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COACH VILLA MAKING MIDDLE SCHOOL MARK

By Patrick Lujan

He is on the short list as one of the greatest 3-point shooters Guam high school basketball has ever seen.

Over the years, Erwin Villa has transferred that sharp shooting championship pedigree from the JFK Islanders to the Benavente Middle School Roadrunners.

The three-time champion from 1988-90 at JFK has already tripled that number of titles in 15 years as the head coach of the Roadrunners (six solos and three co-champions).

Roadrunners’ Fabrick Romos shooting a short jumper and put two on the board. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Roadrunners’ Fabrick Romos shoots a short jumper in their championship win over the St. John’s Knights on March 28. Led by coach Erwin Villa, the Roadrunners continue their middle school hoops dominance. (photo by Jesse Castro)

GSPN catches up with Coach Villa after his team won the GDOE title and then went on to take the GDOE/IIAAG post-tournament crown over the St. John’s Knights.

Congratulations on another middle school championship. How happy and relieved are you right now after your Roadrunners won both the GDOE and the post season tournament?

It’s what we as coaches and players have dreamed about since the beginning of the season. It’s what we have been working hard for and it’s a dream come true.

What’s the difference between this championship team and your past championship teams?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have hard-working athletes who love the game as much as I do. It’s difficult to say there is any difference when each team has always given their 100% and then some. The kids are different, but the desire to win and play well is the same.

Other than basketball skills and technique, what other life skills do you press upon your players throughout the season?

Through practice, I always try to teach my kids that hard work means something. With hard work, good things can happen. I try to reward their dedication and commitment, and I hope those skills transfer into other aspects of their lives. Just maybe, it won’t happen right away, but later.

You were an All-Island sharpshooter with the JFK Islanders in high school. Do you still show up your players?

Haha … I love the game. If the kids are on a water break, I usually pick up a ball and shoot a couple 3’s. And, just like any other shooter, I will keep shooting till I miss. Eight or ten in a row … still good. The kids enjoy it and so do I.

With such a small window (6th-8th grade) to spend with these players, how difficult is it to keep the Roadrunners system going strong?

I encourage my kids to join outside league basketball to learn and develop their skills and, most of all, to stay in shape.

Your high school coach Joe Taitano was named one of Guam’s Mt. Rushmore for basketball. What do you think about that?

I’m excited and happy for him, but, for me, he deserves more than that. He deserves to be the greatest coach that Guam has ever produced.

How much of Coach Taitano’s methods do you carry on to your coaching today?

You can’t change fundamentals. I learned that from Coach Taitano. I try to stick to the basics, which he often stressed in practice. My tactics are different, but the fundamentals of the game are from him. I push a running game for my team, which is what we ran at JFK. I push my athletes to keep up their cardio so they can play as many minutes of basketball as the team needs them for, another thing I learned from my years of playing for Coach Taitano.

If there was one coach from the college or NBA levels that you mirror your style, who would it be and why?

I don’t really try to mirror anybody. And, I wouldn’t want to compare myself to some of the best coaches around. But, a coach that I look up to is Joe Taitano. I learned a lot from him, and he is the best coach on island.

Who is your all-time Roadrunner starting five?

From all the years: Joel Oyardo, point guard; Julius Yu and Neil Apilado, shooting guards; Nilo Colitoy, forward; and Shane McCauley, center.

Best team starting five is a tie between 2005 and 2008. Both were really good teams.

2005: Kurt Carter, Leary Evangelista, Justin Bustamante, Charlie Bombase, Sean Pamintuan

2008: Paulo Hermosilla, Shane McCauley, K.C. Perez, Joel Oyardo, Aaron Blaz

Final Note: “I was lucky enough to be part of a group that finished 70-2 after four years of basketball (at JFK). Our only two losses happened at Far East.”

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Since forming the GNYFF in 2009, the league has never gone without a season until 2020. The league announced their plans to cancel the 2020 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

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RIP: Former Guam football player Phil Mendiola, shown here with son Tano, passed away in Las Vegas due to a heart attack. Mendiola played for numerous Guam teams from youth to varsity. He was 39.
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Morgan McKenna (left with black face mask) poses for a photo with Guam Football Association Technical Director Sang Hoon Kim (seated, with blue face mask) and Guam Football Association Assistant Technical Director Ross Awa (standing) after signing his letter of commitment to play intercollegiate men’s soccer for Muskingum University in Ohio. The Fighting Muskies compete in NCAA Division III’s Ohio Athletic Conference.

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