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Manuel S. Estrella

GS1970, HS 1974, AB 1978
“The Ateneo gentle giant” achieving back-to-back NCAA basketball titles in 1975 and 1976

Maling Estrella… the man who completely lives up to his stellar name! Maling is definitely a star basketball player. He played center for the 1973 NCAA juniors basketball champion, the Ateneo Blue Eaglets. He was also the main man to clog the shaded lane and snatch precious caroms for the back-to-back NCAA seniors basketball champions, the Ateneo Blue Eagles of 1975 and 1976.

    He played as the big man in the middle. At 6 feet 4 inches and over 200 pounds, he was the (Big) Blue Eagle so crucial to any basketball team vying for a championship, yet he did not start off his sports career in basketball. Maling started in athletics swimming for the Ateneo Grade School. But as destiny would dictate, when Maling shot up from 5 feet 7 inches to over 6 feet in high school, playing for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets became the logical choice. Maling’s first taste of championship success came with the 1973 Ateneo Blue Eaglets winning the NCAA juniors tournament.

    Entering college with the coveted skills of a big man, his contributions as center for the team was immediately felt by the Ateneo NCAA seniors team. Ironically, Maling’s mild demeanor coined him ”The Ateneo Gentle Giant.” The left-handed behemoth was a multi-dimensional center. He had the bulk and the power but, at the same time, he was a thinking player. He was an able defender and shot blocker, a relentless rebounder, an unselfish passer, and a high-percentage perimeter shooter. He was a perfect complement to the likes of Steve Watson, Joy Carpio, Fritz Gaston, Pons Valdez, Louie Rabat, Jerry Versoza, Ogie Narvasa, Eu Puyat, and Padim Israel.

    Maling led a defense-oriented seniors team to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1975 and 1976 and a runner-up finish in the 1977 tournament. After college, he went on to play for the Crispa Redmanizers amateur team in the Manila Industrial Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) tournament in 1978 and 1979. Eventually, Maling pursued a career in a financial house in Makati, but he did so without completely turning his back on basketball. He played in the national Interclub tournament for the Usiphil, Inc. team, champions likewise of the 1979 season.

    It is fitting that Ateneo would honor this man into the Ateneo Sports Hall of Fame for his invaluable contributions to his team. He was truly a man for others in all aspects of game in and out of the playing court.

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