BEST OF 5 PART 3: Is San Beda the king of college basketball?

BEST OF 5 PART 3: Is San Beda the king of college ball?
Ola Adeogun, Baser Amer, and Art Dela Cruz are just three of the many top-tier talents San Beda has produced in the last dozen years

Read Part 1 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the San Beda Red Lions here.

Read Part 2 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the San Beda Red Lions here.

Read Part 4 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the San Beda Red Lions here.

Read Part 5 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the San Beda Red Lions here.

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San Beda College is the only undisputed dynasty in all of college basketball in the Philippines.

In the UAAP, since Ateneo de Manila University’s five-peat, four different teams have won the championship.

In the CESAFI (Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc.), both Southwestern University and University of Visayas have caught up with University of Cebu.

In the NAASCU (National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities), Centro Escolar University had been the standard, but are no longer in the league.

Compare that with what the Red Lions have done in dominating the last 12 years of the NCAA?

Only twice during that span have they not been crowned as kings there – and even during those two times, they finished close second.

EXTENDED EMPIRE

Mendiola’s dynasty isn’t contained to their mother league, even.

Teaming up with Cignal HD, they won the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup. There, current players Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon were key cogs, with the former even recognized as Conference MVP.

They were also the winners in two of the last three Filoil Flying V Preseason Tournaments as well as the two most recent National Collegiate Championships.

Going by championships alone, there is no other collegiate team that could touch San Beda.

Present day team manager Jude Roque believes as much. “Right now, it’s fair to say we have the best program in all of college basketball here if only for the number of major championships in the last five years,” he said.

VISION-MISSION

While all that winning has been, of course, primarily because of all the top-tier talent they have had in the last dozen years, that top-tier talent would not have been Red Lions if not for an aligned team management as well as instrumental mentors in the likes of Koy Banal, Frankie Lim, Ronnie Magsanoc, Boyet Fernandez, and Jamike Jarin. As Roque put it, “It’s a combination of good recruitment, good coaching, and proper team management.”

He then continued, “Of the three, recruitment is still the biggest key to success in college basketball. Of course, it helps that we have generous alumni patrons led by boss MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan).”

That much was evident right from the very beginning when, now serious about contending, they brought in Nigerian powerhouse Sam Ekwe and also reeled in Borgie Hermida, one of the top talents in Juniors then who just so happened to be a San Beda Red Cub.

Ekwe proved to be the first in what is now a long line of impactful reinforcements they have had in Sudan Daniel, Ola Adeogun, and Donald Tankoua. Meanwhile, Hermida was the pioneer in Cubs turned Lions – something Renren Ritualo and LA Tenorio didn’t do before but is now a common sight in the likes of Baser Amer and Javee Mocon.

CULTURE CHANGE

Add to that how, right from the get-go, the Red Lions were able to mine hidden gems such as Alex Angeles and Yousif Aljamal.

In fact, in Banal’s eyes, it was those two who set the tone for what is now the only undisputed dynasty in all of college basketball in the Philippines. “I believe it all starts with leadership and I was just thankful and blessed that I had captain Alex Angeles and co-captain Yousif Aljamal,” he said, looking back at that magical championship run in 2006.

He then continued, “I talked to them, sabi ko lahat ‘to magsisimula sa atin. Kayo ang tinitingala ng players kaya kailangan ko ng tulong niyo. I told them na if I’m expecting somebody to finish the drills first, that (would be) you guys. The rest is history.”

WINNING IS CONTAGIOUS

Indeed, the rest is now history and Mendiola has, time and again, taken in promising players and turned them into championship contributors.

That winning tradition has also led to even transferees choosing to go there.

Such was the case for Bolick who had already won a championship with De La Salle University, but saw a greater opportunity and a bigger legacy in red and white. “I chose San Beda because of coach Jamike. He told me he will give me a chance to play,” he shared.

He then continued, “But that’s just one reason. I really wanted to play in a winning culture. I wanted to win again, yun lang.”

Bolick, who hailed from College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills, could have been a Blazer or could have enrolled in a few other schools who had interest in him. However, he ultimately chose San Beda for its winning tradition.

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

A winning tradition that was seen through from management to coaches to players to community. “Maraming magagandang schools with a solid educational program and a very good basketball program, but dito sa San Beda, everybody works hand-in-hand so we will have a consistent winning tradition year after year,” Fernandez said.

A winning tradition that had been witnessed firsthand by Mocon, beginning in high school, that he didn’t even have to think twice about staying. “The unending support of MVP and the excellent support of San Beda are the key factors for this winning tradition. Talent is never wasted in San Beda – there are always results to the time and work you put in,” he said.

A winning tradition that gives San Beda the most rightful claim as the only undisputed dynasty in all of college basketball in the Philippines.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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