So we’ve flipped the calendar to 2018. What does this year have in store for sports lovers? We asked Chuck Araneta, Charlie Cuna, Carlo Pamintuan, Jutt Sulit and Noel Zarate to gaze into their crystal balls and provide us a glimpse of the future.
1. The biggest sports storyline for 2018.
Chuck: The Decision Part III. It’s going to be fascinating to see where LeBron goes after the season. Will he stay with the Cavs? Will he bolt The Land once again for LA, or even Houston? I’ve always felt that James is the best at finding out the best situation for him, and where he decides to go is going to have to huge effects on the league.
Charlie: It’s a FIFA World Cup year. The biggest sport in the world will crown a new (or repeat) world champion in July. There can be no bigger storyline than that.
Carlo: 2018 is a FIFA World Cup Year and that will surely be the biggest storyline.
Jutt: For me, it’s going to be the Lakers’ free agency. There a lot of drama and suspense involved in it, perfect for a team that that plays in the entertainment capital of the world. Is Paul George still coming over? If he does, will that attract another big name? Is there really a chance that LeBron James signs with the purple and gold? At the end of the day, all I’m asking for as Laker fan is for the team to be competitive again. Just at least be in the playoffs discussion. Please.
Noel: The PBA brouhaha and the next PBA commissioner. The league has been the epitome of steadiness since the post-EDSA Revolution era and no matter who was placed at the helm, it withstood the Fil-Sham scandals, the Eala ouster and officiating issues along with radical rule changes. But when the “7-5″ faction happened with Chito Narvasa initially unwilling to step down, it put so much uncertainty in the air that this season was in the balance even moments before the opener. While the PBA is slowly picking up the pieces, the next commissioner now has a huge responsibility to assure all that that will never even come close to happening again. The PBA dodged a bullet there.
2. Your one big, bold projection for 2018.
Chuck: Ginebra wins two out of three championships in the PBA this season.
Charlie: Roger Federer will win one or two more Grand Slam tournaments again this year.
Carlo: The San Miguel Beermen will have a tougher time winning than expected. This is not to say that they are past their prime but a lot the other teams got better and are specifically setting up their teams with the Beermen in mind. Many think that the Beermen will waltz their way to the Philippine Cup and the Commissioner’s Cup with Charles Rhodes but I really don’t think it will be that easy.
Jutt: After decades of falling short, the UP Fighting Maroons will be back in the UAAP Finals. It has been a long, arduous journey for the Maroons. Time has tested them well and they’re now ready to make their climb once again. With Bright Akhuetie coming in to join forces with Paul Desiderio, Jun Manzo and Juan Gomez de Liaño, major improvement should be expected from UP. This is their best shot to make waves in the UAAP again. They will shoot their shot.
Noel: The Boston Celtics will win the 2017-2018 NBA championship. After a decade, Beantown will get number eighteen. Kyrie Irving’s addition and Gordon Hayward’s injury were initially seen as hindrances to Boston recapturing the form that got them the top seed in the East last season. But Irving has shown that his leadership extends to beyond scoring and with hungry cagers like Al Horford, Marcus Smart, sophomore sensation Jaylen Brown, rookie revelation Jayson Tatum and the always surprising bench of Brad Stevens, Boston is more than equipped to topple reigning Eastern Conference titlists Cleveland and inspired Toronto. Here’s another bonus: the Celtics will meet the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Finals. No, I’m not hungover from the New Year parties.
3. Your 2018 Pinoy rising star.
Chuck: Kiefer Ravena. He’ll be one of the top choices for rookie of the year, and will prove himself a valuable future piece of the Gilas program throughout the FIBA Asia Home and Away Qualifiers.
Charlie: It would be easy to say teen basketball player Kai Sotto, but why add pressure on the very narrow shoulders of the fifteen-year old? His success will come in due time. Bowler Krizzia Lyn Tabora won the Bowling World Cup in 2017, so her star is on the rise as well. There is much young talent in different disciplines who have a chance to blossom this year, but I choose twenty-five year old pro Roger Pogoy. He showed glimpses of how good he can be on both defense and offense, both in the PBA and at the FIBA level. This year, and in years to come, he will be an integral part of Gilas Pilipinas, one of those players that you cannot not have in the line-up, because he can score, he can defend, he hustles, and his confidence is growing every day. I look for him to become a household hoops name as he continues to shine on the hardcourt.
Carlo: Kai Sotto would continue to generate a lot of noise this year and he will almost single-handedly put UAAP Juniors Basketball on the radar. It will be interesting to see where else we’ll get to see Sotto in action.
Jutt: The Blackwater Elite. I feel like this could be the year that they make their first semifinals appearance in the PBA. The team has done a great job at slowly building their roster with valuable pick-ups here and there. It took a lot of patience on their end. Now that they have a solid unit in Mac Belo, Raymar Jose, Allein Maliksi, Mike DiGregorio and Poy Erram, the squad is bannering its best look since it entered the league. This year will be a good one for the Elite.
Noel: Bianca Pagdanganan. Her recent transfer from Gonzaga University to Arizona University caused quite a stir in the US NCAA collegiate golf scene and the soft-spoken 19-year-old out of Assumption Antipolo High School is set to lead the Wildcats to a promising season. After tying an NCAA mark of 61 last September in Wolcott, Ohio during the National Championship, Arizona coach Laura Ianello began referring to the young Filipina lass as “The Unicorn” for her unique golfing skill set of power, accuracy and grace under pressure on the greens. Having gone through several sessions with renowned Pinay golfer Jennifer Rosales–Pagdanganan’s self-confessed idol–this prodigy is primed to make the nation proud and entering her final season as a collegian could have her LPGA dreams realized very soon. Pagdanganan is poised to put the Philippines back on the world map in terms of golf and could get that done as early as the Champion Infinity Philippine Ladies Amateur Open next week where she blitzed last year’s field en route to a nine stroke triumph against Thailand’s Atthaya Thithikul.
4. The number of gold medals the Philippines will win in the 2018 Asian Games.
Chuck: Two to three gold medals is a conservative pick, but I hope that we get there. in the 2014 Asian games, we only went home with one. There’s literally nowhere else to go but up, right?
Charlie: Three to five. Considering the country only won one in Incheon 2014, three is a realistic goal. I can’t pinpoint from which sports the golds will come, but perhaps weightlifting is one (Hidilyn), and the combat sports are big possibilities as well. Will there be BMX again? Maybe Daniel Caluag can do a repeat?
Carlo: Two to three.
Jutt: I’d say we can go up to five but a reasonable expectation would be three. In 2014, we only brought home one gold from Incheon. That was obviously below our expectations and below our capacity. We didn’t even get one in boxing. We’ll do better in Jakarta. I truly believe that. And I also am very positive that we’ll have at least one gold in boxing.
Noel: Eight to 12 with boxing getting a big chunk.
5. Your one big wish for Philippine sports in 2018.
Chuck: That the PBA will find a way to turn things around. I’m hoping that eventually the league will realize it’s shortcomings, and work together to remedy the situation. It’s gone on long enough, and I’m hoping that the new leadership will find a way to sort things out and things back on track again.
Charlie: Like a broken record, here I go again. As I stated in my Short Wishlist for Sports in 2018, and as I have wished for years and years, my biggest wish is for Philippine sports to, once and for all, head in the right directions, i.e., forward and upward.
Carlo: Less politicking. The Philippines has outstanding athletes who work hard in their respective crafts. Instead of supporting them though, the very institutions created to aid them sometimes turn out to be the biggest roadblocks to their success. For 2018 my wish is for everyone to help each other out instead of just trying their best to stay in power.
Jutt: “Gilas Pilipinas upsets Australia in Melbourne”
How sweet would it be to be reading that headline on the morning of February 23? Realistically speaking, it’s not very likely, I know. When we watched Australia play in the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon, Gilas players were left shaking their heads and whispering “grabe” into thin air. We were all amazed. But that doesn’t mean it would be impossible to beat the Aussies. It will take a lot of hard work and preparation, but there’s nothing that Gilas isn’t willing to do.
I hope to wake up in the morning of February 23 to see that headline pop up on every sports website I visit.
Noel: Host more international sports events. In 2017, we had the SEABA championships, the Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship, a few football friendlies and some international triathlons and races. How about a Pacquiao fight? The UFC? An FIVB Grand Prix? Another NBA Global Games sortie? I believe that the Philippines is an ideal sports tourism country and our facilities have vastly improved over the years. We’re actually getting noticed as a hosting option. Now if only our sports officials…