When rookies kick up a storm

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Peter Cariño

Peter Cariño

The recent Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) draft was quite awesome, and the presence of Greg Slaughter, Jeric Teng, and Ian Sangalang makes it among the best the league has ever seen.

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Now the big question is—who among them could kick up a storm? Or can they collectively kick up a storm? And what are the parameters for “kicking up a storm?” From what I have seen in PBA history, there were at least five occasions when a rookie or a few rookies literally kicked up a storm, and left an unforgettable note in PBA history. Here is the list:

1.)    Almost snaring the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award— the year was 1979 and the 6’1” Ricardo Brown from Pepperdine University in the US flew into town to join Great Taste Coffee. Along with veterans Bogs Adornado and Manny Victorino, Brown led Great Taste to the finals only to lose to the legendary Crispa Redmanizers. What made Brown such a prolific rookie was he almost snared the MVP award although he won the Rookie of the Year (ROTY) award. When he retired, he had a scoring average of about 23.1 points and assist average of 7.3 per game—the highest among non-imports to ever play in the PBA.

2.)    Good as anticipated—In the mid 1980s, Allan Caidic’s entry into the PBA was highly anticipated because he was the deadliest outside shooter in the amateurs. And he was good as anticipated when be joined the PBA in 1987, by being the first rookie to snare the scoring title in that season. He was also ROTY awardee that year

3.)    Patrimonio and company shake up the league—the year was 1988 and the Purefoods team, with the prolific Ramon Fernandez now its main man, successfully recruited a trio composed of Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa and Jerry Codiñera. While the three went on to become prolific players in their own right, what also shook the league was their multi-million paychecks, with Patrimonio getting a five-year P25-million contract. Eventually, the Purefoods Tender Juicy Giants won the first conference championship in the 1988 season. Patrimonio, although seen as overpaid PBA player, eventually won four Most Valuable Player (MVP) championships in his brilliant career. He along with Fernandez are the only PBA players to achieve such a feat. In his first year in the league, Patrimonio stamped his class with averages of 17.2 points and 8.8 rebounds in 33 minutes of playing time. Lastimosa and Codiñera went on to help their next PBA teams reach new heights, with Lastimosa helping lead Alaska to a number of championships.

4.)    Tarzan invades the PBA— the late Joe Cantada was also the best in giving monikers to various PBA players, and he was not wrong to call Benjie Paras “Tarzan.” After leading the University of the Philippines to a number of collegiate basketball championships and having memorable match ups with Codinera at the slot, Paras entered the league with a lot of thunder. While Patrimonio was known as a bull-strong and hardnosed player, Paras was known as the most explosive player to enter the PBA at that time. And boy, he could dunk with relative ease! While Paras’ team did not win a title in his rookie year, he became the first player in the league’s history to win the MVP and ROTY awards in the same year, or in 1989.

5.)    Setting a new rookie standard—in the early years of the PBA, the most expected from rookies playing the center and power forward positions were 15 points and 8 rebounds per game. But who could imagine rookies exceeding 20 points and 12 rebounds per game in 1999? Enter the 6’5” Erik Menk and the 6’9” Asi Taulava – two half breeds who would rewrite the rookie averages. Unfortunately, neither of them won the championship in their first year, with Tanduay bannered by Menk losing to the Paras-led Shell in seven games in the first conference of that year. But both eventually became MVPs—Taulava in 2003 and Menk in 2004.

It would be easy to state that what made Brown, Caidic, Patrimonio and company, Paras, Taulava and Menk kick up storms in their first years in the PBA were their conditioning or athleticism. But I believe it goes beyond that, because Brown, Patrimonio, Lastimosa and Codi-ñera all possessed the hunger to win, as evidenced by their competitive collegiate stints. Meanwhile, Taulava and Menk were eager to stamp their class in the league.

So can anyone in the PBA draft batch of 2013 kick up storm? Let’s wait and see.

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