The SBP Passerelle Basketball segment
BLEACHER TALK - Rico Navarro (The Freeman) - August 19, 2017 - 4:00pm

With the CESAFI now into its regular stream of games for both the college and high school divisions, it’s time for the younger age groups to get going. After all, this is where all the high school and college players started, di ba? Aside from the UAAP, NCAA and our very own CESAFI, there’s the BEST Center’s SBP Passerelle Twin Tournament backed by Milo. It’s not as popular as the big leagues, but its presence and influence has slowly but surely been felt across the country. The Cebu leg kicked off yesterday at the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu with thirteen teams composing the league: five teams in the SBP division and eight in the Passerelle division. The other local leagues also started yesterday while the Manila leg started in July. But what’s so important about this tournament that has been run by the BEST Center in partnership with Milo for the past 32 years, one of the longest-running and strongest partnerships in the country?

The first big highlight is that the two age group/divisions involved are from the developmental age groups. The Small Basketeers Philippines or SBP division is for players in the Under 12, 11 and 10 age groups. Every team has five players for each age group: U12, U11 and U10. On the other hand, the Passerelle age group is for the Under 15, 14 and 13 age groups.  Like the SBP division, all teams have five players per age group so as to guarantee continuity for all basketball team programs involved and to spread the basketball influence to as many as possible down the age group ladder. Did you know that the Ravena brothers Kiefer and Thirdy played in both the SBP and Passerelle divisions for their respective schools? And so did the likes of LA Tenorio, Jeron Teng, Chris Tiu, Larry Fonacier and so many more. Many of today’s professional and collegiate players grew up as basketball players in the SBP Passerelle battles and gained the much-needed exposure and experience while they were still young. For us Cebuano hoops fans, Cebuano Batang Gilas national players like Paul Desiderio, Kris Porter, Dawn Ochea, Leonard Santillan, Dave Yu and Jed Colonia are among the ones who played in the SBP Passerelle tournament. My guess is that all members of the Batang Gilas teams of the past four to five years all played in the league.

Another highlight is the nationwide scope of the tournament. The SBP Passerelle is split into four major areas: Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Metro Manila stands as a region on its own. Luzon is composed of Baguio, Pangasinan, Pampanga and Quezon. Mindanao has Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga. The Visayas is composed of Bacolod, Iloilo, Roxas and Cebu. Each of these areas have their respective local tournaments, then each local champion qualifies for their area/regional finals. The four regional champions then converge in a season-ending national finals. Metro Manila teams are almost always national champions but we in the probinsya have managed to steal some national championships as well. UV won the national Passerelle championship in 2014, while SHS-Ateneo de Cebu won two straight national Passerelle titles in 2010 and 2011. The SBP division has been dominated by Manila for the longest time and it doesn’t look like we have a shot at taking them down.

Another unique highlight are the rules on playing time for all. All players are required to see action in all games. Since each team is composed of 15 players, a team is required to field in different sets of five players in each of the first three quarters. The fourth quarter is open basketball with coaches free to choose who they want. In street lingo, this system is called the “barangayan” style or format: a different “barangay” per quarter in the first three periods. This gives everyone the much-needed exposure and doesn’t make anyone a bench-warmer. Everyone plays at least one quarter, and that’s already “sulit” for a young player. But the exposure is not only for the players. Young coaches who take up coaching for a career, learn the ropes in the SBP Passerelle tournament and mature/develop as coaches. This kind of experience provides players and coaches the much-sought development and mileage before they move up to the high school (Under 18) and collegiate ranks.

For the tournament this year: The Cebu leg’s defending champion in both divisions is UV. UV placed second to La Salle Greenhills in the national finals last year. This year’s teams in the SBP division are UV, SHS-Ateneo de Cebu, Don Bosco, University of San Carlos and Southwestern University-PHINMA. The Passerelle division is composed of UV, SHS-Ateneo de Cebu, Don Bosco, SWU-PHINMA, USC, USPF, Abellana and Cebu Eastern College. This year’s tournament is wide open with no clear favorites, although UV is tabbed to defend is double championships. SHS-Ateneo, USC and Don Bosco are picked to give UV troubles, owing to their ballculbs’ history and basketball program. But as they say, “lignin ang bola” and anything can happen.

And so for the 32nd year, young student-athletes take to the court to have fun, make new friends, compete, and play the game that they love. Let’s watch them enjoy their moment, encourage them to give all they’ve got and see them grow up to become better persons. Be the BEST!

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