MANILA, October 21, 2005 
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Bringing the house down.

Purefoods coach Ryan Gregorio and players Jondan Salvador and Richard Yee talked about the Chunkee Giantsí jackrabbit start in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) this season, what makes them tick and their hopes and dreams at a "mock" press conference before over 200 student journalists in the jampacked Beato Angelico auditorium on the University of Santo Tomas (UST) campus last Wednesday.

The students came from 43 schools all over the country to congregate at the seventh UST National Campus Journalism Fellowship, called "Inkblots 2005," for three days. They were from Legazpi, Lucena, Lipa, Angeles, Cebu, Baguio, Tuguegarao, General Santos, Taytay and Oriental Mindoro, among others.

The appearance of the PBA icons was the highlight of the seminar which featured lectures on newswriting, features writing, lifestyle and culture writing, investigative journalism, sportswriting, photojournalism, broadcast journalism and campus paper management.

"Inkblots," organized by USTís 77-year-old official student publication "The Varsitarian," is the countryís foremost seminar for campus journalists. This yearís edition was coordinated by conference committee head Karla Magno, "Inkblots 2005" chairman Paul Jaud, "The Varsitarian" editor Eldric Peredo and publications adviser Joselito Zulueta.

Gregorio, Salvador and Yee brought the house down. They were subjected to rigid questioning by the students in a 45-minute open forum.

Gregorio said while other teams in the league may be taller, none is quicker than the Giants. The secret to Purefoodsí winning ways is its heart because he quipped, like the Chunkee Corned Beef thatís "buo ang laman," the team is "buo ang loob."

Gregorio related that when he took over the coaching reins from Eric Altamirano in 2002, it was not by design.

"Coach Eric was asked by national coach Jong Uichico to join his staff so since I was the first assistant coach, they had nobody else to turn to," said Gregorio. "I told the guys when I took over, not to play for me but to play for and with each other, that we would work together as a team. I also told them that we should celebrate our mistakes because winners are those who make mistakes and make sure they donít commit them again. You make mistakes when you do something on the court and thatís better than not doing anything at all."

Gregorio confessed he was a three-year benchwarmer for the University of the Philippines senior varsity and that could have been a blessing.

"I guess if you were a good player, you might not have the patience to be a good coach because itíll be difficult for you to understand why some players donít pick up what you think is easy," explained Gregorio. "And if you spend more time on the bench than on the court, youíll see more of the game from a total perspective."

Gregorio said he lost his voice in Purefoodsí recent back-to-back overtime wins over Alaska and San Miguel Beer.

"We never gave up even if we were down by 29 in the third period against Alaska and by six with two minutes left against San Miguel," said Gregorio. "That showed the character of the team. And we hadnít beaten San Miguel the last seven games or close to three years back."

Gregorio paid tribute to the players beside him at the auditorium. He called Salvador the next Alvin Patrimonio and Yee, a UST alumnus, a defensive stopper whoís survived seven years in the PBA because he gets the job done.

Gregorio said after Purefoods failed to make it to the semifinals in the last three conferences, there was a concerted effort to rebuild. Salvador was the first building block. Other offseason recruits were Egay Billones, Roger Yap and Marc Pingris.

Gregorio singled out Pingris for his contributions. "Marc came in with no pressure because there were no expectations," he said. "I told him if he gets 10 rebounds and no point, thatís okay but if he gets 10 points and 10 rebounds in a game, Iíd be ecstatic. So when he scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against San Miguel, I was the happiest person in the world."

Gregorio said veteran Jun Limpot still hasnít played because of an injury. "Before, Papa Jun would be forced to play even if he was only 70 percent fit because he had to," said Gregorio. "But he appreciates our gesture of resting him now until heís 100 percent. Weíre looking forward to bringing him back where he can contribute in a big way."

Salvador said he tried out for the UST varsity but was not taken. So he went to St. Benilde where he was part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association title squad in 2000. Then Salvador said he moved to the Metropolitan Basketball Association and the Philippine Basketball League before landing in the PBA.

Salvador said his biggest adjustment in the PBA is playing according to the rules of the strict officiating. He got into foul trouble in his first-ever game because he was used to a lot of contact in other leagues. Salvador didnít name his girlfriend but said she was an inspiration to him like his family and friends.

Yee said he got married to a UST graduate from the Hotel and Restaurant Management program. Looking around the campus in his "homecoming," he said the girls are still good-looking at UST. That, of course, triggered wild applause from the UST students.

Yee said heís lucky to have played for only one team his entire PBA career. He said the fellowship at Purefoods from the management down to the lowest level is strong and he couldnít be happier to be where he is.

Gregorio, Salvador and Yee came from practice and stayed about 1 1/2 hours with the students.

After the press conference, the students wrote about the event. Time limit was 30 minutes and each piece had to be at most, five paragraphs and 25 sentences. The best five writers were given gift packs by Purefoods.

The five winners were John Tan, third year student of the Makati Medical Center School of Nursing, Alexis Romero of UST, Hubert Pacheco of Ateneo, Imelda Manzo of Lourdes School of Quezon City and Mamela Kathleen Pasamba of Sacred Heart College of Lucena. Excerpts of their stories will be published in a future column.

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Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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