Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Upside Down with Ricci Rivero

The Upside Down with Ricci Rivero
by rick olivares

If you don’t watch Stranger Things – shame on you if you don’t – there’s the real world. And “the Upside Down” where the world has turned topsy-turvy and dark. Right now, Ricci Rivero’s life is in his version of the Upside Down.

Rivero went up the escalator of the Crowne Plaza. He stood them for a minute. Unsure of where he was to go. There was a presser to announce Kobe Paras’ being back home to play for the national team and if possible, turn pro, and it wasn’t clear for Rivero where the announcement was to be made.

We eventually found the venue and the youngster took a deep breath before entering. Into the lion’s den…

Time to face the music,” he muttered.

Yet like that momentary confusion, the young basketball player did divulge that he hadn’t made a decision on what school he was transferring. “In a few months,” he merely said. “Right now, I want to concentrate on playing for the national team. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”

Rivero’s world spun out of its axis over a variety of issues with his former school. “I was blind-sided,” he said. “I didn’t see it coming.”

Rivero admitted to having a small circle of friends and confidants. And in the wake of the problems of his estrangement from his former school, it has shrunk even more. He even shut down his social media accounts. “If I need to post something, I let other people do it for me,” he revealed. “I don’t read anything out there.”

Whether ignorance is bliss, Rivero right now is trying to tilt his world back to a semblance of where it was. “It isn’t going to be easy,” he admitted.

Previously, he’d be smiling. Perhaps in the presence of all these media, hungry for a quote, ready to pounce on anything click-bait, the young basketeer was cautious. Guarded. His words measured. But there was pain in his face no matter how he tried hard to mask it. After all, he is young and is still trying to grasp the big bad world outside.

I asked him if the order for him now is redemption. “I don’t think so,” is all he can say. He is grasping for the right words.

Rivero said he couldn’t wait to get on the basketball court. It is the one place where he feels most secure outside his own home. He’s learned all these years to block out the white noise. The static of a social media mad world.

Yet even suiting up for the Gilas Cadets will offer no respite. For the young nationals will be participating in the upcoming Filoil Flying V Pre-Season Cup. Gilas is in the same bracket as his former school. So inevitably, they will cross paths. The match up will be keenly anticipated.

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there,” he said in a measured tone when asked about that match up. In the same breath, he added, “That place (his former school) is my second home so I have only good words to say.”
“Right now, I am excited. I have all these new teammates on the national team and I really wanted to play for Gilas,” he said. “I haven’t played for the national team since the Under-16 team. So I am excited. Especially with guys like Kobe and everyone else…. It has been a dream of mine for the longest time to play for the senior national team.”

What happens when a dream dies?

“You dream another dream,” Ricci Rivero said. He now managed a smile.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The hard goodbye of Shaya Adorador

The hard goodbye of Shaya Adorador
by rick olivares

Shaya Adorador had a chance to extend the match. But her spike from the left side lacked power and conviction. As a result, UP was able to dig up the ball and keep it in play. Adorador knew she had missed that chance. And now the ball was set towards the Fighting Lady Maroons’ Tots Carlos.

Everyone knew what was coming. True enough, Carlos delivered the match point and UP’s third straight win to give them their sixth victory in fourteen matches. UE dropped to 2-12, the nth year they have finished at the bottom of the standings.

Adorador fought back the tears as just like that, it was all over. Her college career had come to an end. The standings did not reflect it, but the Lady Red Warriors played much better this year as they gave a lot of teams fits. Even Adorador later acknowledged it was her single best season for UE.

However, age is a high price for maturity. What started out as a long season was now over. Her team wanted to tack on another win; and in truth, they had chances not only against UP but even in the two rounds. Now, it was done. It was over, quickly, and even cruelly.

Even worse, Shaya wasn’t coming back unlike her teammates who can now build on the gains and good vibes of the past season. During the post-match press con, having a few minutes to collect herself, she now flashed a big smile. Still she couldn’t entirely mask the pain.

“Hindi ako makapaniwala na hindi ko na susuotin itong jersey na ‘to,” she said on her way back to the UE dugout.

For all the losing, she wore the UE jersey with pride. Even as Celine Domingo decamped for FEU and former head coach Francis Vicente decided his time was up at the start of the campaign, Shaya stayed. There’s a reason, you see. In the post-game presser, she spoke of two things – obedience and loyalty and how it means a lot to her.

“Yan ang tinuturo sa amin, yan din ang ibibigay,” she succinctly put.

I asked her how she managed to come back year after year, winless season after terrible and forgettable season.

Shaya bit her lip. The memories are still raw and fresh. N ow she fought back the tears. “If there is anything I learned from all these years – puro talo man o meron mga haters and bashers – kailangan pa rin bumangon. Bukas ay bagong araw at laban lang.”

She learned to be resilient and to count her blessings: “I still got to play sa UE and sa UAAP. Marami rin may gusto niyan. Suwerte ako,” she said. “Hiningi ni Coach Rod (Roque) to be obedient at ibigay yung trust. Nakatatak sa akin lahat yan at maging kalmado. Kinapos lang kami sa fighting spirit at pagtatapos ng laro. And to learn from everything.”

“Pero walang regrets,” she summed up. “Hindi ko puwede i-wish sana iba nangyari. Walang oras para isipin yan. Pero meron akong oras para gawin yung tama.”

Truth to tell. I think that is what she needed to learn in this long and arduous road. College volleyball hasn’t been too kind. But Shaya Adorador came away not bitter, but hopeful, thankful, and even appreciative of the simple and smaller things. Such as her teammates. The opportunity to play in the UAAP.

Her team might not have won a UAAP championship. Her team might not have had the best of seasons. But they came away with a better outlook on life and the game... and that hope springs eternal.

She’s going to need all of that and more in the next stage of her journey.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Breaking down the UST Tigresses and the adjustment that CEU made during the BBI championship game

The CEU Lady Scorpions defeated the UST Tigresses, 52-44, last Sunday, March 25, for the inaugural Breakdown Basketball Invitationals' Women's Under-25 championship. 

Here's looking at some of the plays.

The UST Tigresses grabbed a 21-4 first quarter lead by working this play to near perfection. 

Initially, only look at the yellow arrows that indicate what UST did. 

The point guard had three options. First pass was to the middle. If the four or five player had a chance inside -- which wasn't much because I don't think the players are skilled enough to attack that rim -- the ball was swung around to get an open look. 

UST's Elondra Rivera who is at the bottom right of the picture is wide open. She hit two triples from this play.

When CEU -- now look at the pink arrows -- adjusted, they played higher and disrupted the passing lanes of UST. The Tigresses got three attempts inside when the Lady Scorpions played high but UST was unable to score on the gimmes. CEU adjusted once more by closing the lane. The result for CEU? A 15-2 run. 

In my opinion, what UST should have done in this case was this (look at the picture below)... make better cuts and reads.

What UST's Karla Manuel (or later Maria Sangalang) should have done was slide to the left that could have drawn CEU's Opeyemi Lawan to that direction further exposing the weak side. It would entail some quick passing and good reads on where the defenders are. That would allow UST point guard Justine Capalit to slid in for a floater or jump shot. But no. They didn't. 

Other players should also adjust their position. UST's Ruby Portillo who is on the upper left of the picture hit two triples before CEU adjusted. I thought that Portillo stayed in her spot and that also allowed CEU to get out on the break. 

UST's advantage is they can shoot and run. CEU took out those options come the second period and as a result UST struggled.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Fil-Am Kihei Clark wins NBTC All-Star Game MVP

Fil-Am Kihei Clark wins NBTC All-Star Game MVP
by rick olivares

Fil-American Kihei Clark came out of nowhere to led Team Heart to a 99-91 victory over Team Hustle in the 2018 SM-NBTC Division One High School All-Star Game at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Clark, who hails from Los Angeles, California and is headed for Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference, scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished off six assists in a scintillating performance that overshadowed FilAm Sports USA teammate Jalen Green whose high-flying dunks rocked the MOA Arena crowd.

“I came over here and didn’t expect much but this has been a very memorable trip for me,” said the 19-year old Clark.

Clark was awarded the Most Outstanding Player Award by none other the Robert Jaworski, the man dubbed, “the Living Legend”.

“I didn’t know about Mr. Jaworski but he was awful nice,” noted Clark. “It was an honor to be honest. And his words of encouragement – he told me to keep working hard and I might be able to see my NBA dream come true. This has been a pleasant trip, I’ll say.”

Team Heart broke a 75-all deadlock with a triple by Clark and a tip-in by Kai Sotto. Terence Fortea and Clark each drilled a pair of triples to stretch the lead to 90-82, 2:40 to play. Team Heart, coached by Topex Robinson and Joe Silva then coasted the rest of the way for the win.

The crowd waited with baited breath for the aerial exploits of Jalen Green whose three dunks, including one over Kai Sotto, had everyone jumping up and down.

“He had a tough time,” noted Clark of Green who finished with 11 points on 5-11 shooting.