THE just-concluded UAAP men’s basketball Finals easily brought back memories for both Bong Ravena and Boycie Zamar.
Not only did the two have their own share of experience playing for the championship of the country’s premiere college league as part of the University of the East Red Warriors, but both of them also went through the grind while being guided by the late Olympian Roehl Nadurata.
Their stories actually were almost parallel in nature.
Both were from Iloilo who dreamed of making it big in Manila. Both were walk-in aspirants in tryouts for the Warriors. And both considered Nadurata a second father who nurtured and molded them early on in their basketball careers.
And so it was natural that in the middle of the title showdown between Ateneo and UST, Ravena and Zamar looked back with a tinge of sadness at their time playing in the UAAP Finals while Nadurata’s remains lie in state after succumbing to brain cancer two days earlier.
“Siya ang first coach ko dito sa Manila. Walk-in tryout ako, and then he picked me, and I had a one-year residency bago ako nakalaro,” recalled Ravena.
Zamar practically went the same route along with fellow Ilonggo Vilmer Banares and Conrado Barile.
“Naglalakad lang kami sa may Recto, balak naming mag-try-out sa mga schools doon like FEU, San Sebastian, San Beda. Nagkataon lang una naming nadaanan yung UE kaya doon kami napunta,” said Zamar, the current coach of the Red Warriors.
Unfortunately, he was the only one who made the grade. But the gracious person that he was, Nadurata accepted Banares and Barile initially as reserves for Boyzie to have an Ilonggo company in the team.
“Alam ko package kayong tatlo,” Zamar recalled Nadurata, a former King Warrior himself, as saying.
But they never got to play for 'Tata Roehl' in their first season together with the Warriors as Nadurata later left for the Middle East to accept a coaching job in Abu Dhabi.
Jimmy Mariano came in to replace Nadurata and steered Zamar and the rest of a UE team anchored by amateur standouts Allan Caidic and Jerry Codinera to back-to-back UAAP championships in 1984 and 85.
Zamar won’t play under Nadurata until two years after when he returned to the country and assumed the UE coaching job. That same season, the Warriors made it back to the Finals, but failed to win a third straight title as they fell prey to the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
“We were leading by as much as 20 points (83-63) in the second half pero natalo pa rin kami,” said Zamar of that infamous endgame collapse in the 1987 Finals. “Sayang nga hindi kami nanalo ng championship together ni coach Roehl.”
Zamar and Ravena would become teammates the following year, but the Warriors won’t get back to the Big Dance until two years later in 1990 when `Bong Ravs’ was already `the man’ for UE.
The Warriors faced the La Salle Green Archers in the Finals and as the second-seeded team, forced a deciding game for the title.
But again, UE fell short as Jun Limpot and the rest of the Archers romped off with their second straight championship.
“I may not have won a title with him, but I have nothing but good memories with coach Roehl,” said Ravena, now the assistant team manager of Talk `N Text. “He helped me a lot when it comes to basketball, on and off the court.”
Ravena paid his last respect to `Tata Roehl’ on the final night prior to his cremation, while Zamar visited his former coach along with the entire UE varsity team.
“Sabi kasi nila tuwang-tuwa raw si coach nung talunin namin ang Ateneo this season (62-60),” Zamar disclosed. “So sabi ko sa team, napasaya natin itong mama na ito. Sa huling sandali, pasayahin uli natin siya.”
Nadurata’s remains were cremated on Saturday at the La Loma Columbary.