Tanduay’s newly-formed basketball team has taken on the name that has made it one of the most popular teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The new Tanduay Rum Masters under Coach Cholo Villanueva vows to continue the team’s winning legacy.
“Tanduay is one of the most prominent companies in the Philippines known for supporting basketball, so being a part of it is a privilege,” says Coach Villanueva. “The challenge is to bring back its winning mentality. Hopefully, we can bring back the championship legacy that the Rum Masters are known for.”
At the same time, Tanduay aims to train the spotlight on basketball talents outside of the big leagues. It has been the objective of its Tanduay Athletics division to develop new and aspiring players of all sports.
“It’s always been Tanduay’s advocacy to provide an avenue for players from smaller schools to showcase their skills and talents. This is our way of helping basketball in the country by providing opportunities for those who are not fortunate enough to come from big basketball programs. That’s why our players come from different leagues, not just the top leagues,” says Tanduay Rum Masters Team Manager Jean Alabanza.
The Tanduay Rum Masters will play its first game in the Filipino Basketball League (FilBasket) this March. The newly-established league will be participated in by local and international teams.
Asked if there is any pressure in carrying the Tanduay Rum Masters name, Coach Villanueva says that there will always be pressure, but he and his team are up for the challenge.
Coach Villanueva knows what overcoming pressure and succeeding are like. After all, he has been part of De La Salle University’s (DLSU) Green Archers men’s basketball team that won three championships for the school. During his last year, he even bagged the much-coveted Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.
After his UAAP stint, he played in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) for three years. He started his coaching career under the wings of Coach Franz Pumaren, acting as his assistant coach in DLSU. He has also handled coaching stints in the PBA, the Philippine Basketball League (PBL), and the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL),
The current roster of the Tanduay Rum Masters consists of both veterans and rookies. It includes Coach Villanueva’s former players, members of the University of the East basketball team, and players who have yet to make a name in the Philippines’ favorite sport.
Its players include Levi Hernandez, Cedrick Ablaza, Mark Cruz, Dawn Ochea, Johnrey Villanueva, Jeckster Apinan, Wilson Baltazar, Ralf Olivares, Rudy Lingganay, Joshua Gonzales, Darwin Lumor, Mark Justine Dela Virgen, Jaycee Asuncion, Jay Manlangit, and Vincent King Importante.
Coach Villanueva’s coaching staff, meanwhile, includes Jay-R Aquino (first assistant coach); John Arenas (video coordinator); Warren Catipan (skills development); Sonny Montalvo (strength and conditioning); Dino Enrile (skills development); and James Tolentino (scout).
“We understand the history of the team and its success in the past. We are looking forward to making our own run at winning championships again,” says Alabanza, who is also the team manager of the University of the East Red Warriors. He has been with Tanduay for more than 10 years, starting with its stint at the PBA D-League. He has also managed other teams in the PBL and international basketball competitions.
In joining Filbasket, Coach Villanueva said that they wanted to gauge the journey they will go through leading to a championship and also see where they are as a team. “Hopefully, through the day-to-day process of improving and giving the best versions of ourselves, we’ll win the championship in the Filbasket,” he says.
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