When you let your fists do the talking

When you let your fists do the talking
Nasty scene during the Nov. 8 match between the College of St. Benilde Blazers and the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers. —PHOTO COURTESY OF NCAA

What is it with blowout games and big brawls? Retribution for a humiliating beatdown? Payback for the other team’s 3-point shots that never seem to miss? Vengeful warning to an opponent for dunking on one’s team’s misery?

It could have been any of those in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) match between the College of St. Benilde Blazers and the Jose Rizal University (JRU) Heavy Bombers last Nov. 8. 

The Blazers were way ahead by 20 points with only 3 minutes 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Migs Oczon sank a 3-pointer and, in the ensuing rebound play, JRU’s John Anthony Walker Amores and Benilde’s CJ Flores got entangled on the floor, prompting the JRU coaching staff to move their 6-foot-2 forward off the court to de-escalate the heated situation.

But Amores, still restless on the JRU bench, segued into a shouting match with a person at the far side of the court. And what could have been just a small flare-up turned into a forest fire when he quickly headed to the Benilde bench and started throwing punches. He missed Mark Sanco and Oczon but landed two solid punches on Jimboy Pasturan’s face and Taine Davis’ jaw. 

Things quieted down only after bouncers escorted Amores to the dugout and, later, to the JRU bus. With the game paused, the Blazers were ruled the winners.

Videos of Amores’ rampage went viral and made up the next day’s sports headlines. Inevitably, it was revealed that four months prior, he also sparked a bench-clearing brawl after punching University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons’ Mark Belmonte during the PG Flex-UCBL Invitational Tournament, a supposed friendly match.

No thanks to Amores’ furious fist, 18-year-old Belmonte was rushed to hospital with a gum fracture, dislocated teeth, and mouth lacerations. The incident prompted the UP men’s basketball team management to file a criminal case against Amores

Interestingly, in that July 26 match, JRU was being pummeled by UP, and in the midst of a 15-2 run. The score was 52-41, with only 2 minutes 12 seconds remaining in the game.

Related: Gilas Pilipinas lives and dies with Jordan Clarkson

Not unique

A bent for boorishness and violence is not exactly unique to college basketball. Remember that disgraceful brawl midway through the third quarter of the FIBA World Cup qualifier match between Gilas Pilipinas and Australia on July 2, 2018?

Gilas Pilipinas was down by 31 points, 79-48, when it exchanged punches with the Australian visitors.

As many as 13 players (9 from the Philippines) were tossed out of the game. Australia won by default because Gilas could field only 3 players with 14 minutes left to play. International sports news outlets, still reeling from earlier reports on NBA star Lebron James’ transfer to the Los Angeles Lakers, picked up on the chaos at the Philippine Arena.

Soon after the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and Basketball Australia apologized to the worldwide basketball community for bringing the sport “into disrepute,” the players from the Philippines, all professionals, returned to their respective teams and went on with their lives and their lucrative careers as though nothing had happened.

No such luxury

JRU’s John Anthony Walker Amores. —PHOTO FROM PNA.COM.PH

Amores is enjoying no such luxury. The 23-year-old forward who contemplated basketball as a career is facing a bleak future considering that he has been expelled from JRU’s sports programs and his privileges as a student-athlete have been cancelled.

He also faces fresh charges of physical injury, filed by Pasturan and Davis at the San Juan City Prosecutor’s Office last Nov. 11.

In an interview with “Playitright” hosts Quinito Henson and Dyan Castillejo, Amores said he was dealing with problems at home and missing his year-old baby girl at the time of his on-court rampage. (He did not elaborate on why he was separated from his child.}

He also said he was now into mental health counselling (two sessions already)—an apparent effort to assure the public of his sincerity to restart his life, and perhaps his basketball career.

But while Amores still has two playing years left as a college basketball player, his chances of suiting up are “slim,” according to sources in the NCAA.

Nothing like Jaworski, Reynoso?

It would be helpful if he were an established and exceptional athlete like Robert Jaworski and Big Boy Reynoso, then Meralco players who were both slapped with a lifetime ban on Dec. 21, 1971, after assaulting two referees during a Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association match. 

It was the first suspension for life in the history of Philippine basketball. But two years later, the ban on Jaworski and Reynoso was lifted, with the Basketball Association of the Philippines deciding that they had “suffered enough.” Besides, the Philippines needed their talent as the country was hosting the 1973 Asian Basketball Confederation Championships (now the FIBA Asia Championship). True enough, the two men proved vital in the home team’s capture of the Asian crown at the Araneta Coliseum; they were part of the last Filipino squad of purely homegrown players to win the continental title.

Maybe Amores should look to these two basketball legends for inspiration (they stand 6-foot-2 like him). Now that his basketball future is in limbo, he should use this downtime to finally deal with that infamous on-court temper of his. 

At the same time, if he still loves the sport, he should develop new skills that would make him interesting to professional league scouts. (In his last game, he contributed only 4 points on 1-for-12 shooting and 5 rebounds.) 

Like Jaworski and Reynoso in 1971, Amores’ fate may seem murky at the moment. But perhaps it’s not yet the end of his story.

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