What the NCAA Championship means to the San Beda Red Lions

The trajectories of San Beda’s two graduating stars, Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon, say a lot about their university’s basketball ethos.

Mocon’s reliable performance that has only gotten better year after year in the NCAA speaks to the effectiveness of San Beda’s talent development. Having been with the red and white for nearly a decade, Mocon understands what it takes to become a key player for A Team That Good—ask any of the Red Lions’ coaches and the key thing they praise is Mocon’s work ethic.

On the other hand, Bolick’s larger-than-life “Beast Mode” persona not only shows San Beda’s strength in talent selection—Bolick being overlooked by DLSU, only to lose to a Beda-Bolick game-winner will be one of his fans’ favorite story from his college years—but mirrors the attitudes that San Beda fans have towards their team. Bolick refuses to allow himself and his teammates to slack off. He is visibly upset when they miss easy shots, even if they win the game. He brims with boundless ambition, he breathes fire and fury.

It’s winning or or nothing for Bolick, and isn’t that the most San Beda thing?

San Beda fans’ expectations for the team are as high as Bolick’s expectations for himself. Everyone knows they’re the winningest team in league history, they’ve enjoyed the most title streaks, and it’s interesting how this history has affected attitudes towards the team.

Unlike smaller programs that can think of their victories as triumphs of the little team that could, San Beda feels the pressure to win because they should. Which, of course, is the double-edged sword of being A Team That Good.

It’s easy for haters to root for whoever is up against San Beda “para maiba,” but the problem with that is it reduces the current lineup to a statistic. By going big picture and thinking of San Beda as a monolith, we lose sight of the individual journeys.

The title matters to AC Soberano because all his kuyas are graduating and before he’ll be left with the task of leading the squad next year, he wants to start that new chapter on a high. The title matters to Radge Tongco because he’s healthy and in fighting form again recovering from a period of drastic weight loss due to an illness. The title matters to Eugene Toba because he finally got a chance to play after years on Team B, and he only has a small window before NCAA closes its doors on foreign student athletes. And how they win the title matters to guys like James Kwekuteye, Kenmark Carino and Franz Abuda because it can’t just be a Bolick and Mocon show. This is the big stage, this is their moment too.

If they win the title, they get the recognition they deserve as Players That Good, On A Team That Good. Which they already are, even without the title—a deadly combination of recruitment, development, management running on all cylinders. Of incredible talent meeting incredible work ethic. But when your school’s history is that storied, the standard is just that high. When you play for San Beda, to be something, you have to be everything.

And to the Red Lions, that’s a challenge they’re willing to face.