In the field of basketball, everybody is aware that height is might. For some, it is a prerequisite if one aspires to be a basketball player, but for others, it is not.
Others say that height is not a basis for measuring a player’s capacity in playing basketball. Thus, the famous saying “Small but terrible” has been a perfect description for pint-sized ballers.
Never underestimate the heart and courage of undersized dribblers, because they might be small in size, but they are big in court performance, they say.
Just like in the case of Mapua Cardinals’ Exeqiel Biteng.
Biteng, who is on his fourth playing year as a Mapua Cardinal, has been wowing the NCAA aficionados since he began his NCAA career with his sharp shooting skills which favored the Mapua squad.
His shooting prowess is mostly highlighted by the crisp three-pointers from beyond the arc that he has been knocking down for the Cardinals.
What made it more astonishing for the NCAA audience is the fact that “Exe” is considered undersized on court, but he has the strong eyes and guts to send treys from the three-point arc.
True enough, this made Biteng one of the living proofs of the “Small but terrible” description in the collegiate basketball stage.
However, unfortunate games are always inevitable for every teams and players. There will always be criticisms that will surface about the team and its players. This kind of scenario is not new in the case of Mapua, especially on Biteng himself.
Some collegiate basketball followers were doubting, saying that the Mapua Cardinals roster this Season 92 is somewhat inconsistent and just rely on Nigerian behemoth Allwell Oraeme for victories.
These negative comments are just part of the overall criticisms that Mapua is dealing with this Season, and Exe Biteng has something to say about it on behalf of his team.
“Suportahan na lang nila kami instead of doubting us. Sa mga tao na nag-sasabi na inconsistent kami (Mapua Cardinals) at umaasa lang kami kay Allwell Oraeme, it’s not like that. We are just following the system and the Coaches’ instructions. And we believe that we are not playing our best games yet”, the Mapua point guard declared.
Since Exe is one of the expected shooting wards of Coach Atoy Co, people are anticipating for him to explode treys for Mapua in every game. But whenever the Cardinals are having an unfortunate turnaround, some blaming fingers are automatically pointing at him.
The NCAA watchers are questioning Biteng’s ability and performance which has negatively affected him in some ways.
“Pag ganun yung mga naririnig ko, sobrang nada-down ako. Kasi siyempre, sasabihan ka ng ibang tao na ‘Shooter ba yan? E hindi nga maka-shoot!’“, he revealed.
Despite the bad comments he has been hearing, Biteng does not allow negativity to get the best of him. He even turns the criticisms into something to motivate him more.
“Pero pagdating sa practice namin, dun ko binubuhos lahat. Namo-motivate ako sa mga sinasabi nila. Sinasabi ko lagi sa sarili ko na babawi ako next game. Hindi pwede na hindi maganda ang laro ko at ang shooting ko”, Exe then continued.
Aside from the unfavorable comments he hears about Mapua and him, he is also aware that NCAA followers are building comparisons between him and fellow Cardinal Shane Menina.
The Cebuano pride Menina, who is also undersized, is in same court position as Biteng. And the best on the list is, Menina is also a three-point shooting wonder like Biteng.
Comparisons are also unavoidable in the field of collegiate basketball, but Exeqiel does not see any competitions nor threats between him and Shane Menina.
“Sa akin kasi, wala naman akong pakialam sa comparison or kung maka-shoot man siya ng mas marami kesa sa akin. Basta masaya ako na nakaka-shoot siya kasi nakakatulong yun sa team namin”, Exe commended of Menina’s role in Mapua.
“Basta ako, mag-lalaro ako kung ano yung laro ko. Kasi ako yung isa sa may pinaka malaki na role sa team. Hindi lang ako, pati rin siya”, he then continued.
The 5’9″ Cardinal also shared how Mapua Head Coach Atoy “The Fortune Cookie” Co encourages him as a mentor and former professional basketball player.
For Biteng, the pieces of advice from “The Fortune Cookie” never fails to encourage and boost him.
“Hindi nga lang words ang binibigay niya (Coach Atoy Co) sakin e. Tinuturuan niya pa ako pagdating sa practice. Tinuturo niya yung mga time na nasa PBA pa daw siya, ganito-ganyan yung ginagawa niya”, Exe described of how Coach Atoy Co guides him.
The PBA legend has also imparted to Biteng how he become one of the most renowned Filipino basketball players of all time.
“Tapos kaya daw siya tinawag na PBA Legend kasi ito yung mga ginagawa niya, ganun. Ayun, tapos siyempre hindi mawawala yung sasabihan niya ako na ‘Biteng! Kumpiyansa lang, masa-shot yan. Malaki ang tiwala ko sayo!’“, Exe added.
People in the NCAA have observed and witnessed how Biteng matured as a basketball player when he landed in the Cardinals’ nest. More so, the growth that he has shown in playing in the collegiate stint aided him in gaining confidence and trust from his coaches and teammates.
The Bulacan-native guard, who began his journey as a National University Bullpup, explained his playing growth from UAAP Juniors going to the NCAA Seniors platform.
“Nung nasa NU pa ako, limited lang yung minutes per game ko. Dito sa Mapua, iba yung experience na binigay sakin ni Coach Atoy. Ang haba ng binibigay sakin na playing time. Dito sa Mapua ko nakuha yung pagiging leader kasi sobrang laki ng tiwala sakin ng coaches namin sakin, tapos pati ng mga teammates ko”, the former NU Bullpup noted.
As a former player of the NU Bullpups, he has played under the shots of Coach Jeff Napa, who is now the new Head Coach of the Letran Knights. The Mapua Cardinals are going to face the defending champion soon, and for Biteng, there is nothing to be pressured or nervous about facing the team of his former Coach.
He even said that he is looking forward to playing against the NCAA team of his former Coach in NU.
“Siyempre hndi ako mape-pressure. Ganun talaga sa basketball e. Magiging excited pa nga ako kasi gusto ko ipakita sa kanila (Coach Jeff Napa) na marami akong natutunan sa kanila as a player nila dati sa NU Bullpups”, the pint-sized shooter admitted.
Now that Biteng is nearing his final hurrah as a Mapua Cardinal, he just wants to give everything that he can for his team to be in Season 92’s Final Four, just like what Mapua did in Season 91.
For him, he will step up as much as he can for the Cardinals, now that he is already considered a veteran in the team.
“Hindi lang sharp-shooting ang i-contribute ko para sa team. Pati na rin sa leadership kasi nga veteran na ako at dadalhin ko yung leadership na yan hanggang sa last year ko next Season”, Biteng promised.
Since it will be his last soar as a Mapua Cardinal next Season, is he up to the challenge of being the next Team Captain of the Mapua Cardinals in Season 93 if given the chance?
“Oo naman. Kung ibibigay sa akin ni Coach Atoy yun. Yung leadership para sa team”, Exeqiel Biteng ended on a high note.
Then again, as the saying goes, never underestimate the heart and courage of undersized dribblers, because they might be small in size, but they are big in court performance.
In Season 92 and Season 93, the Mapua faithful should watch out for Exe, as he will live up to the new saying “Walang mabibiten kay Biteng”.