CEBU CITY – In spite of all that was made out of the skirmish between Ron Dennison of Far Eastern University and University of the Philippines’ Paul Desiderio on Sunday, their former high school teammates insist there’s really no bad blood between the two.
The two are not only provincemates, they also happen to teammates back in 2011 when the University of the Visayas Baby Lancers stunned the powerhouse Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Magis Eagles — a team that had current Adamson Falcon Dawn Ochea, current UP Maroon Henry Asilum and current National University Bulldog Dave Wilson Yu — to win the Cesafi high school title.
Five years later, Dennison and Desiderio found themselves waging a war in the UAAP in a game that became so heated that Dennison was ejected for allegedly punching Desiderio in the stomach with less than three minutes remaining.
The post-game brouhaha was more colorful that that on-court encounter: Dennison not only denied hitting Desiderio but accused him of being a serial flopper; Desiderio stuck to his guns.
But amid the furor, their former teammates say that it’s really much ado about nothing.
Earl Undaloc, one of the Baby Lancers’ big men back then, described the duo’s relationship as brotherly. “In practice, we were all like brothers. It’s just that Marvis (Dennison) plays crazy sometimes,” said Undaloc with a hearty chuckle.
“Paul (Desiderio) was still a rookie back then and me and Ron (Dennison) were already graduating. But in spite of that, we were a close-knit group. Paul though, was not allowed to hang out with us too much since his parents were strict. I know for a fact that they’re very good friends and a game is just that, a game.
"There’s nothing personal between the two,” Undaloc added.
The proof is in the writing as both Desiderio and Dennison engaged one another in playful banter a few hours after the FEU-UP match - right on this writer’s personal Facebook page.
“Artista ka nap ala Paul. Konting kalabit lang, tumba na kaagad. Pang-Star Cinema na,” posted Dennison to which Desiderio responded with a hearty laugh.
However, Desiderio insisted he was hit in the play. Although he clarified that he was in fact, never punched by Dennison, the UP leader said he received a slight chop to his abdomen.
“We just played hard. That's how basketball is. But at the end of the day, we leave everything on the court, nothing personal. I still respect Ron as my captain way back in high school,” said Desiderio.
Gerald Fernandez, the former Adamson Falcon who is now serving residency with the Southwestern University Cobras, recalled his many trips home with Dennison and Desiderio riding with then head coach Delfin Pepito.
“They were like best friends before since we would all ride together with Coach Papong (Pepito). When I read about what happened, I was shocked but I said to myself that wala lang 'yun, competitive fire lang. For sure, hindi yun sinasadya,” said Fernandez.