The San Beda College seniors basketball team showed a glimpse of their 2016 starting five in their Final Four match versus Jose Rizal University last Tuesday, when head coach Jamike Jarin fielded in the likes of Dan Sara, AC Soberano, Donald Tankoua, Ranbill Tongco, and Javee Mocon to dispose the stubborn Heavy Bombers in a fourth quarter barrage.
Observers may have raised their eyebrows as to why Jarin, a long-time Philippine youth basketball and high school head coach, fielded their young guns against the hulking Jose Rizal veterans.
While San Beda’s graduating starting five comprised of Ola Adeogun, Arthur de la Cruz, Baser Amer, Ryusei Koga, and Michael Sorela struggled in that game, Jarin obviously wanted to prove one thing: The young Lions are ready to replace the old guards, and 2015 will not be the final stand of the San Beda dynasty.
What makes the San Beda system the most successful collegiate basketball program in recent history is not really about star players, or stellar coaches, or those black behemoths they have actively recruited for the past ten seasons. It is about having a developmental program that starts from grade school onwards. That is why despite the departure of the likes of Yousif Aljamal, Pong Escobal, Borgie Hermida, Sam Ekwe, Ogie Menor, Sudan Daniel, Jake Pascual, Rome de la Rosa, Anjo Caram, and Kyle Pascual, the likes of Adeogun, Amer, and de la Cruz have been groomed to inherit the dynasty. And their upcoming standouts have showed that they can carry the torch in their most important game of the season so far.
Interestingly, San Beda won eight of the last nine NCAA seniors’ basketball championships despite being under five different coaches. After Koy Banal won the 2006 season, Frankie Lim continued to win four of the next five seasons. Former Red Cub Ronnie Magsanoc defended the title in 2012 despite being a late replacement of Lim and Boyet Fernandez won two straight seasons after Magsanoc. Now, it is Jarin’s turn to follow his predecessors.
What San Beda teaches us is that modern collegiate basketball is all about having a strategy for winning. Gone are the days when sports depended heavily on star athletes and “this-is-you” coaching. What we are seeing, at least in San Beda, is basketball that goes beyond gameplay. This is team-first basketball since 2006 in which the game is played not only by the 15 players in the active roster, but by the coaches, managers, scouts, staff, Team B, down to the ballboys. Everyone in San Beda plays their role, and they play it with perfection.
Whether they admit it or not, San Beda is a forward looking team, not the reactive one-game-at-a-time team. That is why we cannot probe them on a per-game basis. We can rightly assess them on a per-season basis. Because of that, I have nothing more to say about the Season 91 seniors basketball finals but Animo San Beda. Whether or not they win this year does not matter. What is unfolding is a team that will dominate the next five seasons. And they will remain the winningest collegiate basketball program of this generation.
FUN FACT: The first known African student athlete who played in a Philippine collegiate league is Omar Ali of Somalia. He donned the red and white colors of the University of the East in UAAP seasons 62 and 63 (1999-2000). He played alongside James Yap, Ronald Tubid, Paolo Hubalde, and Paul Artadi. Sam Ekwe played with San Beda in NCAA seasons 82 to 85 (2006-2009).