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Student first before athlete: Junior Altas coach Cleopas to instill discipline, humility to players

Emmanuel B. Villaruel (The Freeman) - April 20, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Cebuano bench tactician Joph Cleopas is now officially the head coach of Junior Altas, the high school basketball team of his beloved alma mater University of Perpetual Help System Dalta (UPHSD) in the NCAA.

“Praise God! Finally, it’s official. Greater things ahead. May God bless us more wisdom and strength. Thank you to those people who made this happen,” Cleopas wrote on his Facebook moments after signing his contract before UPHSD sports director Frank Gusi yesterday.

“I felt very blessed because many are qualified to coach but I’m the one who was chosen,” Cleopas, who is also a skills, strength and conditioning trainer, added in a separate interview.

Cleopas once played for Junior Altas in the NCAA Season 81 back in 2005 but he returned to his hometown Cebu to study and coach the University of Southern Philippines Foundation (USPF) Baby Panthers in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI).

That kick-started his bright coaching career.  Cleopas went on to serve as assistant of coaches Jamike Jarin and Boyet Fernandez with the San Beda Red Lions that clinched a rare 3-peat championship in the NCAA. For three years from 2016 to 2018, he was one of the deputies of former head coach Aldin Ayo at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers in the UAAP.

As chief strategist of the Junior Altas, Cleopas said he will instill in his players the value of discipline and humility and make them play the role of being a student first before an athlete.

“I will start first with discipline and to teach my players to become a student first before an athlete,” shared  Cleopas, who also worked as conditioning coach for Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3’s professional teams. “As for my coaching philosophy, God is our priority because without Jesus in our life we are nothing. I believe that humility is the key to success. When you stay low, then you will grow. Stay humble.”

Part of Cleopas’ immediate plans is to recruit and develop players who are deserving in the team not just from Cebu but also coming from different provinces in the country.

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