Out of Africa (2)

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ROMY P. MARIÑAS

Is the presence of Ebenezer Godwin Kwawukumey helping the University of Santo Tomas’ Growling Tigers in its quest for the basketball championship in Season 80 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP)?

Evidently not, with the Tigers languishing in the cellar, having lost all its 13 games in the elimination stage at this writing.

There are five other foreigners in the country’s arguably premier collegiate basketball league, aside from Kwawukumey, who is from Nigeria.

The five are Soulemane Gawall Cherif Sarr from Cameroon, who plays for the Adamson Falcons; Chibueze Ikeh, also from Cameroon, Ateneo Blue Eagles; Benoit Mendzana Mbala, another Cameroonian, De La Salle Green Archers; Prince Orizu, also from Nigeria, Far Eastern University Tamaraws; and Issa Seny Diouf Gaye from Ghana, National University Bulldogs.

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The University of the East Red Warriors and the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons have no foreign players in their respective rosters, also at this writing.

Apparently, it would have mattered for the UE Red Warriors if it had been able to field an “import” because, also at this writing, it ranks seventh among the eight teams fighting for the Season 80 crown.

On second thought, it would have not because the glory days of the University of the East as a UAAP basketball team to beat have been long gone since the time of Robert Jaworski.

The school, whose main campus is in Manila’s University Belt, today seems more focused on fencing.

Pushing fencing in these parts is not exactly a bad idea because Filipinos have more than a Chinaman’s chance of becoming internationally competitive in this sport, not in basketball (not on your life!).

Having players from Africa works fine for Ateneo, which is on top of the standings (all 12 games won), and De La Salle (11 wins, 2 losses, to occupy the No. 2 spot).

Of course, Ateneo is No. 1 right now not because of Chibueze Ikeh alone, and DLSU is No. 2 not because of Benoit Mendzana Mbala alone.

On the other hand, the UST Growling Tigers have not been able to live up to their name because of Ebenezer Godwin Kwawukumey alone.

It would appear that having players out of Africa as members of UAAP teams work both ways—you win with them or you lose with them.

We would like to think that the UAAP would remain the popular basketball league that it has been for decades without “imported” players from Africa or wherever.

Unless of course there is this thing called corporate social responsibility going on here and fanning to the African heartland at that.

After all, schools have board of directors, so that makes them corporate and such.

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