By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
ONE of the bigger stories in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) of late, the rise of the UP men’s basketball team from perennial league whipping boys to title contenders is being chronicled in a soon-to-be-released book.
Nowhere to Go But UP: How a Basketball Team Inspired a Nation, written by sportswriter and Rappler.com host Naveen K. Ganglani, narrates the steady rise of the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in recent UAAP seasons, particularly Season 81 where they made their finals return after a three-decade absence.
It was written from the eyes of the founders of the nowheretogobutUP Foundation, the group of alumni who banded together and began the UPrising amid the school’s darkest days in the league when it went through several winless seasons.
“It was purely because of my desire to give back to the University of the Philippines that made me commit into fulfilling this dream — a dream that we share with every Isko and Iska (scholars) out there — to watch our basketball team play in an arena with a sea of maroon. But it doesn’t stop there. The best is yet to come,” said Renan B. Dalisay, credited for spearheading the nowheretogobutUP movement that helped jolt changes in UP’s basketball program, in the book’s unveiling in December at the UP Executive House in Diliman.
Mr. Dalisay said as a group they are very happy to see their efforts bear fruit in aiding in getting new recruits, more partners and new supporters, which in turn pushed the Fighting Maroons to being true contenders.
In Season 81 in 2018, UP made its finals return bannered by Paul Desiderio, Diego Dario, Juan and Javi Gomez De Liano, Jarrell Lim, Bright Akhuetie and Jun Manzo and under coach Bo Perasol.
It marked the first time since 1986 that the Maroons were back in the UAAP Big Dance.
UP bucked a twice-to-win disadvantage against the Adamson Soaring Falcons in the Final Four that year to set up a finals duel with the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
But it would eventually fall to the Eagles in the championship series, 0-2.
In Season 82, the Maroons made it back to the Final Four but fell short of making it to the finals anew as it lost to the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in the semifinals.
Despite the earlier-than-expected exit though, UP underscored that it is a team to contend with, not only for the now but also in the coming years.
A DREAM COME TRUE
For author Ganglani, to be given the chance to write his first book over such a story as that of the Maroons is something he is very proud of and thankful for.
“I was very thankful, because they took a chance on me even if I was only 26 years old at that time. It’s always been my dream as a writer to pen a novel. I’m very glad this was my first one, because the journey of this program is remarkable,” said Mr. Ganglani, a product of De La Salle University, in an interview.
“It was a challenging but fulfilling experience. One of the important things we wanted to accomplish was to get the perspective of the different sides integral to the story — management, sponsors, coaches, players and a few others. There were some roadblocks with regards to scheduling interviews with everyone, but ultimately I feel the book has enough quotes from figures who were important during the many events which transpired in this story,” he added.
Mr. Ganglani shared that the interview process for the book began in March last year with the first draft done by October.
The new book author said everyone could relate to the story of the Maroons, which is a prime example of setting goals to improve one’s lot and making things happen.
“I am happy with how it turned out. One of my goals for the book was to provide a behind-the-scenes look at what manifested in order for the UP Fighting Maroons to transform themselves from college basketball’s consistent losers to championship contenders. That includes the very emotional moments in order to highlight the human side of all of it,” Mr. Ganglani said.
Adding, “There’s nothing quite like the story of an underdog. People with ties to the University of the Philippines will want to read the book to learn more about the men and women who made the Fighting Maroons’ run to the UAAP Finals possible, particularly the previously unknown anecdotes. Those who aren’t from UP can find inspiration in the narrative of the story, particularly about the power of remaining determined in the face of daunting challenges.”
The book will soon be available online through the nowheretogobutUP Facebook page and in bookstores nationwide for P800.