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  1. Favored Teams Teetering

    Before the season-starting PBA Philippine Cup began everybody and his brother expected crowd darling Barangay Ginebra and powerhouse Petron Blaze to dispute the most prestigious of the PBA's three titles.

    Petron after all was coming off a Finals run (although they did lose to San Mig Coffee), while sister team Ginebra had put together an imposing frontline by drafting 7-0 Greg Slaughter to pair with 6-9 stud athlete Japeth Aguilar.

    On paper both team looked very strong. Talented 6-foot-10 behemoth June Mar Fajardo anchored the Blaze Boosters, with MVP Arwind Santos, and dynamic Fil-Am duo Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter providing plenty of hustle and firepower. They also brought aboard 6-foot-7 young turk Yousef Taha, and traded for athletic pointguard Chris Ross. They struggled without Fajardo in the early part of the conference as he was sidelined with an injury. When he returned however they promptly made it into the semifinals.

    Drafting Slaughter was a no-brainer regardless of who was picking first in the last draft, as the towering Cebuano was easily the most highly-touted big man to ever come out of the draft in the last two decades. He did however come in as the second premiere big man after Fajardo was drafted the year prior. Slaughter went to a Ginebra team in dire need of good, young size with its aging frontline. His tandem with Aguilar has proved very rewarding as the pair average nearly 40 points, 20 rebounds and five blocks between them. Ginebra also picked up 6-foot-7 backup center JR Reyes in a Meralco fire sale, as well as 5-foot-5 spitfire Eman Monfort. They round out a talented but aging core that includes MVP Mark Caguioa, Jay Helterbrand, Billy Mamaril, LA Tenorio and young gun Chris Ellis. The Gin Kings strung up a 10-game winning streak this conference and are in the thick of the semifinals.

    Speaking of the semifinals though, it seems the playoffs have been most unkind to both teams. Ginebra is squaring off against the Coffee Mixers, while the Boosters are taking on Rain Or Shine. As highly touted as the two powerhouse teams are, both are staring series deficits in the face. Ginebra lost over the weekend 89-97 to go down 1-2, with Mark Barroca having the best game of his young career. Petron finally won over the weekend but lost last night 83-88 and are hanging by a knife's edge at 1-3, in spite of the Elasto Painters losing head coach Yeng Guiao to an ejection by game officials and superstar Paul Lee to an injured ankle.

    What in the blue blazes is going on?

    "At this stage of the conference it simply boils down to desire and execution, no more adjustments, no more surprises," remarked Alan Taule, a former college and commercial league coach and a long-time PBA observer. "Whoever wants it more will move on to the Finals, ganun lang kasimple 'yan," he added with emphasis.

    Indeed it seems as if both the Painters and the Mixers have 10-ton chips on all of their shoulders the way they've been playing. Lee in particular has been showing up the fancied and very expensive perimeter of the Boosters with his heady play and ability to find seams in any defense. Lutz, Lassiter and Ross still haven't found an answer for him, and are probably thanking their lucky stars he might not be around for Game 5 of their series with that ankle injury. "Stick to the plan lang naman kami parati gaya ng gusto ni Coach Yeng," he quipped in one interview.

    One other guy pulling a yeoman's job is chunky Rain Or Shine center Beau Belga. At 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds, Belga is the perfect guy to body up and push away Fajardo. Although he has gotten his numbers, Fajardo has had a difficult series. Belga also brings toughness and all the tricks to the table, both dirty and otherwise. He's no slouch on offense either, as he gave his side the lead for good with a nifty drive from the high post inside the last two and a half minutes of Game 2, erasing as much as a 16-point Petron lead.

    In the other series Barroca is slowly gaining the form that made him the best guard on the first incarnation of the Gilas national team under Rajko Toroman. With the exception of their entire team totally disappearing in a 93-64 beatdown in Game 2, the 5-foot-9 pointguard has led his team very well throughout the conference and is emerging as a top PBA pointguard. His go-ahead jumper sealed the Game 1 win for his side, and his career playoff-high 25 points wrapped up Game 3. He even had a block against Slaughter in that game. It helps mightily that San Mig also has some quality size of its own to match up against the Gin Kings, with 6-foot-9 Yancy De Ocampo, 6-foot-8 Rafi Reavis, 6-foot-6 Joe Devance, 6-foot-5 Gilas motor Marc Pingris and 6-foot-6 rookie Ian Sangalang. That's a half-dozen guys they can throw at the twin towers of Slaughter and Aguilar.

    At the rate both series are going it ...
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  2. HARRIS AND HACKETT: REMEMBERING THE 100-POINT PBA IMPORTS

    Browsing through the voluminous basketball clippings that I have collected over the past five decades, it appears there have been seven 100 points-or-more performances by a Filipino player here or abroad and another two by foreign recruits on Philippine soil.

    The two “imports” with century-mark scoring credentials in the professional Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) league are Americans Tony Dwayne Harris and Michael Raymond Hackett.

    It was the 6-foot-5 Hackett who was the first PBA player to score at least 100 points, knocking in 103 for Ginebra San Miguel (the precursor of Barangay Ginebra) in a 197-168 thrashing of Great Taste on November 21, 1985 in a third-place game in the Reinforced Conference. Then 25 years old, the Jacksonville, Florida native went 45-for-56 from the field. Hackett already had 48 points at halftime then exploded for 33 in the third quarter.

    A product of Jacksonville University, the amiable Hackett finished with a league-best 50.5-point average in 24 appearances, tallying 50 or more in 10 of them, plucked down 20.5 rebounds and dished out 6.4 assists every time out to earn the conference’s Best Import award.

    Hackett was the second of two third-round selections by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1982 National Basketball Association draft but subsequently failed to make the grade.

    It would be nearly seven years before another import would score at least 100 points in the PBA.

    Harris, who was monikered “The Hurricane” for his offensive wizardry, chalked up 105 points for Swift Mighty Meaty during a 151-147 victory over Ginebra San Miguel in an out-of-town game in Iloilo City on October 10, 1992.

    Harris’ 105-pointer marked the highest single-game score by an individual in PBA history.

    The 6-3 Harris actually made a living from the charity stripes during his historic performance.

    While the then-25-year-old native of Monroe, Louisiana produced 27 field goals, including six from the three-point area, he also went 45-for-53 from the foul line.

    The enigmatic and flamboyant Harris already had 59 markers by halftime.

    That season, Harris additionally owned games of 98 (turning in the trick just eight days after his 105-point effort), 87 and 82 points en route to averaging 60.7 scores, 11.4 rebounds and 8.1 assists a game and powering the Mighty Meaties to the 1992 Third Conference diadem with a 4-0 sweep of 7-Up in the finals.

    For good measure, Harris, who scored 60 or more in 11 of his 23 assignments, romped away with the conference’s Best Import honor.

    Harris, whose U.S. collegiate odyssey brought him to Lamar University, Johnson County (Kansas) Community College, Delgado (Louisiana) Community College, Southwest Mississippi Junior College and the University of New Orleans during the mid-1980s, was never drafted by any NBA franchise in 1990 upon graduation.

    But he found a way to earn a pair of 10-day deals with the Philadelphia 76ers in January-February 1991 after toiling in the defunct Continental Basketball Association, appearing six games with the Quaker City squad.

    After his PBA stint, the high-flying Harris rejoined the NBA with another pair of 10-day contracts with the Boston Celtics in March 1994. That same year, he opened the new 1994-95 season again in Beantown.

    Overall, Harris played 14 games in three NBA seasons with a 4.9-point clip.
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  3. PBA Hall of Fame: 17 Homegrown Player Inductees

    With four inductees from Class 2013 – Venancio (Bejie) Paras, Ronald (Ronnie) Magsanoc, Lim Eng Beng and the late Edgardo (Ed) Ocampo – membership to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Hall of Fame has ballooned to 40 personages.

    Among the members of the elite list are 21 players, including 17 of the homegrown variety.

    In addition to Paras, Magsanoc and Lim Eng Beng, the other local-breed Hall of Fame athletes are William (Bogs) Adornado, Robert (Sonny) Jaworski, Fortunato (Atoy) Co, Jr., Ramon (Mon) Fernandez, Philip Cezar, Francis Arnaiz, Danilo (Danny) Florencio, Manuel (Manny) Paner, Alberto (Abet) Guidaben, Allan Caidic, Avelino (Samboy) Lim, Hector Calma, Alvin Patrimonio, and Alfredo (Freddie) Hubalde.

    Adornado, Co, Arnaiz, Cezar, Fernandez, Jaworski were among the 12 pioneer members of the PBA Hall of Fame in 2005. The six, either from Crispa or Toyota, engaged in one of the fiercest and greatest rivalries in PBA history during the 1970s and 1980s.

    Adornado, Co and Cezar toiled with Crispa while Jaworski, Fernandez and Arnaiz suited up for Toyota, Florencio, Guidaben and Hubalde also wore the Crispa colors at the time.

    Except for Arnaiz, Florencio, Paner, Samboy Lim, Calma, Magsanoc, and Lim Eng Beng, the rest of the homegrown Hall of Famers were recipient of the PBA Most Valuable Player award at least once.

    Fernandez (1982, ’84, ’86 and ’8 and Patrimonio (1991, ’93, ’94 and ’97) own the most number of MVP hardware in PBA annals with four each. Adornado (1975, ’76 and ’81) was a three-time winner while Paras (1989 and ‘99) and Guidaben (1983 and ’87) won it twice.

    Hubalde (1977), Jaworski (197, Co (1979), Cezar (1980), Caidic (1990) were named MVP once.

    The four non-homegrown athletes that have been inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame are Filipino-American Ricardo (Ricky) Brown (2009) and American imports Norman Black (2007), the late Bobby Ray Parks (2009) and Billy Ray Bates (2011).

    Brown, who was born in Chicago, Illinois, attended Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. The 6-foot guard was a third-round draft choice of the U.S. National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets in 1979, the 59th player taken overall in the pro grab-bag.

    Brown never made the NBA grade. Instead, he toiled in the PBA with Great Taste and San Miguel Beer for eight seasons (1983-90) and registered career averages of 23.1 points and 7.3 assists in 340 games.

    Brown was the PBA’s Rookie of the Year with Great Taste in 1983. Two years later, he earned MVP honors while helping guide Great Taste Coffee Makers to a pair of conference crowns under the mentorship of the legendary Virgilio (Baby) Dalupan, also a Hall of Famer. Overall, “The Quick Brown Fox” won seven championships, including a triple-title feat (grand slam) with the San Miguel Beermen in 1989 under head coach Norman Black.

    To date, the 56-year-old Brown still ranks No. 1 on the league’s all-time career average list in both scoring and assists among the locals.

    Black, Bates and Parks won numerous PBA Best Import awards between 1982 and 1992.

    The 6-5 Black, who played three games with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons in 1980-81, won it twice with San Miguel Beer and Magnolia before turning into pro coaching, where he still holds the Talk ‘N Text bench reins until now. On the side, he also steered Ateneo de Manila University to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) title from 2008 to 2012.

    Bates, a 6-4 former NBA guard with Portland, Washington and the Los Angeles Lakers from 1979-83, was a two-time Best Import winner in 1983 when he won a pair of rings with Crispa. It was also the year that the fabled Redmanizers scored a grand slam (including the All-Filipino diadem) under coach Tomas (Tommy) Manotoc.

    Parks, a 6-5 native of Grand Junction, Tennessee and a product of Memphis State University, collected a record seven Best Import trophies – once with San Miguel Beer and six times with Shell from 1987 to 1992. Parks won three championships, including two with Shell, during the stretch. Overall, he collected four rings with an additional title with Formula Shell in 1998.

    Park was a third-round draft selection of the Atlanta Hawks in 1984 but never made it to the NBA. He died on March 30, 2013 at age 51 after a long battle with lung cancer.
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  4. PARAS MAKES IT TO THE PBA HALL OF FAME, FINALLY

    The lovable, laughable power cager-turned-actor Venancio (Benjie) Paras has finally gotten his dues, making it to the growing list of members to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Hall of Fame this year.

    The honor was long overdue for the only same-season Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in PBA annals. Making it only until the fifth Hall of Fame class of four personages was hard to accept considering that Paras has long surpassed the required five-year wait, having hung up his jersey in 2003, and his achievements were

    Under the guidelines established for the PBA Hall, only players, coaches, league and club officials, team owners, and media people are eligible for induction.

    A player must be retired for a minimum of five years or must have made his last PBA appearance at least five years before the start of the nomination process to be eligible for consideration.

    A coach must be either retired or must not have been a part of the PBA or a PBA club for a minimum of five years before he can be considered for nomination. Media honorees are on a posthumous basis.

    While the PBA Hall of Fame only inducts new members every two years (in contrast, the U.S. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame comes up with new honorees annually), still it was very strange of the previous members of the Honors Committee to have snubbed Paras through the years.

    Through the four previous Hall of Fame classes, only four MVP awardees from the pre-2008 era (or the PBA’s first 34 seasons) were not voted to the Hall – Kenneth Duremdes (199, Johnny Abarrientos (1996), Vergel Meneses (1995), Renato (Ato) Agustin (1992), and Paras (1989 and 1999). Of the quartet, only Paras earned MVP honors twice.

    Known as the “Tower of Power” for his Hercules-like work around the shaded lane, the 6-5 Paras is the only PBA player ever to win Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season, accomplishing the feat with Shell in 1989.

    He also was selected the league MVP in 1999, a gap of 10 years that is the longest in PBA annals as well.

    During his distinguished 15-year PBA tenure (1989-2003) with Shell and San Miguel Beer, the 45-year-old Paras posted averages of 17.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 586 games.

    He is one of only 13 men in PBA history to collect at least 10,000 points in his career.

    His 17.7-point clip is the fifth highest on the all-time PBA local list, trailing only Ricardo Brown, William (Bogs) Adornado, Ernesto (Estoy) Estrada and Allan Caidic.
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  5. PBA: CAIDIC'S 79-POINT FEAT RECALLED

    Just like the late Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in the U.S. National Basketball Association, there is no way that Allan Caidic’s 79-point performance in the Philippine Basketball Association 22 years ago will be duplicated, let alone surpassed, in the years to come.

    With the relatively low game scores nowadays in Asia’s first professional league, it is unlikely that another prolific marksman currently toiling in the PBA is capable of eclipsing Caidic’s scoring record.

    On November 21, 1991, Caidic shot the lights out of the Araneta Coliseum by exploding for 79 points in powering Tivoli (nee Great Taste/Presto) to a 162-149 drubbing of crowd favorite Ginebra San Miguel.

    This established the all-time PBA single-game scoring mark by a homegrown Filipino player.

    When he registered the mind-boggling feat, the unassuming left-handed hotshot that Filipino cage fans fondly called “The Triggerman” for his prodigious shooting touch was only 28 years old and appearing in just his fifth PBA campaign.

    Among the locals, Paul Alvarez is the only player other than Caidic to breach the 70-point barrier. Alvarez, known as “Mr. Excitement,” chalked up 71 markers for Alaska in a 169-138 victory over Shell on April 26, 1990.

    In registering his 79-point feat, which he secured on a dozen two-point field goals, 17 three-point field goals and four free throws, Caidic also set several PBA single-game records by a local player.

    These are: Most points in one half, 53 (second half); most points in one quarter, 37 (third); most three-point shots made, 17; and most three-point attempts, 27.

    Two years earlier, Caidic also knocked in 68 markers (nine 2FGS, 15 3FGs and five FTs) for Presto in a 175-159 overtime decision over Alaska on November 2, 1989.

    Caidic, who along with Jerry Codiñera and Boycie Zamar (currently the UE head coach) helped guide the University of the East Red Warriors to their most recent University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) title in 1985, saw action with Great Taste-Presto-Tivoli, San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra in the PBA from 1987 to 1999.

    The 6-2 forward from Pasig City hit at a 19.6-point clip in 598 games during his distinguished 13-year PBA career. His career average still ranks fourth on the all-time local list behind Fil-Am Ricardo Brown (23.1 ppg), William (Bogs) Adornado (20.4) and Ernesto (Estoy) Estrada (19.7). Caidic also is one of only 13 men in PBA annals to collect at least 10,000 points, with his 11,719 scores good for 10th place on the all-time scoring ladder until now.

    Caidic won the PBA’s Rookie of the Year award with Great Taste in 1987 and earned league Most Valuable Player honors with Presto three years later.

    At 50, Caidic is currently an assistant coach with Barangay Ginebra in the PBA and served as one of Marco Januz (Juno) Sauler’s assistant coaches on the Cinderella-like De La Salle team that copped the UAAP men’s basketball crown last month.
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