The De La Salle Green Archers: The Then and The Now

While the alumni team, coached by Vice-mayor Francis Zamora, clearly ran out of gas for most of the second half in yesterday’s charity game at the Enrique Razon Sports Complex, losing 93-79 to the current men’s basketball team before an encouragingly thick crowd of supporters, there were enough reasons to know that these former Taft warriors came to seriously play.

More than proving Lasallians can be counted on to give back, with the proceeds from ticket sales meant to benefit this year’s beneficiaries of University Vision-Mission Week (the Lasallian Legacy Scholarship Fund, Lingap Scholarship Fund, and St. La Salle pre-school), there were a number of these former Green Archers who sent home a clear message, both to the spectators and current team alike:

That with every three-point shot that hit nothing but net, every side-stepping fake off drive to the basket, and every precise no-look pass, Ren Ren Ritualo was schooling those who may not fully realize why he is only one of three athletes to have their number enshrined up in the rafters of the Enrique Razon Gym.

That Dino Aldeguer, who arguably owns the biggest basket made in DLSU men’s basketball history, can still sneak in for a tough lay up against quicker defenders. That Erick Arejola just needs the tiniest of separation to hit those midrange jumpers. That you still can’t leave either BJ Manalo or Mon Jose open from the wings.

And most of all, that it will take much more than a Jason Perkins or a Ben Mbala to make Adonis Sta. Maria, ferocious game face on from start to finish, back down.

In front of a good mix of current energetic students and more battle-scarred yet never jaded alumni, there are also a lot of things about the game of basketball that never change, whichever generation one belongs to: The instinctive look to the ref to ask for a foul after a shot gone awry; the necessity of good screens, constant movement and wise shot selection over showboating; and the unfailing roaring of the crowd for the underdog such as that dished out for the very young boy who almost beat a fully grown man in the halftime three-point shootout contest.

After Jeron Teng and Thomas Torres decided to finally fully take advantage of the more depleted alumni lineup in the second half, along with key contributions from promising new recruits such as Larry Muyang, Daryl Pascual and Adam Gupilan, the handful of stark differences in the game between generations became quite clear.

Just like Assistant Coach Jun Limpot told me with a wry grin while pointing to the extensive gym the players use on the same floor, physical strength and conditioning advantages may have taken over from just relying on pure grit. This was evident even way before the opening tip, with the current roster undergoing their standard warm ups under the ever-sharp eye of Assistant Coach Marlon Celis; while the alumni team was shooting around like we all would before an inter-baranggay game and simply huddling up way longer, obviously mustering up all the old battle cries still to be found in their gut that used to push them to excellence on the hardcourt.

Or maybe it’s what I most agreed with while briefly chatting with Coach Juno Sauler after the game. The gulang, nastiness, swagger–whatever you want to call it–isn’t the same anymore, if at all there. There’s definitely never any room for dirty play in sports, but even a postseason dinner with colleagues two months ago showed a clear consensus: How would someone like Kiefer Ravena fare against someone like, say, Ryan Araña, who treated anyone in an opposing jersey as nothing more than that: an opponent. Or how when someone like Mac Cardona or Joseph Yeo would step on the court, all the body language and swagger that would be duly backed up with oncourt skills would make one feel so assured and secure in the stands, even imbibing just enough of that swagger as well to get us through even the toughest of stretches in a season.

Maybe it’s all this technology that enables players from opposing teams to form tighter off court bonds, or that the prospect of securing one’s livelihood has become more urgent at an even younger age for today’s athletes. Or maybe it’s just that passion–while remaining as intense–has and should be allowed to evolve and take on different forms. As with how even the fans, though still as fiery and supportive, are now more resourceful, gadget-heavy, and much more…amiable.

But I do know my one of my favourite Jeron Teng moments was his in-your-face drive against Paulo Pe in this past UAAP season’s first round match against UST, with the hard basket followed up by a hand-to-mouth feeding gesture while glancing at the bulky defender as he was trotting back: “I just ate you up.” Nothing wrong with adding a little fire to the mix every now and then.

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And I also know Adonis Sta. Maria had no time or patience to think of such matters, going straight up, face-to-face and chest-to-chest with a hard driving Ben Mbala, and twice against Jason Perkins, resulting in a gruesome block on the second defensive attempt in the game’s dying seconds, with the winner already decided. Just because it’s a charity game, it doesn’t mean one has to tone down the grit right?

As Coach Sauler remarked, with that ever so subtle fire in his eyes I always recognize whenever he talks about the things that are bigger, more essential and permanent than fleeting, tangible glory: Whatever difference there is in motivating players during this generation or in those that have come before, it has to come from within: choosing how to (and why one should in the first place) light your own fire and sustain your own drive, without heavily relying on anything external that, really, can just as easily ebb and flow and be extinguished, like any current fad or buzz.

Whatever those who watched yesterday’s game came away with, knowing that the beneficiaries of the proceeds will be able to be molded by the same Lasallian education we all were privileged to receive only further emblazons that fire within which identifies us as Lasallians–that make us who we are–whether we choose to give time or resources while striving to always excel in whatever field we choose, or whether it’s all the players who have been given the honor of donning that Green and White jersey: To whom much has been given, much is required. And Lasallians definitely know how to give back a hundredfold.

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