SYDMAN’s TOP TEN: The best Top Overall Picks
The PBA Draft started in 1985 with Santiago “Sonny” Cabatu becoming the league’s first top pick. Incidentally, it was his teammate Leo Austria who bagged the plum.
Left out from the list are duds Alex Araneta and Apet Jao. Later top picks like Yancy de Ocampo, Mike Cortez, Rich Alvarez, Jay Washington, and Kelly Williams are too inexperienced to make the list. Paolo Mendoza, Sonny Cabatu and the late Jack Tanuan almost made the list but not quite.
My Top 11 is Andy Seigle. He should be my number ten since he did made then-newly christened Mobiline Phone Pals (formerly Pepsi) to new heights but he’s spelled out by a pretty controversial choice.
The Top Ten starts… NOW!
10. THE BIG PUNISHER
Earl Sonny Alvarado (Batch ’99) – The Big Punisher. I had to put some controversy, right? He seemed to be the perfect choice. What a **** up. Then-Tanduay coach Alfrancis Chua salivated on the former Texas Longhorn standout when he saw his name on the draft list. Tanduay was set to debut that season. From the PBL he has elevated most of his roster led by Eric Menk. Came draft day, he quickly pounced on the 6’6 leaper. He didn’t disappoint Chua as he has been great just like what he expected. However when claims of his falsification aroused he quickly bailed the league (he said he’ll clear his name but to this day he has been unheard of). After he left Chua and Tanduay boss Bong Tan severed their ties with Chua eventually leaving the club. Tanduay then dismantled their franchise.
Funny thing about this is: just when you think you found your savior, he turns out to be the living proof of the apocalypse.
Blah! Chris Cantonjos must be dying to punish Alvarado for taking away his precious minutes that could have saved his PBA stint…
9. THE TANK
Noli Locsin (Batch ’94) – The Tank. The old-school Ginebra bad boys have either retired or now playing for other teams, with only Robert Jaworski, Pido Jarencio and Jayvee Gayoso (Jarencio and Gayoso are in the barely stage) as the last links of that storied era. Locsin, a burly forward coming from DLSU topped a draft which included Rey Evangelista and eventual Rookie of the Year winner Boybits Victoria. He technically became Ginebra’s first piece for greatness that served as prequel for the acquisitions of Aquino and Wilmer Ong (via draft), Benny Cheng and Vince Hizon (via trade), and Bal David (free agency) to form the formidable Ginebra ragtag/glamour group of the 90’s. Locsin was then traded to Pop Cola for Vergel Meneses where he drifted to other PBA teams. Before the Fil-Am invasion, The Tank was collared as one of the top bruisers of his time.
8. THE SKYSCRAPER
Marlou Aquino (Batch ’96) – The Skyscraper. Pushed thru the spotlight because of his 6’9 frame, this goggled giant was a fixture in the PBL grounds playing for such teams as Nikon, Otto Shoes, Sta. Lucia, and the 1995 PBL Grand Slam team Stag. He finished his UAAP career with controversy, as Adamson was forced to sit out a season with his eligibility in question. His entry to the Ginebra team gave them a dominant force to gel with Locsin since their 7 foot monster doesn’t loom as a marquee guy (in 1995, Ginebra took its second choice and drafted EJ Feihl). In his then-promising career, twice did he almost make the MVP award his after powering the Gin Kings to multiple championships. When he was traded to the Sta. Lucia Realtors (the PBA version) , he helped to give the team its first league plum. One of the amateur players that played for the national team in the 1994 Asiad, his jolens shot and that once in a game three point attempts are basically his distinguishing moves. But his defense, if motivated, makes him the force that he is.
7. THE REAL DEAL
Jun Limpot (Batch ’93) – The Real Deal. The Surigao native started his collegiate career playing for University of Manila, then getting a crack at the DLSU lineup. Despite heavy competition led by NCAA MVP Benny Cheng
, FEU and Crispa (PBL) stalwart Vic Pablo, and future MVP Johnny Abarrientos, Limpot became the top pick for the novice, Sta. Lucia Realtors. Leading the group anchored heavily on him, he averaged supreme numbers and eventually became the Rookie of the Year that season. One weakness in his arsenal proved to be his inability to lead his team to a championship. Add the fact that despite his frame he is said to be afraid to mix it up in the paint. He waited for that title to land on his grasp as a second stringer at Purefoods.
6. THE MENACE
Dennis Espino (Batch ’95) – The Menace. He led the UST Tigers to an unprecedented 14-0 win loss record which immediately annexed the title for the Espana based dribblers. Playing for Magnolia in the PBL, he played great ball to emerge as Sta. Lucia’s second top pick ever in 1995. Despite losing to Jeffrey Cariaso in the Rookie of the Year race, it’s hard to not give a damn on the 6’6 slotman. He has played in numerous international jousts and even helped the Realtors to its first ever title, months after the trade that shipped out Jun Limpot. Currently he is the longest cager to perform in a team that he has played since day one, lasting 12 years.
5. THE THRILLER
Willie Miller (Batch 2001) – The Thriller. This giggly speedster started out as a supplement for the Chris Calaguio-led offense of the Letran Knights. Unstable and often unheralded, the only thing that stands out for him is his color and foreign-sounding name. That changed in 1999 – with the addition of the Nueva Ecija Patriots in the MBA he quickly became a brand name. His moves became more furnished and his game got a little better. It was no surprise for everyone that Red Bull took him number 1 in the 2001 PBA Draft. As a Jimwell Torion backup, he quickly became a starter. His development was so rapid that merely a year after being drafted he became the league’s MVP. He is the first and only MBA player to be drafted top of his class. Although, his MBA career disqualified him from getting the Rookie of the Year award, as pick number 3 Mark Caguioa garnered the recognition.
4. THE AERIAL VOYAGER
Vergel Meneses (Batch ’92) – The Aerial Voyager. Forget that he simply vanished from the league unceremoniously – his mark in Philippine basketball is legendary. Supplied with an amazing vertical leap, Meneses was a star even when he has yet to jump in the PBA. In 1992, he was crowned as the top pick. He teamed up with Allan Caidic to create a great slash and shoot combo for Presto. However, they failed to get the necessary help from their teammates. Add the fact that San Miguel played extremely well throughout the season, Meneses lost the Rookie of the Year title to arch-nemesis “The Cosmic Avenger” Bong Ravena. Ravena however, was in fact a reliever for the likes of Samboy Lim and Ato Agustin and basically was not a focal point in the San Miguel offense. The former JRU Bomber got back at Ravena though, having a great playing career (until the end) with the 1995 MVP Award serving as its highlight.
3. THE RAISE THE ROOF KID
Danny Ildefonso (Batch ‘98) – The Demolition Man. The Raise the Roof Kid. One half of the Danny Boys. From my last take, I saw some controversies with my choices but despite that according to my criteria, he should have landed on the second spot, I can only drop him to three. Anyway, if the lawsuit fell right into MBA’s favor, the former NU Bulldog should have played for the Pangasinan Presidents. Turns out, he became Shell’s third first top pick (After Cabatu and Paras, and before Rich Alvarez). Shell then traded his rights to SMB for the services of Noy Castillo and future considerations. Danny Ildefonso’s entry marked the end of Nelson Asaytono’s scoring barrage (a year before Danny I’s entry, Asaytono was average almost 30ppg). He leads the league in Best Player of the Conference citations and moreover, he’s a back-to-back MVP. However some will say that had Danny Seigle, the other Danny, played more games than the Demolition Man, he could have easily obtained those citations. Injuries might have stalled him these past few years but his ability to light the court with his amazing clutch plays makes him a remarkable player.
2. THE TRIGGERMAN
Allan Caidic (Batch ’87) – The Triggerman. His ability to cream defenders with his cold blooded troikas made Allan Caidic the top pick of the 1987 draft. Picked up by Great Taste, the former UE Warrior quickly made a name for himself that he was awarded as the Rookie of the Year of that season. It was in 1990 with Great Taste now christened as Presto, did Caidic gained his best form, besting Alvin Patrimonio, Benjie Paras, Paul Alvarez and Ronnie Magsanoc to become that year’s MVP. In 1993 when Presto changed management to become the Sta. Lucia Realtors, Caidic went to San Miguel to join his former teammates in the multi-talented Ron Jacobs-led Philippine Team. He made respectable numbers as a Beerman but he did have a number of injuries, the best known was the one where Jaworski made the unpopular slit throat sign when Caidic bounced hard on the hardwood floor. He finished his career at Ginebra where it also finished Jaworski’s career as the club’s head coach – perhaps some sort of bad blood between the two. Nonetheless, he’ll forever be remembered as the man who had the highest point total for a local when he launched overwhelming triples to power his 79 points.
And speaking of power…
1. THE TOWER OF POWER
Benjie Paras (Batch ’89) – The Tower of Power. In 1989, SMB claimed a feat only the Crispa Redmanizers could ever brag about – a grand slam title. Ramon Fernandez was a sure man to get the title but he didn’t. Some kid came from nowhere and took what could have been his record-breaking fifth MVP Award. This same guy from UP also snatched a championship against the Jerry Codinera-led University of the East.
Anyway, before he became a bald-headed comedian, Benjie Paras was a big-haired prep star. He entered the league and made Shell an instant contender. This was like when Lew Alcindor (Now called Kareem Abdul Jabbar) made the Milwaukee Bucks a title threat when they selected him first pick of 1969. Twenty years past, Paras is hailed in the record books as the first and only player to achieve the MVP and the Rookie of the Year plum in the same year.
The feat he accomplished was almost duplicated in 1999 when Danny Seigle, another player from SMB, proved to be a sure pick for the MVP and Rookie of the Year title. Unfortunately he wasn’t. The person who took it? Paras, of course – making him the player who waited the longest the get back the MVP distinction. Once an aggressive slamming machine, injuries sidelined him in the mid 90’s. He developed a Webber-like jump shot, and he made a living out of this until his retirement. He did return out of his retirement, and he did it by joining the same team he took two MVP’s in the course of his career, playing limited action, but his image alone serves as basis for intimidation – as a San Miguel Beerman.