Susan Teng and Being a Basketball Mom

The Real MVP: Susan Teng and Being a Basketball Mom

In this family of basketball players, it’s the matriarch who stands the tallest.

At 6’2”, brothers Jeric and Jeron Teng are both imposing figures wherever they go. They likely got their height from their dad, former PBA player Alvin, who is slightly taller at 6’3” (although his listed height varies between 6’4” and 6’5”).

Their love for basketball also came from their dad, a nine-time PBA champion who was nicknamed “Robocop” during his playing days for his solid defense in the paint and who nurtured his sons’ early passion for hoops.

The three have all garnered individual awards in their careers. Alvin was the 1992 PBA All-Star Game MVP. Jeric was the 2012 Philippine Collegiate Champions League Finals MVP. And Jeron was a two-time UAAP Finals MVP.

But for everything else in their family, Susan Teng is the real MVP.

Like any other mother, Susan makes sure all the trains are running on time in their household, which also includes her two daughters Almira and Alyssa. It’s a thankless job for anyone, even more so for a mom whose two sons have been in the spotlight since they were teenagers and have followed in their father’s enormous footsteps.

The brothers have acquitted themselves quite well, as each has achieved his own level of success on the court — but it wasn’t always a slam dunk.

Siyempre proud,” Susan told The GAME when asked about her sons’ achievements. “Proud ka na may nagmana sa dad. May successor. Tsaka mahilig din talaga sa basketball.

“Minsan may pressure din kasi makukumpara sa dad, ikukumpara sa dad, sa magkapatid. Kailangan may maipakita din kasi since yung dad is a basketball player, makukumparahan.”

The brothers look at it as both a blessing and a curse.

“Somehow, parang there’s a standard na dapat we need to follow,” Jeric says. “Actually, it was a motivation for us. Yung standard na aabutin namin sa dad namin because our dad, maraming achievements in his basketball career. So I guess that served as motivation for us to work hard, especially since yung dad namin was never that talented compared to the other players, pero he was always telling us that through his hard work, na-achieve niya yung maraming accomplishments.

“That kept us motivated even if we’re not as talented as the other players na kasabayan namin, number one namin is we have to work hard every time. Outwork them para somehow ma-balance out yung talent through hard work.”

Jeron agrees. 

“For me, it was a mix of a privilege and challenge for us. Challenge because, of course, our dad played in the PBA so there were always expectations for us growing up that we’d be as good or better than our dad who played in the PBA for how many years? Fourteen years in the PBA? But at the same time, like what I said, it’s also a privilege because he knew what we needed to do for us to get there, to reach the PBA. And he was there for us all throughout our basketball careers.

“He really mentored and coached us. So having someone who’s been there where you want to go, someone who’s been there and someone to give you advice, malaking bagay talaga. It’s a big advantage.”

Mother Knows Best

It’s easy for your life to go sideways if you’re a famous athlete, especially if you have the basketball pedigree. The road to celebrity is littered with the sad stories of second-generation athletes who couldn’t quite live up to expectations and the family name.

Susan Teng made sure her sons would not go down that path.

“I think we both can agree that she’s a disciplinarian,” said Jeric, who at 32 is three years older than Jeron. “She was very strict, even until this day. If she knows that we have a game the following day, she’ll tell us to sleep early, yung mga ganun stuff. 

“As athletes, we can’t afford to be tired before the game or lalabas pa before the game kasi it’s important we get ample rest before the game.

“How you carry yourself when you’re with others, respecting the elders, and yung mga ganun values na in-instill niya sa amin growing up.”

The GAME May 2024 Cover Story: Susan, Jeric, and Jeron Teng
Jeron in VANGORE top and KENZO (via AKIMBO) trousers, Jeric in VANGORE top and KENZO (via CUL DE SAC) trousers, Susan in KENZO (via CUL DE SAC) sweatshirt.

Adds Jeron: “Between my mom and my dad, si Mom talaga yung disciplinarian sa amin. And growing up, she was really stricter in all aspects, not only in basketball but also sa academics, sa overall behavior.

“And siya yung laging nagdi-discipline sa amin.”

Early on, though, it appeared as if only Jeric had inherited Alvin’s DNA.

“Actually, si Jeron was into wrestling before,” Susan recalls.

Jeron confirms this, although he clarifies this wasn’t high school wrestling with headgear and tight body suits. Being a young teenager during the WWE’s Attitude Era, the youngster had dreams of being the next Shawn Michaels.

Naging avid fans kami ng WWE and we would often impersonate the signature moves of the WWE characters and copy their signature moves in school,” he said with a laugh. “Before, I remember I got in trouble because during recess namin, lunch, may mga wrestling sessions kami with friends and that would get us in trouble in school.”

“Before, I was Stone Cold (Steve Austin),” Jeric chimes in.

“Shawn Michaels, Heartbreak Kid. Austin 3:16,” Jeron fondly recalls. “And The Rock. I liked The Rock.”

Naturally, Susan Teng found out and put a stop to it. It wouldn’t be the only thing that Jeron tried to hide from his mother.

“When I played for the national team, there was one quarter when I had multiple out-of-the-country tournaments,” he said. “So I was absent for half of the quarter, and because of that, I failed subjects. When I got my report card and when I came home I was so afraid to show it to my mom. I tried to hide it pero hindi ko natago, so I had to show it to them.”

Meanwhile, Jeric was already on his way to becoming a star at Xavier School, and eventually, he convinced his younger brother to abandon his dreams of joining the WWE.

“Yeah, maybe I was the younger brother who looked up to my brother,” Jeron says. “Because he was also the one who influenced me to pursue basketball. Growing up, he was the first to fall in love with the sport. I was a bit late.

“He influenced me to play more during the summer instead of just staying in the room playing video games. He’d ask me to play basketball with him here (in the family’s) basketball court. Those experiences helped me become a better basketball player.”

With more life experiences under his belt, Jeric never misses the opportunity to share his wisdom with his younger brother.

The GAME May 2024 Cover Story: Jeron and Jeric Teng
Jeric in KENZO (via CUL DE SAC) jacket and shorts, Jeron in STAPLES hoodie and VANGORE shorts.

“As the older brother, like what Jeron said, I was the one who pushed him to play basketball, especially before when we were kids. Even now, I’m the one who’s like his advisor because all of my accomplishments and my failures as a player I tell him. I remind him what to do and what not to do in certain situations.

“At least his path will be less shaky in his career. But thankfully Jeron is a great listener. He follows up and he’s open to suggestions. I’m hoping for a great career for Jeron.”

Talking to both of them, the bond between the two is palpable. According to Susan, she doesn’t recall a time when her two sons ever fought growing up. They just always got along, with Jeron constantly looking up to his kuya

“Actually, mabait silang pareho. Minsan, matigas ang ulo pero mabait. Hindi ka maniniwala, hindi pa sila nag-aaway. Hanggang ganitong age nila, hindi sila nag-aaway. Hindi nga ako makapaniwala.”

The idyllic family dynamic, though, would be put to a test in October 2013, when, for the first time in their young lives, the brothers would face each other for a major prize.

Brother vs. Brother

No event tested the family more than the 2013 UAAP Finals, which saw Jeric’s UST Growling Tigers face off against Jeron’s DLSU Green Archers. 

Jeric was in his final playing year, and the Tigers appeared to be a team of destiny after they upset the top-seeded NU Bulldogs in the Final Four. Jeron was a sophomore on a loaded DLSU team, but had quickly established himself as a go-to guy. 

The family split the cheering squad into two, with Alvin and Alyssa sitting on the La Salle side and Susan and Almira sitting on the UST side.

The best-of-three finals was nerve-wracking for anyone with rooting interests, let alone a family with members on opposing sides. It went the distance, and Game 3 spilled into overtime.

With around 30 seconds left, Jeric posted up along the baseline and hit a tough turnaround jumper that gave UST the lead. In the next play, Jeron was fouled and sent to the line for the go-ahead free throws. He missed both, and Jeric could smell the title. But the Green Archers stole a pass and set up Jeron’s teammate Almond Vosotros for the game-winner. The Green Archers prevailed, and Jeron was named Finals MVP.

Afterward, the brothers acknowledged each other and hugged at center court, producing one of the most iconic Philippine sports photos of the 2010s.

“For the family, it was hard to cheer for one side kasi naglalaro kami sa isa’t isang team,” Jeric said.

“What we did was hinati namin. Ganon yung ginawa naming set up. Pero, I think they weren’t really cheering. They were just watching. Siguro nag-cheer lang sila pag kami naka-shoot or what. Pero [our parents] were both really happy to watch both of their kids play in the big stage sa UAAP finals.”

Grabe yung attendance nun,” Jeron remembers. “Sobrang dami talaga. Siguro they were happy, really happy to see us both play on the big stage.

“For me, it was really a great experience kasi it’s a perfect scenario, eh. We were teammates in high school. Then in college, it was his last year and my second year. We faced each other for the UAAP championship and that time we both hadn’t won any championships yet. So it was really big for the both of us.

“My brother and I were really close growing up, so for us to be on that big of a stage, for us to battle each other, it was a great experience not only for us but also for the family. Because at the end of the day, we’re still one family and one of us would be champions by the end of the series. So it was a win-win situation for us.”

The GAME May 2024 Cover Story: Susan, Jeric, and Jeron Teng
Susan in RECESS jacket.

Susan remembers dreading the feeling that whatever happened, one of her sons would be heartbroken.

Sobrang nakaka-pressure,” she said. “Kasi syempre pag nanalo yung isa, kawawa yung isa. Yung isa naman sobrang tuwa, yung isa naman malungkot.

Masaya for Jeron, malungkot for Jeric. Kasi aakyat na si (Jeric) sa PBA. Magpapa-draft na siya noon.

“Pero ang dasal lang namin is kahit sino manalo, basta laruin lang nila yung magandang laro nila pareho.”

While it was an intense experience back then, the brothers now look back fondly at the moments that followed Game 3.

Ang dami kong memorable moments, pero siguro after the UAAP finals, mixed emotions,” Jeron said. “Happy and sad and grateful for the experience and opportunity. After the game, we hugged it out, kissed my mom. The whole family was very lucky to experience that kind of moment.

“Siguro only a few [brothers] can say that they faced each other on a big stage at that time,” Jeric adds. “Jeron and I were a big part of the success of both teams, so it was a one-of-a-kind experience for us that we’ll treasure the rest of our lives.”

‘Pillar of the family’

Today, Jeron plays for the San Miguel Beermen in the PBA, with whom he won his first championship at the pro level earlier this year. It’s also the same franchise where dad Alvin won all his nine championships. They’re the first father-son duo in PBA history to win separate titles with the same franchise.

Jeric tasted PBA success much earlier, though, winning a title in his rookie season in 2016 with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. He most recently played in the MPBL for the Quezon franchise and is contemplating pursuing other interests beyond basketball.

Yet through all their success and trials as young men, the brothers know they could not have gone far without the guidance of their mother.

“When I was in high school and when I represented the country for the national under-16, under-18 (national teams), my mom would fly with us. She’d fly to countries like Yemen, Myanmar. Like, she’d join us just to come and support (the team). I think that’s the most remarkable thing my mom did for me.”

Jeric sums it up nicely: “I think my mom is the pillar of this family. She’s the one who makes sure everything is in order, everything is in place. Sometimes she tries to do things by herself just to make sure that everything is taken care of, and we truly appreciate that. Talagang nakikita namin ang effort. But as she gets older, sinasabi namin to take things more lightly kasi tumatanda na rin. Si Mom is the type who really makes sure na hindi mahihirapan ang kids niya, so if she can, she’d be the one to do it for us, even the small things. Sa lahat, eh. If she can do it she’ll just try to help us.”

The GAME May 2024 Cover Story: Susan, Jeric, and Jeron Teng
Jeric in VANGORE top, Susan in RECESS top, Jeron in OUTLIERS sweater, SPORTS PARADISE X PAT PALACIO tee, and SPORTS PARADISE shorts.

Susan and Alvin watch all of their sons’ games live, unless there’s a conflict in their schedule, regardless of the league or venue location. “Kilala na nga kami sa lahat ng venue, eh,” she said.

Susan admits she doesn’t go online and doesn’t do social media, the better to simply avoid reading negative posts about her sons. She has also learned to ignore hecklers at games, something she didn’t always do when Alvin was playing.

Besides, the brothers have each other’s back. When, in 2013, an opposing player injured Jeric from behind and forced him to miss several games for UST, Jeron immediately took to Twitter to express his concern for his elder brother, while calling out the player. Susan heard about it, but resisted commenting on it publicly so as not to escalate the situation.

Binanggit din ni Jeron, siyempre outburst siguro,” Susan said. “Pero parang hindi naman sinadya, so pinatawad na rin namin naman yung bata.

Siyempre nakakalungkot dahil yung, hindi niya sinadya, sa amin, malaki epekto. Pero sa awa naman ng Diyos, at sa tulong ng doktor, nakalaro pa naman siya.

“Siguro talagang madasalin lang kami. Nung una, akala namin hindi na makakalaro si Jeric so parang sobrang kaming nalungkot.”

Ironically, among all her children, only the youngest, Jeron, is married, and the pitter-patter of little feet is still missing.

“Sana namang magkaanak na sila,” Susan Teng said. “Para may apo na, first apo.”

As for fellow athlete-moms, Susan shares these nuggets of wisdom.

“Alagaan lang nila yung anak nila, yung katawan. Siyempre kung bata pa, aral muna. Katawan, sana, huwag ma-injure. Tsaka maging humble, humility all the time. 

Number one, si Lord. Unahin.”

Spoken like a true MVP.

Photography KIERAN PUNAY of KLIQ, Inc.
Creative Direction MARC YELLOW
Hair and Makeup CATS DEL ROSARIO
Styling Assistant JASON MAGO
Sittings Editor SID VENTURA
Shoot Coordination ANTHONY MENDOZA
Official Food Partner MEAT PLUS GROUP

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