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FD ALUMNI HOOPS: IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN!

Annual brotherhood bash ready to tip off

By Eddie Pelkey

The annual FDMSAA Alumni Basketball Tournament, the Jungle Boys, hosted by the Class of 2014 is about go down this Friday at the Jungle. Entering its 40th year, GSPN takes a closer look at the classes that could be in the running for the title.

The FAVORITES
2013
After a stellar run against the odds, last years’ host open the tourney as heavy favorites to repeat. 2013 bring backs everyone from last year’s team and are as healthy as they have been in years. Point guard Jordan Guevara returned for the playoffs last year and gave ’13 a much-needed boost on both ends of the floor. After a full year of recovery (ACL), Guevara looks poised to lead his class back to the promised land.

All everything John Baza will carry the offensive load once again, but will have do it without backcourt mate Jon Onedera, who has moved off-island and will not return. Fresh off a double gold medal in the Micro Games in Majuro, Mike Sakazaki gives ’13 size and scoring punch. But outside of these three, who do they turn to? Nate San Nicolas, Rod Labreque, Jose Terlaje, and Allan Santos are dependable roles players, but do Guevera, Baza, Sakazaki and company have enough to run the gauntlet once again? Time will tell.

2016/17
If not for Guevara’s return and the loss of deep threat and stabilizer RJ Rokop, 2016/17 would have skated into the finals and a potential first championship. 2016/17 bring back a wealth of talent once again to chase that first championship. Last year’s addition of ‘17’s Leon Shimizu was a huge boost for this group, and with Shimizu coming into this tournament in basketball shape after playing in first national team in Majuro, there is no reason this team can’t get over the hump and make it to the big game.

Shimizu’s size and athleticism compliment the dynamic perimeter scoring ability of this team. Frankie Tenorio and Zay Sablan will continue to throw up bombs from deep, but the big question every year is how many they will make. Brandon Eusebio and Cole Merfalen add depth and size to front court to the ultra-athletic Shimizu. All everything guard Devin Sudo looks ready and hungrier than ever to carry this team once again on both ends of the floor. Could this be the year that 2016/17 finally live up the hype, or will they implode once again?

2002/2004
Yeah, yeah…they’re old. But this is the FD Alumni basketball tournament, and these guys know how to win! 04’s Willie Stinnett and 02’s Vince Estella return to anchor this group. Stinnett can still score and defend with the best of them, but how healthy will he be as the tourney runs deeper remains a question. Estella will be his normal stalwart self, anchoring 02/04’s zone D and dominating the boards, while adding timely scoring when it matters. 04’s Ricky Hernandez looks extremely sharp this year as he looks to help aid his team in their 20th year anniversary.

04’s Napoleon Finch and 04’s Matt Leon Guerrero, the league’s heaviest backcourt not in the gold division, will control the pace and tempo with their ball handling and experience. Dave Tuncap and Bo Santos will continue to bring energy, defense and rebounding. But the biggest addition to this team will be a return of 02’s Shaun Perez, who has battled various injuries the past two years and is as healthy as can be. Perez will miss the first few games, but it won’t take long for him to gel with his championship caliber running mates. Perez is a bucket, and you best believe he is coming back with a vengeance to remind everyone of the dominance he brings. Don’t count the old men out.

The CONTENDERS
2006

The greatest alumni champions of all time are back and ready to take back their throne! After back-to-back disappointing seasons where they could not get out of the quarterfinals, 06 comes back as healthy as can be…somewhat. Mike Sgro is back and ready two years post achilles surgery to lead this group with his canny shooting ability and toughness. Rob Leon Guererro looks as good as ever and will continue to anchor the front court with his size, rebounding and scoring.

Brian Aflague returns to anchor the ball handling duties and will be relied on more for scoring with Andres Reyes and TJ Balajadia off-island and not making it back. The big question for this group is how healthy Julius Yu will be come game time. Yu has fully strengthened his shoulder, however, a recent hamstring injury could derail a return to his team. Vinson Calvo, Gus Untalan, and John Pangilinan Jr. will be looked upon to fill key roles throughout, but how healthy Yu is will determine how deep this team will go. But you don’t win eight championships only winning one specific way. Don’t count out the winningest team in alumni history when it matters most.

2023
Last year, we said 2023 was one of the Cinderellas, and everyone laughed. Then they made a deep run in the playoffs and realized…the guy who writes this stuff really does know his stuff! Like Sakazaki and Shimizu, Blaise Ada and Yoshi Sayama are coming off gold medal performances in the Micro Games and are in as good a shape as ever. They are arguably the best back court in the tourney.

Aaron Arceo and Caleb Murphy will continue to give good minutes to this group, while Jaden Santos adds an extra scoring punch to an already dynamic back court. Ada and Sayama will carry this group every night and with a big test against the defending champs on opening night, we’ll see whether they again live up the hype, or falter under the bright lights as everyone expected a year ago.

2018/19
The newly formed joint class has lots of talent…on paper. 18’s Kyle Gaitan and Mark Temerowski bring size and toughness to the formidable ’19 boys led by Tony Quinene, Davin Rojas and Brandon Soriano. Those five are arguably the best starting group in the entire tourney! Gaitan is a beast around the rim and in transition who can get buckets from all angles.

Temerowski’s length and leaping will give anyone fits round the rim. Quinene can shoot the lights out, while Soriano’s all around game compliments the ’18 additions. Rojas is a solid player that will do all the little things to help achieve victory. But as we saw with the 2016 and 2017 combo, sometimes it takes time to gel, and there is only one ball. How quickly this group learns to play with each other will determine how deep a run they make.

The CINDERELLAS
2020

The runner ups from two years ago find themselves falling from grace one year after the other. Matt Fegurgur returns after making his highly anticipated debut last summer, but how far can he carry his team by himself? Leading scorer Christian Leon Guererro will miss this summer’s tournament along with Isaiah Pelkey. Point guard Colin Santiago will start the tournament but will not finish due to a travel commitment.

Cisco Uncangco, Luke Reyes, Elijah Dudkiewiez, and Eddie Rengiil return but will that be enough to pair with Fegurgur when games matter most? Experience counts in this tourney and although the boys of 2020 are still young, they have been battle tested and have proven they can answer the bell when it matters most.

2022
The boys of ’22 surprised everyone last year with their deep run in the tourney! After losing all four of their pool play games, the “Jealous Type” put together one of the greatest playoff runs off all time, knocking out 2020, 2023 and 2002/2004 on their way to the championship, where they fell short to last year’s hosts. EJ Acda and Michael Pangelinan return to bring size and scoring for this group. Russell Maratita, who hit the shot of the tourney last year to knock out ‘23, also returns to add a perimeter deep threat.

Kai Stettenbenz is reliable role player, but outside that, the ’22 boys will face another uphill climb. Evan Brown transforms this team with his toughness, energy and unpredictable scoring ability, but he will not be available due to injury. Leading scorer Kaine Santos also will not return creating more holes for this team. But if we learned anything from these boys last year, don’t count them out when games matter most. Can they turn the tables and surprise everyone again, or will they falter and become irrelevant once
again?

Three weeks of live action starts Friday night in the Jungle! Tickets are available exclusively at
www.guamtime.net .

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Father Duenas Alumni Basketball Tournament

DPR Liberation Village Baseball Tournament

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