as the “big” leagues.

Cebu youth basketball is just as active as the CESAFI, with games played all-year round. Since the basketball year follows the school-year, the first big tournament is the BEST SBP Passerelle Tournament sponsored by Milo. The tournament is also more popularly known as “Milo BEST.” The Small Basketeers Philippines (SBP) division is for the Under 12, 11 and 10 age groups, while the Passerelle division is for the Under 15, 14 and 13 age groups. The primary goals of the games are to provide basketball exposure to young prospects, introduce them to competition and simply have fun. This year’s SBP champion is the University of the Visayas. They defeated the University of San Carlos last week in a nail-biting double overtime game, 66-64. UV had earlier bowed to USC in the elimination round of the tournament, and went into the game as an underdog. On the other hand, USC was seeking a second straight Under 12 title after winning the M. Lhuillier CYBL VISMIN Goodwill Games over the summer where they defeated UV, 64-40 in the championship game. SHS-Ateneo de Cebu settled for third place while USJ-R was fourth. Don Bosco Technology Center placed fifth. Ongoing right now is the Milo Little Olympics Visayas Regional Finals in Iloilo where USC is going for the gold medal against either Hua Siong College of Iloilo or St. Roberts Iloilo Academy today.

It was another upset case in the Passerelle division when SHS-Ateneo de Cebu stunned USC, 81-74, in the championship game last July. The Magis Eagles caught the Baby Warriors off guard after USC had literally rampaged through the competition in the elimination round and semifinals. So dominant was the USC Passerelle team that they swept the two pre-season tournaments: M.Lhuillier Summer League and the M.Lhuillier CYBL VISMIN Goodwill Games. They were undefeated all summer and until that ill-fated BEST Passerelle championship game. It was thus ironic and tragic that for both the SBP and Passerelle divisions, the team that swept the opposition in the elimination round and semifinals lost their only games of the season in the finals, the games that mattered most. The other Passerelle division’s top teams were UV which copped third place; Cebu Eastern College settled for fourth place. The other Passerelle teams were USPF, Don Bosco, USJ-R and SWU. The UV SBP and SHS-Ateneo de Cebu Passerelle teams will thus represent Cebu in the Visayas Regional Finals of the BEST SBP Passerelle Twin Tournament which will be held in Bacolod City November 7-8. Should they win there, they play in the national finals which will be hosted by Baguio in December.

The players who move up from the Passerelle division join the high school or juniors ranks of their schools. In fact, some existing Passerelle players are already regular players on their high school juniors teams that are playing in the CESAFI basketball tournament. Among the college players who once played in the SBP and Passerelle or CYBL tournaments include the likes of USC’s Kiefer Lim, Ian Ortega, Gio Laguyo, Dolan Adlawan, Mavi Suarez; UV’s June Manzo, Leonard Santillan, Vincent Mendoza; SWU’s Kier Clam; USPF’s Alain Alocillo, Clyde Avancena, Winston Bolivar, Dexter Silorio; USJ-R’s RJ Dinolan, Renzo Senining, Kent Moral, Nino Dave Paon; UC’s Joseph Mayol, Clint Suelto; CIT-U’s Jessie Aloro, Mark Kong, Marlo Pono, Wilkin Sanchez, and so many more. The Juniors squads of all CESAFI teams are also stacked with “graduates” from the Passerelle division and the CYBL. But there’s more. Did you notice how Paul Desiderio, Henry Asilum and Pio Longa contributed to the win of U.P. over La Salle in the UAAP? They’re also Passerelle and CYBL products. Also in Manila are Janjan Jaboneta (UP), Dawn Ochea of Adamson, Dave Yu of NU, Zachy Huang of UST, Roger Pogoy and Ron Dennison of FEU; Koko Pingoy of Ateneo; Julius Cadavis of Arellano.

But Cebu Youth Basketball doesn’t stop there. Up next is the CYBL D-League which will expand in terms of age groups. The tournament will feature the following age groups: Under 10, 12, 15 and 18 divisions. The tournament has set a target to start in September and end around November. More teams are expected join since the age groups will be divided into two Divisions. Division 1 is for the competitive teams coming from the traditional basketball programs. Division 2 is for the Team Bs of these programs and the smaller basketball school or teams with developmental programs. Earlier in the year, the CYBL hosted its CYBL Cup from January to March. This was followed by the M. Lhuillier Summer League from April to May, and the M. Lhuillier CYBL VISMIN Goodwill Games also in May.

So if you’re wondering if all these top players developed their game overnight, the answer is “no.” They spent their developmental stages earlier in their careers playing in grassroots ball.

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