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.

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