“HOMECOURT” is where the heart is.
A 2008 Business Administration graduate, John Paul Cuan relived the team’s greatest moments on and off court through a basketball-themed restaurant inspired by the Growling Tigers themselves.
“[My teammates and I] wanted it to be the place where we can hang out and reminisce about our times as a basketball team since we rarely see each other,” Cuan said in an interview with the Varsitarian.
Located at Unit 205 R/F Building, Asturias St. Sampaloc, Manila, Homecourt opened its doors last Nov. 8 where Tigers of different generations and different playing fields came over, not just for the food, but for the good company.
Behind the theme, “Where Legacy Lives On,” is a team, not just in basketball, but in the business as well where Cuan’s partners consist of Thomasians of varying fields. This includes Anthony Espiritu and Jericho Artuz, Cuan’s fellow Business Administration graduates, and Pam Manansala and Bianca Lim from Communication Arts.
“We wanted the place to be created by an all-Thomasian group; it was [an] all-Thomasian teamwork,” said Manansala, Cuan’s operations head.
To bring out the Thomasian spirit in the restaurant, its designers, who are alumni of the University, refurbished the over-all look of the place with black and yellow accents such as the counter, cabinets, tables and chairs. It also features dim lighting, smooth-cemented walls and hardwood floors. Aside from the normal things that people see in a restaurant, the place also has various mini-basketball games that customers can play with while waiting for their food.
Menu wise, the restaurant’s hearty-meals include steaks served with rice and gravy, honey-flavored wings with a choice of blue cheese or ranch dip and beef burgers with bacon, cheese, lettuce, onions and tomatoes, all named after basketball terms like “Starting 5,” “Buzzer Beater” and “Overtime.”
“Personally, those are my type of food. Players need protein, so we thought this is what we wanted people to taste,” Cuan said. “One thing I never thought I would ever do is cook, [but these days, I’m getting the hang of it] with the help of one of my partners.”
A point guard on point
Cuan was part of the Tigers that won the title in 2006.
A night after seeing each other for the first time in years, he and his teammates longed for a place where they could travel back in time to their victory until Cuan unexpectedly came up with the idea of a restaurant.
It was only appropriate for Cuan to start his business on the outskirts of the UST campus. “This is where my teammates and I were recognized, so why not start here?” he said.
When asked if they plan to expand and establish more branches, Cuan explained that since this is a basketball-themed restaurant founded first by Thomasians, the other branches would be brought up by other universities’ players and have their restaurants correspond to their own color-scheme, although the name would remain the same.
“For instance, here in UST, it’s ‘Homecourt UST’, while in others, it could be ‘Homecourt DLSU,’ ‘Homecourt ADMU,’ or ‘Homecourt UP,'” he said.
Despite being called somewhat of a “well-kept secret” by Manansala for its out-of-sight location, the marketing department does well in calling out customers, especially with Cuan’s connections to generations of players.
Aside from athletes, the team also targets Thomasians in general, especially on occasions such as live-streaming of games or competitions and yellow-day celebrations.
The game changer
Cuan’s Thomasian upbringing has paved way for him in deciding to be a part of “Hope for Hoops,” a non-profit organization where Cuan coaches aspiring basketball players from different barangays in Manila, helping them earn scholarships towards achieving their dreams.
“One thing about the Tigers basketball is the bond, the experience and the solid family,” said Cuan. “My transition from a player to a coach is proof of the saying, ‘Once a Tiger, always a Tiger,’ because everyone knows basketball and basketball connects us whether we like it or not.”