• Hard act to follow

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    Jude P. Roque

    Jude P. Roque

    We will never run out of excellent point guards. Robert Jaworski, Francis Arnaiz, Bernie Fabiosa, Hector Calma, Ronnie Magsanoc, Dindo Pumaren, Johnny Abarrientos, Olsen Racela, Jayjay Helterbrand, Mike Cortez, Alex Cabagnot, Ryan Reyes, Jayson Castro and LA Tenorio are some of the biggest names that played the role of playmaker. Then, there’s the younger batch of premier court generals like Jvee Casio, Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, Terrence Romeo, Baser Amer and Jio Jalalon. All are exceptionally talented and proven winners in the sport of basketball. To name one of them as the greatest Filipino point guard in history would surelystir up much debate. But there’s hardly any dispute that Jimmy Alapag is one of a kind.

    After thirteen admirable seasons in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Jimmy announced recently that he is retiring for good. He retired briefly in 2015 and served as team manager for Talk N’ Text but soon returned to play for Meralco and helped the Bolts enter the PBA finals for the first time in franchise history in the last tournament. Alapag holds six PBA titles, all with Talk N’ Text. He was also the 2011 PBA MVP and co-Finals MVP in the Commissioner’s Cup of the same year. Alapag made it to the prestigious list of the 40 Greatest Players in the PBA of all time. And of course, he recently eclipsed Allan Caidic’s long-standing record for most triples all time in the PBA. Jimmy is leaving the PBA with 1,250 three-pointers fired, surpassing Caidic’s 1,242. Caidic is still widely considered the best long-distance shooter in Philippine basketball history.

    When he first entered the local scene after playing college ball in Cal State San Bernardino, very few expected Jimmy to make waves here. He was picked tenth overall by Talk N’ Text in the 2003 PBA Draft. But in his rookie year, the one they called Mighty Mouse posted averages of 14.5 points, over seven assists and over six rebounds per game to claim the Rookie of the Year plum. Along with good buddy Asi Taulava, Jimmy was instrumental in Talk N’ Text’s come-from-behind championship run in the All-Filipino Conference that year, and first-ever PBA crown.

    For several years, Talk N’ Text was a solid force in the PBA. It was long-term team captain Alapag that kept the crew together with his exemplary stewardship and motivational skills.

    But more than Alapag’s achievements in the PBA, his star shone brightest during several stints with the Philippine team. Jimmy has donned the National colors since 2005 and was once considered Asia’s top point guard. Who can forget his colossal outside bombs in the crucial moments against Korea in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship here in Manila? Those shots catapulted the Philippines to the FIBA World Cup after 40 years of absence. And in the 2014 World Cup in Seville, Spain, Jimmy steered Gilas to a historic win over African powerhouse Senegal. I thought Jimmy’s leadership and heroic end-game plays were badly missed when Gilas failed to advance to the 2016 Olympics during the Olympic Qualifying Tournament here a few months ago.

    Yet despite all the personal success, Alapag remained modest and mild-mannered.

    New backcourt heroes will emerge in the PBA for sure. Jalalon, the best point guard in the recent PBA Draft, somehow resembles Jimmy’s style with his off-the-dribble jumpers from long range. Amer, who was fortunate enough to be mentored by Jimmy at Meralco, will try to emulate the leadership and never-say-die attitude that Alapag displayed all throughout his stellar career. Jimmy gladly passed the torch to the next great guards in the PBA.

    Fortunately for us, Alapag is staying on with the sport, this time as a teacher of the game. Reports said he was offered by his long-time friend and mentor Chot Reyes to be part of the Gilas coaching staff. This is great news as Jimmy could impart his fighting heart to the National squad once again. In his video announcement of his retirement, Jimmy said, “This isn’t goodbye. I’ll still be seeing you guys soon and I look forward to helping the next generation of basketball players in our country.”

    Many great guards have come and gone but Jimmy is a hard act to follow.

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