C’mon. Admit it. When the National University Bulldogs streaked to four straight wins in the FilOil Pre-season Invitational, they sent a chill up your spine. Never mind if they lost to San Sebastian and Ateneo after that. They put the fear of God in some at that point. And to think they won the University Games in Dumaguete last year. It seems that they were gathering steam. And they did make the finals of the Fr. Martin Cup.
Did you snicker when Hans Sy said that his goal was to see the Bulldogs win a UAAP title in five years? He never even mentioned making the Final Four. He spoke of winning a title. It was kicking down the old order and annexing their first UAAP crown in close to 60 years. And from the looks of it, they will beat UE and Adamson – both with championship droughts of their own – to the punch.
Time was, NU was home to the neverheards with the very Filipino (and even unusual) sounding names. No tisoy names here, dude. Well, they still have Labing- isa, Khobuntin, or Eman, which are not your garden variety, but now they’ve got a Parks, a Celiz, and a Villamayor.
These apparently are not your daddy’s whipping dogs. Watch them take the floor now. Save for Bobby Ray Parks (who has a swagger about him), there’s a quiet confidence to their round robin warm-ups. It’s like saying that it’s their turn to whip some collegiate butt.
There have been rumors about signing bonuses to players, employment for family in the mega dozen SM malls that have mushroomed all over the country, or even offers of management positions in certain areas of the malls for added income. There’s even word about how their current coaching staff was paid (even when they weren’t on board yet) just to make sure that they went to Sampaloc and not Diliman (which also underwent a coaching change). And seriously, Bobby Ray Parks chose to play in NU over Georgia Tech?
It’s not just blue chip recruits making their way to MF Jhocson Street but also blue chip coaches. The previous year they trained in Indiana – that’s Hoosier country! And when they came back Kokoy Hermosisima, Joseph Terso, and Mervin Baloran were shooting like the second coming of Jimmy Chitwood. This year, they trained in Korea. I wonder if will they come out for Season 74 shooting like Shin Dong Pa or Sandara Park.
Awash with money, won’t it be interesting to see how the Sys would compete and challenge the hegemony of the PLDT and San Miguel groups in the PBA. The current two-way fight is getting pretty boring. But we’re still in the collegiate basketball landscape. Only because of the recruitment and competition, the demarcation lines between what is professional and amateur have greatly blurred. Realistically, do you give a crap about what import or Fil-Am recruit is playing in the PBA?
When you hear stories about their recruitment whether it sounds outlandish or even brazen, look at it this way – there are no rules in place. Even if the US NCAA will have a cow knowing about local recruitment practices, the fact of the matter remains that there are no rules in place. Ergo, everything is legal and fair game.
Even if they will now send a chill up the spines of opponents, I think it’s good for NU and good for the league. They are no longer an automatic win where you can give your starters a rest. You have to go out and take it.
Their days as the underdog are over. Top dogs are what they aim to be.
But that’s not the only thing that has changed.
After their losing effort to San Sebastian in the FilOil tournament, as everyone quickly made their way out to beat the rush hour traffic, the NU gallery stayed for a moment.
There was their alma mater song to sing.