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Secret behind success of Shakey’s tourney

Seems like only yesterday when the Shakey’s V-League was just having its blast-off, albeit unflatteringly. Was it 10 seasons ago, when the Shakey’s V-League got off the ground in 2004 – minus the usual fanfare usually accompanying a bash of enormous potential? Three visionaries, who formed the Sports Vision primarily for the purpose of recognizing an untapped goldmine such as volleyball, had nothing but fire in their hearts. And look where the Shakey’s V-League is today:  The No. 1 women’s tournament in the country. “Hard work and the belief that our product is good,” Moying Martelino had said to me then, the Shakey’s V-League barely two years into the nation’s consciousness. That was in 2006, and I was then the sports editor of the Philippine Chronicle; that was a job I simply had to accept for friendship’s sakes. I had just retired from the Philippine Daily Inquirer after a 20-year stint there (7 of those unforgettable years I had served as both the paper’s sports editor and motoring editor), and I was enjoying gleeful freedom from deadline tyranny, so-called, when Toti Carino, the former congressman and a longtime buddy of mine, offered me the post at the Chronicle.  Unfortunately, Toti’s Chronicle didn’t last long – but that’s another story. It was also during my Chronicle stint that, again unfortunately, Jun “Ibok” Bernardino had passed on in 2006, leaving behind his co-founders of the Shakey’s V-League – Moying and Richard “Ricky” Palou – to continue trail-blazing. Even as the three were primarily basketball animals – Ibok was a former PBA Commissioner, Moying the secretary general of the Asian Basketball Confederation, and Ricky the Ateneo Athletic director and a former PBA stalwart – they still found it viable to have a league that can rival, if not surpass, the popularity of the PBA. When the trio finally formalized their vision of a V-League (V as in volleyball) that would involve college teams at the beginning, followed in mid-year of each season by an Open tournament as catch-basin for post-collegiate players, the next question addressed was:  Who would finance the project? To their surprise, Shakey’s was more than very willing to come in and, thus, the Shakey’s V-League was born. Well, come to think of it.  Shakey’s is owned by the family of the late Leo Prieto, the founding commissioner himself of the PBA.   Stunningly, too, Prieto’s son, Leo Jr., didn’t have second thoughts when the V-League idea was introduced to him by Moying, Ibok and Ricky. Years after the Shakey’s V-League’s birth, Leo Prieto Jr., euphoric as ever over the project’s stupendous success, said:  “With the success it has reaped, the V-League must now focus on going to the next phase by bringing volleyball back to [international] competitive levels beginning with the Southeast Asian region.” I couldn’t agree more. And listen to Vic Gregorio, Shakey’s general manager:  “Everyone’s eyes were fixated on basketball.  The whole thing [V-League] was a leap of faith.  But we believed we could turn things around.” And turn things around, they did – with Rhea Navarro, the former sportswriter, who left her lucrative job as basketball front-office chief in Qatar, never hesitating to join the Three Musketeers in the planning stage of the Shakey’s V-League. Also, also deserving of praise, is Commissioner Tony Liao, whose wealth of experiences during the height of the “Leila Barrosmania” in the 2000 FIVB world events in Manila, had absolutely helped him in guiding the Shakey’s V-League from its infancy to maturity. In the recent Shakey’s V-League championships alone between National University and Ateneo, nearly 20,000 had consistently thronged to the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay in the best-of-three finals won by NU in spectacular fashion. Those were the biggest ever crowds in a volleyball tournament, almost eclipsing even the recorded all-time crowd turnouts in the PBA. In the end, there’s a genuine lesson to be learned from the Shakey’s V-League:  A good product could easily invite a great corporate backer (Shakey’s), and attract a TV support as handsomely exhibited by IBC-13, TV5, PTV-4 and back to TV5. Always, a vision forged in steel, nursed with care and carried out with utmost dedication will reap success.  Surely. *   *   * ALL IN.   For the Miami Heat today, it should feel like their NBA crown is on the line when they battle the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2. It is a virtual must-win for the Heat as a loss would put Miami in a huge 2-0 hole, pushing the reigning champions to cliff’s edge as the next three games are set in San Antonio.  The key question:  Can Kawhi Leonard again limit LeBron James?  Leonard’s glue-laden guarding of James in Game 1 starved the reigning MVP to just 18 points, way below his 32-plus scoring average in the playoffs.  In fact, LeBron’s 18 was his career playoff low (he was 7-of-16 from the field Friday), which totally overshadowed his triple double (18 rebounds, 11 assists) effort.
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