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So Long, Captain Kirk

MANILA, Philippines—It was in 2008 when Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles began to write the first chapter of their championship story.

And oh man, did they keep on adding to the pages. Not once, twice or even thrice but four consecutive times.

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The Blue Eagles ended each chapter of their UAAP yarn with happily-ever-after celebrations and Season 74 was no different except that this time, they bade good bye to the skipper who backstopped Ateneo’s “four-peat” glory.

“We made a promise last season that we would be champs again this season,” said Kirk Long during the bonfire celebration. “And here we are, fulfilling that promise to all of you.”

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It was a Long run filled with pain and trials but it was worth certainly worth it.

Fateful decision

Kirk came to the Philippines in 1991 as an ordinary American citizen. He had no plans of staying in the country for college and never planned to move in as soon as his plane landed in Manila. But after a few years, he decided to stick it out here with his parents, who are missionaries.

“I thought of just visiting the country, return to the US for college and come again here in the Philippines,” he shared. “But as I stayed here, I saw a future ahead for me here and that made me change my way of thinking.”

And as it turned out, he made the right decision.

At about the same time, coach Norman Black was on the look out for potential recruits and was watching a scrimmage when one particular player caught his eye.

Black liked what he saw and offered the kid a scholarship at Ateneo to play for the Blue Eagles.

“I was playing against Ryan Buenafe and some other guys back then and I did beat them all,” Long quipped with a huge grin on his face. “This also helped me set a platform of my future in the country and it did worked well.”

He gained not only a career but also extended families, friends and not to mention a romantic interest during his stay here and that made him fall in love even more with the country, not just its basketball.

Passion and dedication

With his looming graduating from the UAAP, Long is firm in his pursuit of becoming a sports personality. It doesn’t necessarily mean shooting hoops inside the court—something he would gladly do if the opportunity rises.

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“I always see myself connected to sports. If I could teach it or coach, I will,” he said.

He desires to teach and coach in the high school level eventually because of the way he connects with young kids. Long is fond of children. In fact, during his free time, he visits the Children’s Home located near his house,  hangs out with a bunch of kids and plays basketball with them. Whenever possible, he also drops by the family-owned Faith Academy to help teach the kids there.

“My coaches and the people around me are very supportive of all these [endeavors]. This is also what they want for me,” he proudly shared.

As long as the word “sports” is in it, he would be game with appearances in TV shows or radio talks. He said that it is something that he really loves and this is where his passion lies.

Good bye, Blue Eagles
“Being a part of the UAAP is one of the best things that has happened in my life,” Long said. “I love the UAAP, it’s been fun playing and I’ll sure do miss it when I [graduate].”

He also sent some love out to those who raise up colorful banners and cheer their hearts out for the Blue Eagles.

“They made all of my seasons special and remarkable,” he said. “They inspired me to do better each year and helped me get through.”

“The memories I made and shared with other people will always be with me because those things helped me become to who I am now.”

Long’s fans may miss him in action but he says that they should just keep on supporting the team because there is a lot more to look forward to in the team.

“It’s been really great to have seen him play for Ateneo,” said Blue Eagle fan Venice Camacho. “I salute him for all the hard work he has done for the team and will also miss him a lot.”

Captain Kirk is leaving Ateneo, but life goes on for him. His term as a collegiate basketball player might have expired but his passion and love for both the sport and its people will remain strong in his heart.

(Alexandra Jessica Esponga is a freshman at Letran College. She finished high school at JCSGO Christian Academy where she consistently joined regional press conferences.)

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TAGS: Ateneo Blue Eagles, Basketball, Kirk Long, Norman Black, Sports
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