Archers hang hat on humility
MANILA, Philippines — De La Salle University men’s basketball head coach Topex Robinson never wavered in reminding his players to be humble throughout the UAAP season so when the final buzzer sounded to end the Finals that brought the Archers back to the throne after a seven-year wait before 25,192 fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Wednesday, there were no stare-downs, no chest-thumps only the shaking of hands in the spirit of sportsmanship.
Robinson walked into the UAAP as a first-time coach with eyes wide open. He applied for the job when it became open after coach Derick Pumaren’s contract wasn’t renewed last December. Robinson took a leap of faith in leaving Phoenix in the PBA without a sure offer from La Salle but wanted to make himself available in case something landed on his table. It was never about money when the offer came and Robinson readily agreed to wear the Green and White.
From Day One, Robinson preached humility, knowing the temptation of college players to stand proudly in the face of popularity and adulation. The initials FSC. which are written after every La Salle Christian Brother’s name. stands for Frates Scholarum Christianarum (Brothers of the Christian Schools in Latin). But for Robinson, FSC means Faith, Service and Communion. The Archers welcomed Robinson’s principles as warmly as he embraced La Salle’s values. He enrolled in the school to finish his undergrad studies and some of his players were even classmates. His commitment to education was something he wanted to impart to the Archers by example.
La Salle’s journey was far from smooth sailing. The Archers lost to Ateneo in their second game and before the first round closed, they added two more setbacks. But against UE before the second round started, Robinson did the unthinkable. After UE opened a 48-37 lead at the half, Robinson felt the Archers weren’t responding to his instructions and yielded the coaching reins to assistant Caloy Garcia. In the second half, the Archers were determined to win it for Robinson and they did, 83-75. Robinson’s ultimate sacrifice of watching from the sidelines the entire second half awakened the Archers to realize they had a special coach they should die for and swore they would never disappoint again. That was the first of nine straight wins racked up by La Salle, sweeping the second round and pushed the Archers to second place with a twice-to-beat advantage against NU in the Final Four.
La Salle hadn’t advanced to the Final Four in three of the last four seasons so moving up was a breakthrough. Robinson, the Archers’ seventh coach since Season 75, delivered a strong statement in crushing NU, 97-73, to arrange a best-of-three Finals against No. 1 UP. In Game 1, La Salle was brought back to earth and lost, 97-67. But in Game 2, the Archers evened the series, 82-60, as they held the Maroons to 11 points in each of the last three quarters. UP was limited to two triples, down from its average of seven, and the Archers collected more assists, 21-8 to underscore their commitment to teamwork. In the clincher, La Salle once more leaned on defense to carve out a 73-69 decision with UP held to one three-point conversion. In intermission, the Maroons were ahead, 43-39 then the Archers surged in the second half with a 9-3 edge in assists and holding UP to 18 percent shooting.
MVP Kevin Quiambao stood out in Game 3 with 24 points, four triples, nine rebounds and four assists. His mother, who lives in Tokyo, flew in to watch with her two kids, one of whom is a junior sumo wrestler. Quiambao is just as humble as Robinson and after every game, slaps fives with all his teammates in the locker room. It’s a symbol of togetherness. He believes in family and whenever he takes a free throw, kisses the tattoo of his late grandfather on his arm.
In the dugout before every game, Robinson turns off the lights for five minutes with only a candle light flickering so everyone is calmed before entering the storm. His pre-game instructions are concise and he never clutters the whiteboard with unnecessary details. The Archers like Robinson’s style which is intuitive, to the point and proactive. Robinson said advancing to the Finals was more difficult than anything so when La Salle was a win away from the title, he didn’t want the effort to go to waste. The Archers rose to the challenge.News Related