FORMER players of both Ateneo and University of Santo Tomas came out in full force to support their respective alma mater during Game One of the UAAP men’s basketball Finals on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
For most of them, it was harder to watch than to play.
Among those seen on Ateneo's side of the gallery were former Eagles stars Doug Kramer, JC Intal, LA Tenorio, Eman Monfort, Enrico Villanueva, Paolo Bugia, and brothers Chris and Charles Tiu.
Former King Eagle Tiu said there's nothing like the athmosphere of a UAAP Finals, regardless of which teams are playing.
“Kung pwede lang ako mag sub, gagawin ko na,” said Tiu. “For me this is the only sporting event in the Philippines where there’s electric intensity, makikita mo kalahati yellow at kalahati blue.
"I just hope that the players cherish the moment.”
Tiu was a member of the 2006 Ateneo team that lost to the Tigers in one of the biggest upsets in the league's modern history, and wants nothing more than to see this batch of Eagles exact payback.
"Sana ‘wag naman mag deja vu and now hopefully makabawi na,” said Tiu.
His view was shared by Intal and Kramer, who hit the memorable winner in Game One of the 2006 Finals only for the Eagles to lose the next two games of the best-of-three finals.
“I’m more excited for the team and sana they’ll get back at UST for us,” Intal said. "Iba kasi yung intensity sa finals at sana maibawi kami ng current team sa UST.”
Kramer said: “I’m excited for coach Norman (Black) and I hope they get back at UST for our 2006 loss against the only team that beat them in the finals.”
(For picture gallery of former stars in the crowd on Saturday, click Faces in the Crowd.)
Not to be outdone, ex-Glowing Goldies and Tigers in the UST crowd include Dylan Ababou, Jervy Cruz, Jojo Duncil, Japs Cuan, Allein Maliksi, Francis Allera, Alfrancis Chua, and Mark Canlas.
“It’s our way of giving back to our alma mater,” said Chua, who came in a bright yellow shirt. Now a consultant for Barangay Ginebra, Chua was a teammate of current UST coach Pido Jarencio in the mid-80s when the team was still known as the Glowing Goldies.
Not surprisingly, most of the former college stars wished they were still eligible to help their respective teams on the floor.
“Mas kinakabahan pa ako manood kesa maglaro,” said Cruz, the 2007 league MVP who came with wife Cathy and their six-year-old son. “Gustung-gusto ko maglaro ulit para sa Tigers.”
The soft spoken big man added,” Sa sobrang miss ko na maglaro sa UST gusto ko na mag-sub pero di ko dala yung jersey ko.”
Ababou, another member of the 2006 champion team and the 2009 league MVP, said he was proud of what the current Tigers squad has achieved.
“Masaya ako na nakikita ko sila ngayon nasa Finals. Fulfilling kasi alam ko binigay nila lahat ng best nila para makarating sa championship. Reward sa kanila to,” said Ababou, now a mainstay of Barangay Ginebra.
Tenorio and Villanueva also came wearing the colors of their alma mater.
“As much as I would want to play, as a spectator I could only hope for the best,” said Tenorio. “Nainggit nga ako sa kanila eh kasi miss ko na ang Ateneo.”
Villanueva said: “Nakakanerbiyos manood sa totoo lang. Pero at the same time tiwala naman ako sa kanila na kaya nila yan.”
The Tiu brothers and Monfort even went to the extent of visiting the victorious Eagles inside their dugout shortly after the Game One win, 83-78.
“Support siyempre for the entire team, and sa Ateneo community,” said Chris Tiu after emerging from the Ateneo dressing room.