Passionate supporters of the Never Quit Squad packed into the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong City on Friday for the 2016 Alaska Fans Day. The agenda: a fun-filled afternoon of games, activities, and performances featuring the Alaska Aces and their fans.
The turnout was particularly touching for the Aces themselves, who’d expected that many wouldn’t be able to attend due to it being a weekday. Dondon Hontiveros told PlayPH that he was amazed by fans’ willingness to make time to let their idols know they were appreciated. He mentioned one fan in particular who was unable to attend, in person, but was there in spirit: “There was one fan from Mindoro, who (actually) created my FB fan group, Shane, but he wasn’t able to make it. But his cousin came from Mindoro – he travelled nine hours just to get here! To travel nine hours for this day, and to go back nine hours, I can’t describe how humbling it is.”
The first item on the program was a chance to witness the Aces in a training scrimmage, a privilege, according to Head Coach Alex Compton, that even his own wife doesn’t get to enjoy at any time other than Fans Day. “We’re always looking to put the best product on the floor, and that’s why we have a closed practice; so our approach is a bit military, (but today) fans have a chance to spend time and get on our court, play some crazy games…it’s a great opportunity.”
Jvee Casio echoed the sentiment, telling PlayPH, “I feel very honored, it’s exciting to be with our fans, and I feel blessed to be here. It’s because of the fans that we’re here and playing this game – it’s because of them,” said JVee Casio. “Hopefully, we can do this every year.”
Lunch followed the scrimmage, and then, immediately after, the Aces and their fans took time out to do their version of the Mannequin Challenge currently taking the internet by storm, raising the bar by including everyone in attendance.
Fan groups put on tribute performances that they’ prepared and rehearsed specially for the event, and participated in games with their favorite players to win prize packs and souvenirs. And of course, there was no shortage of photo ops, fan moments, and selfies to commemorate the occasion.
According to fan leader “Cap” Luis Acido, “I feel great because so many people attended the event and left happy, with smiles on their faces. I’ve been an Alaska Aces fan since 1991, when I would watch them with my father.”
Every move by the Aces drew approval from the crowd, whether the hardcourt heroes were taking part in a basketball-inspired relay (with Alaska whipped cream included in the mix to make things interesting), or busting out choreographed dance moves they’d prepared for the fans.
Chants of “Alaska!” rang through the court as everyone gathered to watch a same-day edit video of the day’s highlights, and posed for one grand group shot, showing to all in attendance that the Never Quit Squad wasn’t just a team, it was a family.
“It’s about the fans, it’s about them, and giving them a good time,” said Hontiveros. “I can’t describe it, the feeling of seeing the emotion in our fans’ faces, that they appreciate our efforts. It’s great for us to feel their presence and spend time with them, even if it’s just a few hours.”