Josh Alcantara: On Reaching His UAAP Dreams With the UE Red Warriors

University of the East Red Warriors’ new recruit Josh Alcantara joins Dribble Media’s ZerJosh Serrano to talk about his move from San Beda to UE, and why he looks forward to playing for new Red Warriors head coach Jack Santiago.

Along with Batang Gilas mainstay Migs Pascual, who we also had the opportunity to talk to here at Dribble Media, the UE Red Warriors hauled in another talented freshman recruit for the next UAAP season (whenever that may be).

Josh Alcantara, also a former San Beda Red Cub like Pascual, may have flown under the radar of many local hoop fans in the past couple of years. But the high-flying wing is bent on finally showing what he can do as he transitions from the NCAA to the brighter lights of the UAAP.

But before we dive deep towards talking about what he can do to help UE end their Final Four drought, Josh took the time to share how his basketball journey has looked like so far. We have heard of famous basketball players initially taking a liking to basketball just because of their height, but that’s not the case for Josh. He loved basketball right from the get-go.

Josh singled out his father, Querubin Alcantara, for supporting his love for the game even during those times that he wasn’t even that good of a player yet. He also mentioned his cousin, Ricky Alcantara, who now serves as an assistant coach for the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Generals, as someone who tirelessly taught him how to properly play the game.

“Bata pa lang ako, gustong-gusto ko na mag-basketball. Sinusuportahan ako ni Papa lagi sa mga ligang labas dito sa amin. Kahit noong nasa mosquito division pa ako, si Papa na talaga yung nagiging manager ng mga teams namin. Kahit nga hindi ako masyado nakakalaro noon, sumusuporta pa rin siya. Sinasabi niya na experience pa rin para sa akin. Yung pinsan ko naman na si Coach Ricky Alcantara, assistant coach siya sa EAC (Emilio Aguinaldo College). Lagi niya ako sinasama sa mga basketball camps.”

Success as a Red Cub

San Beda Red Cubs 2019 NCAA Champions
Josh with the San Beda Red Cubs championship team (Photo by Arvin Lim/ABS-CBN Sports)

But of course, opportunities in basketball don’t just easily come to you. You have to earn everything, and that’s exactly what Josh went through. Before he made it to San Beda, Josh was not a well-known recruit. He couldn’t find the right team for himself, and he wasn’t noticed by scouts and coaches.

Josh would eventually bet on himself and he tried out for the Red Cubs. He was accepted, but San Beda didn’t give him an immediate spot in Team A. Just like what he has always done, he earned his way to the team.

“Sobrang haba na rin ng mga nangyari sa career ko so far. Madaming struggles. Wala ako mahanap na right team para sa akin. Payat ako noon tapos hindi ako masyado napapansin. Wala din ako gaanong coach na kilala at mga connections. Oo, naisipan ko talaga na umayaw na pero si Papa din yung nag-push na mag-try ako sa San Beda kasi alam niya na maganda ang programa doon. Noong napunta ako sa Beda, nag-work hard talaga ako para mapunta sa Team A. Doon ako nagpalakas kasi alam ko na deserve ko na maglaro sa NCAA. Trinabaho ko talaga.”

Josh would become a champion with the Red Cubs, enjoying a successful NCAA Juniors’ career along with his talented teammates who made up quite a star-studded squad. To put it into perspective, four of Josh’s teammates in the Red Cubs were included in the list of the Top 24 prospects annually put up by the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC). Those were Rhayyan Amsali (1st), Justine Sanchez (14th), Yukien Andrada (17th), and Tony Ynot (18th).

But while it is true that he didn’t have the spotlight on him, Josh had no problems with that. At the end of the day, it’s about winning the championship with his teammates who he also looks up to as his brothers.

"Sa amin sa Beda, lahat kami close sa isa’t isa. Iba yung bonding namin dahil parang family talaga. Kapag kakain kami, sabay-sabay lahat. Walang humihigit. Walang kumukulang. Iba talaga sa Beda.”

Making the jump from NCAA to UAAP

Josh Alcantara UE San Beda
Josh attempting a free throw (Photo by Julius Domondon)

If he was to choose his comfort zone, Josh would have stayed in San Beda. After all, he is already accustomed to the winning culture there, and there is no doubt that it would be easier for him to blend in if he chose to play college ball for the Red Lions.

So for him to pave a different path with the UE Red Warriors was quite a surprise. Unlike the successful dynasty that is San Beda, it seems like UE is rebuilding its team year after year. They may be the second-most successful team in UAAP basketball history (second to UST), but UE has been struggling mightily this decade. Their main man last season, Rey Suerte, has moved on to the Gilas Pilipinas program. Their starting point guard, Philip Manalang, was recently drafted in the PBA.

With new faces on their roster and a new head coach in Jack Santiago, the future for the Red Warriors may be hopeful yet uncertain. So why did Josh opt to suit up for the Red Warriors, instead of chasing another NCAA title with the powerhouse Red Lions? Josh said that it was a decision based on three important factors: family, Coach Jack, and the opportunity to play in the UAAP.

“First of all, family decision talaga yung pagpili ko sa UE. Nagtiwala ako sa parents ko kasi alam ko na alam nila yung makakabuti para sa akin. Second, alam ko na fit ako sa sistema ni Coach Jack (Santiago). Kay Coach Jack kasi depensa yung inuuna niya. Noong una niya ako kinausap, kinuha ko na talaga yung opportunity. Gusto ko talaga maglaro para sa kanya. Lastly, noon pa man pangarap ko na maglaro sa UAAP. Iba daw kasi talaga yung exposure sa UAAP kaya ito, excited na ako maglaro.”

As Josh and other collegiate players await the green light for the UAAP to start its 83rd season, preparing their bodies and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial to their success. It’s so easy to slack off these days, and that would lead to a huge drop-off in an athlete’s progress.

To avoid that, Josh has tapped Ankle Bully Academy’s Coach Iverson Jr Sugue (skills coach) to help him prepare for the upcoming UAAP season. Along with the online training that he attends with his UE teammates every morning, he will spend the rest of his day working out in the gym then doing shooting and skills drills at night. Under Coach Sugue, Josh works on his one-on-one skills alongside Penny Estacio, who has now committed to the DLSU Green Archers.

As you have often seen when Josh plays, he can jump right out of the gym. He has a natural gift for jumping, and he is further tapping on that potential by seeking the help of a strength and conditioning coach like Rad Cinco.

“Sa UE may online training pa rin kami every morning. After that, sa gym naman ako. Then sa gabi, shooting naman. Kailangan talaga na stay in shape kami as preparation for UAAP. Kay Coach Iverson naman, focus ako on skills like one-on-one and dribbling. Kasama ko doon si Penny (Estacio). In terms of strength and conditioning, si Coach Rad Singco yung tumutulong sa akin. Natural gift ko na din talaga yung jumping ability. Pero dapat alam ko gagawin ko kung paano palakasin pa yung katawan ko. So far, nagbubunga naman lahat ng hardwork.”

It’s just the start of a bright basketball future for Josh Alcantara. With his talent and his work ethic, there is no doubt that even a professional basketball career is waiting for him. A future in the PBA could be in the works, but with the likes of the De Liano and Ravena brothers opting to play overseas, talented young players like Josh could follow suit.

So is the possibility of playing overseas already in Josh’s plans? Josh smiled and said:

“Tignan natin kung may opportunity.”

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