Big Ben Mbala towers in basketball-mad Philippines (March 02, 2017)
Ceceil Morella, Agence France-Presse [ Source: ABS CBN News ]

 Cameroon basketball player Benoit Mbala poses at the De La Salle University in Manila.Photo by Noel Celis, AFP

MANILA, Philippines -- "Big Ben" cuts an imposing figure, dominating college basketball in the hoops-crazy Philippines as the best of a wave of African imports on unlikely Asian journeys in search of their NBA dreams.

Cameroon's Benoit Mbala scooped up MVP honours as he led one of Manila's top colleges to last year's University Athletic Association of the Philippines championship.

To the 22-year-old, who played only football until a tremendous growth spurt forced him from pitch to hardcourt as a teenager, the fervour of a nation that treats basketball almost as a religion has been overwhelming.

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Juniors MVP Juan Gomez de Liano commits to UP (February 27, 2017)
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego [ Source: ABS CBN News ]

 UPIS standout Juan Gomez de Liano (9) committed to play collegiate basketball for the UP Fighting Maroons, where he will reunite with older brother Javi. Photo by Richard Esguerra, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines -- Make that two GDLs staying home in Diliman.

A day after being hailed as the MVP in the UAAP 79 Juniors Basketball Tournament, King Junior Maroon Juan Gomez de Liano is set to move up and become a Fighting Maroon.

“Yes, I have committed to UP,” he told ABS-CBN Sports.

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Recruitment coup: Maroons Final 4 bid suddenly turns Bright (January 23, 2017)
Randolph B. Leongson [ Source: Inquirer ]

UAAP

Bright Akhuetie has already boosted University of the Philippines’ goal of making the Final Four in the men’s basketball tournament.

And he won’t even officially don a Maroons uniform until the 2018 season.

“Even right now, he’s already going to make us better,” said UP coach Bo Perasol Thursday night in Sports IQ, the Inquirer’s live omni platform sports talk show.

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Salem, Alejandro tabbed as NU's co-captains (January 06, 2017)
Camille B. Naredo [ Source: ABS CBN News ]

 Matt Salem (11) and J-Jay Alejandro have been named as NU's co-captains by incoming head coach Jamike Jarin. Josh Albelda, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – There are still nine months to go before the UAAP Season 80 men's basketball tournament, but as early as now, incoming National University head coach Jamike Jarin has already selected J-Jay Alejandro and Matt Salem as the co-captains of the Bulldogs.

Jarin was tapped by NU to replace Eric Altamirano, who resigned after a disappointing Season 79 campaign that saw the Bulldogs miss out on the Final Four just two years after winning a historic UAAP championship.

Jarin, who led San Beda to the NCAA Season 92 title before making the move to the UAAP, inherits a talented line-up that lost only big man Alfred Aroga, the defensive anchor of the Bulldogs and the Finals MVP in Season 77.

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Ildefonso named to Jarin's NU coaching staff (January 06, 2017)
Camille B. Naredo [ Source: ABS CBN News ]

Danny Ildefonso is set to join Jamike Jarin in National University. Photo by Arvin Lim, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – New National University (NU) head coach Jamike Jarin will be joined by a very familiar face on the bench when he leads the Bulldogs to the collegiate wars this year.

Jarin revealed Wednesday in an appearance on "The Score" that NU legend Danny Ildefonso will be part of his coaching staff.

"The face of NU for so many years, the legendary Danny Ildefonso, will be joining our coaching staff," said Jarin.

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 Jarin is bringing in Danny Ildefonso, a former King Bulldog himself, and John Ferriols as members of his coaching staff at NU. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines – After his title run with San Beda in the NCAA, coach Jamike Jarin brings his act to National U in the UAAP and aims to bring back the bite in the Bulldogs team that missed the playoffs the past season.

“My goal is to make the team more competitive,” said Jarin, who took the place of Eric Altamirano, the long-time coach who quit at the end of Season 79 following the Bulldogs’ exit from the Final Four.

“Of course, we want to make it to the Final Four, make the finals and win a championship. But for now, we have nine months to prepare and see what happens,” he added.

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Mac Belo trusts FEU is in good hands under Olsen Racela (December 23, 2016)
Camille B. Naredo [ Source: ABS CBN News ]

 Perennial UAAP powerhouse FEU expects a smooth transition into the Olsen Racela era. File photo from Arvin Lim, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines — Blackwater rookie and former Far Eastern University standout Mac Belo doesn't doubt that Olsen Racela will excel as head coach of the Tamaraws just as Olsen's younger brother Nash did for four seasons.

FEU announced late Tuesday that it has tapped Olsen to replace Nash, who is now calling the shots for the TNT KaTropa in the PBA. Nash, who led FEU to the UAAP Season 78 championship, will stay on as the Tamaraws' consultant.

Replacing a mentor as beloved as Nash Racela — who changed not just the team's basketball system but even the attitude and mentality of the players — is a tall task for anyone, but Belo is confident Olsen can do it.

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