BEST OF 5 Part 3: For LPU, winning starts inside the classroom

BEST OF 5 Part 3: For LPU, winning starts in the classroom
WIN-WIN SITUATION. Topex Robinson wants his LPU Pirates to fulfill both aspects of being a student-athlete.

Read Part 1 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the LPU Pirates here.

Read Part 2 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the LPU Pirates here.

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The voyage was underway, but milestone markers were still hard to come by.

Topex Robinson won four of 18 games in his debut season as head coach for Lyceum of the Philippines University.

He then followed that up with a 6-12 record in his sophomore effort.

That sophomore effort concluded with an embarrassing loss to erstwhile winless College of St. Benilde

In 2016, the Blazers were well on their way onto a winless season before eking out a 65-61 triumph over the Pirates in their last assignment in the tournament.

As such, Robinson’s crew became the 1 in 1-17 which was ultimately the worst record in the history of the league.

And so, in his first two years in Intramuros, Robinson went 10-30.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Still, the always amiable mentor was upbeat about where they were headed. “Winning games will just be the result of what we wanted to do,” he said.

What LPU wanted to do was to be a holistic program.

“What’s important is we wanna help the students beyond their basketball career,” Robinson shared. “Ang una naming emphasis is their education – we make them attend class, we make sure they pass their subjects. Dun talaga nagsisimula yun.”

Indeed, he was seeing that he and his boys were headed in the right direction – off-court, at the very least. “Actually, I already saw the potential when all of my players passed their grades. Sabi ko nga, ‘Winning starts in the classroom,’” he said.

He then continued, “There, I knew how willing they are, how driven they are because they really put emphasis and premium on their studies.”

STAY IN SCHOOL

For veteran MJ Ayaay, the players themselves whole-heartedly accepted the direction Robinson was taking them towards. “Laging pinapaalala ni coach yung importance ng school kaya pumapasok talaga kami sa klase. Naalala ko nga na kahit gumagawa kami sa team, pero kapag bagsak sa klase, hindi talaga kami pinapag-practice,” he said.

He then continued, “Pinapapasok muna kami sa klase hangang sa maayos namin yung grades namin tapos saka lang ulit kami nakaka-practice. Hindi naman kasi panghabang buhay ang player.”

And for the head coach, they may not have made the Final Four in his first two years, but they made good on something bigger than basketball. As he put it, “Those were the small wins that I got in the first two years. I always appreciate small wins so when I saw them really focused on attending their classes, that’s when I really saw that they are a special group of guys.”

THE PROCESS

What’s better is that the Pirates’ faithful has no problem with the fact that the off-court wins are coming before the on-court ones. “It’s hard. It was hard, but what made it easy knowing I got the support of the school to make changes,” he said.

He then continued, “Kahit sa games, kahit anong mangyari, kahit saan ka lumingon, may nagchi-cheer, it means a lot. All of this brings the community together – shared adversities and shared successes.”

And so, the LPU Pirates had the student part of being a student-athlete down pat.

From there, they were nothing but certain that it was only a matter of time for them to also get the athlete down pat.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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