THERE’s a reason why “student” always comes first before “athlete.”
Underlining the priority in college basketball, NCAA men’s teams didn't hesitate to cut players who have academic deficiencies.
Despite the league requiring players to pass only 60 percent of their total units taken, a certain number of cagers still failed to make the grade.
Defending champion San Beda led by example this year by relegating academically troubled substitutes Francis Abarcar and Ritchie Villaruz to the Red Lions’ Team B.
Abarcar was a sparkplug off the bench in the Red Lions’ championship runs the last two years, while Villaruz was best known, like Abarcar, for being a member of the 'Super Six' - an unheralded group that was forced to hold the fort when their star teammates were suspended, eventually stunning a full-strength Arellano squad in the first game of the eliminations two years ago.
Now, the two are out of the picture.
“They will learn from that and hopefully they will not do it again, and they can get back to Team A,” Red Lions coach Boyet Fernandez said.
In Abarcar and Villaruz’s places are Lance Abude and Michole Sorela, who faced a similar situation two years ago when then incoming junior forward was relegated to Team B for missing the academic cut.
Abarcar, of all people, replaced Sorela in Season 88.
“Sabi ko sa kanya (Abarcar), two years ago, you were part of that. You were given an opportunity, tapos ikaw rin pala mawawala,” Fernandez said.
“I always tell my boys that basketball is not forever,” the multi-titled coach added. “Pag dating mo ng thirty years old, probably you’re not as good as you are. Pagdating ng panahon, maiisip rin nila na ‘sana nag-aral na lang ako (ng mabuti).’”
“Hindi naman pwede puro laro eh,” said Altas coach Aric del Rosario, who also cut one academically deficient player from his squad.
Mapua coach Atoy Co was also forced to drop emerging star power forward Mark Braña from his squad due to his shortcomings in his studies.
“I really appreciate that,” Fernandez said. “I’m happy that all the schools are looking forward to their players passing their grades. San Beda will always make a priority on studies.”