No one — not even imports — can expect to receive special treatment from University of Perpetual Help coach Aric del Rosario.
And disgruntled big man Femi Babayemi was not spared from the wrath of the Altas’ veteran mentor.
Shedding light on the mysterious absence of one of their two Nigerian reinforcements, Del Rosario has admitted that Babayemi was exiled to Perpetual Help’s Biñan campus, where he now practices with the team that vies in the NCAA-South.
Del Rosario said it was Babayemi’s punishment for missing practice for almost two months due to what was earlier perceived to be a back injury prior to the start of the season.
The real reason, it turned out, was something else.
“Parusa sa kanya yun,” Del Rosario told Spin.ph during a break in a recent Altas practice. “Hindi naman pwede na yung mga kasama mo nagpapakamatay tapos ikaw hindi.”
One of the Altas’ leading rebounders in Season 88, Babayemi has yet to suit up after nine first-round games this season and has been missing from the lineup since the Filoil Flying V Cup in the summer.
While the coaching staff maintained to reporters that the back injury kept Babayemi sidelined, Del Rosario was already convinced that Babayemi’s injury was just an excuse.
“Parang tinamad siya dahil pag ayaw niya mag-ensayo, masakit ang likod. Pero pag gusto niya, hindi naman.”
There has also been a rumor that Babayemi and compatriot Nicholas Omorogbe have not been in good terms - something del Rosario didn't exactly deny.
“May selosan lang sila pero hindi yun ang issue. Ang (main issue) 'yung hindi siya nag-e-ensayo,” Del Rosario said.
“(Kaya) ayaw ko na dumating sa ganun na mag-away kami,” he added. “So sinabihan ko na lang management kung pwede ipahinga ko na lang muna siya. Sabi naman sa akin ng may-ari, 'Sige, kung ano decision mo, ikaw bahala.'”
Del Rosario, though, kept the door open for Babayemi, whom the veteran mentor said is on “standby.”
“Pwede bunutin. Siguro pag nag-iba ang isip niya, mag-usap kami ulit, naka-lineup naman eh.”
Assistant coach Lester del Rosario, however, was harsher, implying the Nigerian’s return could disrupt the chemistry of the Altas, who are currently tied with defending champion San Beda in second place with a 7-2 win-loss card.
“Malabo na siya makabalik kasi ayaw na din ng mga players.”