It's no secret that the entry of Jino Manansala has turned St. Clare from a league doormat to a championship squad in the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU).
Unknown to most people, Rex Manansala was the one who helped the son of former PBA star Jimmy get the break that catapulted his coaching career.
"Sabi ni Coach Rex, kausapin mo si Doc Jay (Adalem of St. Clare) kung makakapunta tayo diyan. Sabihin mo papalakasin natin yung team. St. Clare n'un palaging nasa huli," shared Jimmy, who also serves as St. Clare's consultant, on an episode of An Eternity of Basketball on Tuesday.
And under Jino Manansala, St. Clare did improve.
Since 2012, the Saints have been a fixture in the finals of the NAASCU. Before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended leagues all over the country, St. Clare nabbed a fourth straight title.
For everything they have accomplished as coaches, the Manansalas will forever be indebted to Rex.
"Binigyan kami talaga ng break sa basketball. Siya yung nasa likod namin sa panalo o sa talo. Hanggang ngayon naman. Tinulungan kami hindi lang sa coaching pati sa buhay, kung pano kami maging maayos sa buhay. Kaya ang laki ng utang na loob namin sa kaniya," Jimmy said.
Jino is concurrently an assistant on UST coach Aldin Ayo's staff.
St. Clare can run with top UAAP, NCAA schools
Jimmy has reason to believe the Saints can hold their own against celebrated collegiate teams in the UAAP and NCAA.
The Saints have proved they could measure up against teams from the aforementioned leagues on multiple occasions.
"Hindi sa pagmamayabang, pero naglaban-laban kami nyan sa Milcu. Nakalaban namin si Jamike (Jarin) ng NU (National University). Tinalo namin ang NU team A. Tapos Arellano ni Jerry (Codinera) nakalaban namin, tinalo rin namin ang Arellano sa Milcu," the elder Manansala said.
"Actually yung St. Clare pwede mo isabay sa NCAA. Hindi sila magiging kulelat. Pwede sila ilaban sa NCAA."
Although they tapped some seasoned players, St. Clare was also able to win it all in the D-League Foundation Cup last year at the expense of a powerhouse Marinerong Pilipino side.
"Ang dami namin players na naging player na sa PBA. Ang dami rin na nag-MPBL," he said.
Poaching their talents
Winning multiple championships is not the sole indicator of the program's success.
Over the years, St. Clare has produced high-caliber players such as Jeff Viernes, Aris Dionisio, Jam Jamito, Joshua Fontanilla, and Chris Bitoon. Saying the school has made waves in the basketball circuit is an understatement.
Some NCAA and UAAP schools have even tried to pry several of their players, which doesn't sit well with the 1978 PBA Rookie of the Year.
"Ang ano namin makatulong kami sa players. Pag gumaling sila ang daming eskwelang... hihingi sila ng tune-up tapos di mo alam kinukuha na pala player mo," Jimmy said. "Pinaghirapan mo (i-develop) player mo tapos kukunin nila. Ganun kalakaran e."
Thankfully, most of them stayed on and helped the team fortify its hold on the throne in the NAASCU.