The man behind the Cagebelles’ glory
The cagebelles have been consistently trampling their opponents in the last six seasons of Private Schools Athletic Association (PRISAA) – Nationals⎯guarding their champion spot among the female hoopsters in the country. But someone stands behind all of their glory—a man whose patience, guidance, and motivation has pushed the cagebelles beyond their limits.
His name is Tito Reyes⎯the head coach of cagebelles who has been honing the skills and shaping the personalities of his players on and of fthe court since day one. Rewinding to his early basketball career, let’s discover the story of the unsung hero of our University’s women’s basketball team.
Like any other budding basketball player who grew up watching the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in the 90’s, Reyes wanted to join the ranks of the PBA. “Bata pa lang kasi ako, nanonood na ako ng PBA. So nag-start na ako mag-basketball…halos lahat naman yata ng basketball player ‘yon ang dream, makapag laro professionally,” Coach Tito shared.
All young men have idols, and Tito Reyes’s was none other than Vergel Meneses. Inspiring the then-young Reyes, Meneses is a three-time PBA champion, one-time PBA MVP, 11-time PBA All-Star, and now the head coach of his alma mater’s basketball team in Jose Rizal University.
Paving the way for his hoopster dream at an early age, Coach Tito joined the Jose Rizal College (now Jose Rizal University, JRU) high school basketball team and played for the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Juniors.
He later tried out at De La Salle University in Manila but ended up in the team reserve. Still hoping to fulfill his dreams, he left the said university after playing for one year and tried out for DLSU-D in 1999⎯succeeding to become a Patriot cager and earn a scholarship grant.
Reaping the rewards from all his hard work and efforts, the former shooting guard of the DLSU-D’s men’s basketball team proved his worth as he brought in championship trophies and medals for the University. Along with his co-varsity players, Reyes stepped up to the big leagues, such as Private Schools Athletic Association (PRISAA) and Friendship Solidarity Competition (FSC) where they brought home the bacon several times.
2003 was a notable year that marked his playing career as Reyes was appointed the captain ball of the cagers and even organized a shootout in a game against “The Man with a Million Moves” himself, James Yap, who was playing for University of the East (UE) back in his PRISAA – Nationals days.
The coaching career
Being passionate about basketball, he chose coaching as a career. “S’yempre, in line na ako with basketball [at] parang wala na akong nakikitang ibang work kung hindi [basketball]. ‘Yong love ko for basketball, ‘yon na ‘yong nag-lead ng way para maging coach ako [at] para hindi ako mawala sa pag ba-basketball…sobrang passionate ako about basketball so parang ‘yon (coaching) na‘ yong next step,” Coach Tito affirmed.
After graduating from college in 2004, he started his coaching career by becoming the pioneer of the De La Salle Health and Sciences Institute’s (DLSHSI) women’s basketball team together with DLSHSI sports coordinator and his best friend, Paulo Belen. Eventually in 2006, he became the head coach of the cagebelles.
However, being a coach is not enough for a living, admitted Reyes. “Kasi ‘yong pagco-coach, honestly, hindi siya financially [enough] pero wala na akong nakitang iba bukod sa pagco-coach,” Coach Tito shared about what made him stay. “S’yempre ‘yong passion ko for basketball and [this is] a way to give back na rin kasi dahil sa basketball, nakapag–aral ako ng libre, nagkaroon ako ng trabaho, [at] nakakapagturo ako sa mga bata,”.
After almost 12 years of being a second father to the cagebelles, Coach Tito mentioned that honesty and transparency prevail in their team and keep them bonded and connected despite the different personalities of the players.
“Sine-set [ko] ‘yong goal ‘lagi kahit sa simula pa lang ng practice—kung ano ‘yong gusto naming ma-achieve, kung ano ‘yong character na gusto naming magkaroon, ‘yong tamang attitude tsaka maging priority nila ‘yong paga aral nila [at] maging mabuting tao sila,” Coach Tito explained on how he keeps the fire burning for the Patriots.
Regarding the remarkable performance of the DLSU-D’s women’s basketball team in the previous years, “I–pe-prepare ko lagi ‘yong team ko sa lahat ng mga tournament, [para] madepensahan namin lagi ‘yong kung anong mayro’n… pagta-trabahuhan namin ‘yon,” Coach Tito assured.