Remember these Blue Eagles?
Save for a basketball signed by members of the 2002 Ateneo basketball team, there’s hardly a memento of the squad that snapped La Salle’s bid to win the five-peat while ending a 14-year title drought in the UAAP basketball wars inside the office of Arben Santos.
The Ateneo sports Hall-of-Famer may have nurtured those Blue Eagles 15 years ago but his favorite reminders of their success are the lives they lead today.
“Give the players all the credit. They gave it all and they knew what was at stake,” said Santos.
Larry Fonacier’s rejection of Mac Cardona’s desperation one-hander became the poster shot of the memorable best-of-three title series, which the Blue Eagles ruled in three tough games.
Ateneo took Game 1 by a whisker, 72-70 but De La Salle forced the winner-take-all with a clinical, 85-77.
The Eagles propped up by a loud and passionate crowd, could not be denied as they completed their rise with a 77-70 win in the best-of-three title series.
Santos spent his time with the players preaching the value of education and sharing with them his business acumen.
“I kept on telling them not to forget their studies. Remember they are student-athletes, not just athletes. Books and balls must complement each other,” said Santos, a football star at Ateneo. “An athlete’s glory is to win the crown and the success of a student is to earn a diploma. This is the true example of a atudent-athlete.’’
Fifteen years later, those players have trekked their own paths to success.
Fonacier, playmaker LA Tenorio, JC Intal and Doug Kramer continue to dazzle in the pros.
Enrico Villanueva recently retired. All four finished their AB Interdisciplinary Studies.
Intal runs a taxi business and has stakes in several restaurant businesses. Tenorio, Ginebra’s backcourt wizard, is also into the restaurant business while investing in a center for kids and an elevator construction company.
Villanueva heads Villanueva Bugia Trading, Blue Fields Petroleum Services and RNJ Villanueva Corp.
Kramer and his family are social media ambassadors. He manages a fleet of taxis on top of being part owner of Sniff and Cuddle baby cologne. Paolo Bugia earned an MBA after graduating with a Management Information Systems degree.
Bugia, whose sister is married to Tenorio, is also the team manager of Phoenix Fuel Masters.
Rich Alvarez also has a degree and is married to singer Kyla. He also invested in various food businesses.
Wesley Gonzales also boasts of an MBA after getting his BS Management information Systems degree. He is into the poultry business.
Sweet-shooting Gec Chia and reliever Eric Yao also have Management information Systems diploma. Chia also has also MA Information technology degree under his belt. He is managing director ofPoliform Inc.
Yao is a distributor of fertilizers, San Miguel beer,cigarettes; and B-meg feeds.
Also successful are graduates Sonny Tadeo (Associate director ICAP Phils, Inc); Magnum Membrere (TNT Katropa Assistant Team Manager; Commercial and Marketing of Maynilad); JR Elmido (trader at HSBC and Standard Chartered Global Markets, works at Tradition Financial Services); Joy del Rosario (Regional Sales Manager Smart); Andrew Cruz (ICU nurse at Centennial Hills Hospital, Las Vegas) and MBA holder and engineering management graduate
Marco Benitez who juggles his job as an sportscaster for ABS-CBN Sports and as president of Unlad Resources Devt Corp, Chiron Devt Inc., Sunrise Security Services, Inc., and Sunbless Manpower & Gen. Services.
Ball is life, they say, but to the Class of 2002 there’s life after ball.