Announced earlier this year, the PBA will honor the top 40 players in its rich history. Adding 15 more players to its all-time list garnered a little controversy with the choices presented, however it is interesting to see the entrance of more Ginebra players into the list. This got me thinking, how about we do an all-time Ginebra’s greatest players list. Now this is just a fan-boy’s piece, and is very well subject to your own opinion. But just humor me a bit, and let’s take a look into who are the top Ginebra players of all-time.
In creating this list, accounted for are awards received, stats, overall impact, tenure with the team, and fan appreciation. One important fact that was considered was the quality of play during their Ginebra tenure. It’s this reason players like Cyrus Baguio, Jun Limpot, Fredie Hubalde (yes, he played for a year with the team), and Kerby Raymundo are not listed below as they played their best ball with different clubs.
Of course MVP winners are a given, but some players may be a surprise to some readers. However I will try my best to explain each selection. Let’s start of the countdown of all-time Ginebra players starting with:
1. Robert Jaworski, Sr.
Of course we start with the heart and soul of Ginebra. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this choice.
2. Mark Caguioa
He is the heir apparent to the Living Legend and current leader of the present Ginebra team. A relative unknown when drafted, the former blond bomber evolved from a “Spark” of the bench into the undisputed leader. The former MVP is poised to be with Ginebra even after his playing days.
3. Erik Menk
Major Pain entered Ginebra with major expectations. And he did not disappoint as well. Rounding out his 12 years with the team with MVP honors, 10-All-Star Selections, and multiple championships. It’s a shame he probably will not retire with the Barangay, you can currently see him in resurgence with the Alaska Aces.
4. Marlou Aquino
The skyscraper was a pioneer in the league. Arguably the most skilled player with his height during his time, he paved the way for skilled Pinoy giants in the PBA. The “Jolens” shot was his version of the Sky Hook, and his goggled look was iconic for the late 90’s Ginebra teams.
5. Jayjay Helterbrand
One half of the famed “Fast and Furious”, he is part of probably the best backcourt tandem in Ginebra’s history. He was more than just the sidekick to Mark Caguioa as he took over the lead role due to Caguioa’s injuries in Ginebra’s quest for a championship in 2008 earning him a season MVP.
6. Allan Caidic
Although he was no longer in his prime when he suited up for Ginebra, his jersey number is one of the only two jerseys retired by the team. The “Triggerman” would move from player and assistant coach, to head coach, then front office. A pioneer of the “barangay era”, he was tasked to uphold the star power of the team when Jaworski left.
7. Francis Arnaiz
The Big J’s original back court partner, “Mr. Clutch” had a knack for shots when the game was on the line. His move with Jaworski from Toyota to the then named Gilbey’s Gin saved the team from the cellar and ignited the Ginebra revolution.
8. Noli Locsin
The “Tank” was a force during the 90’s, often carrying the team even with the likes of Marlou and Vince on the same squad. The undersized power forward may have been hefty, but he could carry his weight around and hang in the air creating some memorable finishes.
9. Chito Loyzaga
The second generation basketball star was a versatile forward famous for his defense. A trusted Jaworski soldier, the many-time All-Defensive Team awardee played for Ginebra/Anejo for 7 years.
10. Rudy Distrito
The unheralded guard who was never afraid and never backed down. “The Destroyer” may have been guilty of a few cuts and bruises against his competitors, but his will to win and clutch play will always endear him to the Ginebra faithful.
11. Dante Gonzalgo
Another of Jaworski’s trusted players, Bicol Express was always someone that the Big J could lean on.
12. Rudy Hatfield
Who can forget such a character? He was hustle personified. He would answer post-game interviews like it was a wrestling promo. But this just endeared him more to the fans. Few can keep pace with the undersized rebounder and tough guy.
13. Philip Cezar
One of Jaworski’s longtime rivals, he eventually became The Big J’s deputy and a longtime member of his coaching staff. Joining at the tail-end of his career, Philip Cezar epitomized how defense should be played. Although undersized and light for the 4-position, he stood his ground and even blocked more than a handful of shots.
14. Bal David
“The Flash” had the charisma and the play to back it up. His shot to seal the victory over Asi Taulava in 1999 in itself makes Bal deserving of a spot in the all-time greats.
15. Dondon Ampalayo
The 1986 Rookie of the Year was a versatile offensive force. He would score underneath the basket as well as hit the 3, it was too bad his play was cut short by injuries.
16. Vince Hizon
It didn’t hurt that he was good looking; Ginebra fans just loved him, especially the women. More popularly known as “The Prince”, but personally I like his previous moniker much better, “Hizon Fire!”.
17. L.A. Tenorio
He may be in the news lately for his inconsistent play, this still does not take away from his importance to the current team. When he is playing his A-game, it’s hard to stop our current roster. Hopefully, with a more stable system, we can see more of the Tinyente we all know.
18. Johnny Abarrientos
Although he played for Ginebra on his last legs, there’s still no denying the Flying A’s ranking as one of the all-time best point guards in the PBA. Does anyone remember his halfcourt shot against Air21 a few years back?
19. Vergel Meneses
Although known as the “Aerial Voyager”, he wasn’t able to bring Ginebra to new heights during his tenure. He did however keep the team relevant with his consistent play and flashy moves. Injuries though were a problem during his stay.
20. Willie Tanduyan
The Davao native was the first player to carry the then-named Gilbey’s Gin banner. Although not a household name, he was the first contributor for the expansion team.
1. Terry Saldana
Probably not a common name when listing the greatest of all-time, but he was the epitome of the Ginebra spirit. Going all out for the team, doing the dirty work, and roughing it up against opposition was just another day in the court for Saldana. Having 2 solid tours of duty with Ginebra, with his second ending at the ripe age of 40 makes it even more impressive.
2. Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar
It’s still a bit early to put them as all-time greats. But they do have lots of potential to bump off players from the list.
3. Pido Jarencio, Leo Isaac, Joey Loyzaga
Ginebra has always had a strong group of guards. It was a tough call, but someone had to be chosen over another.
As the seasons progress and the roster changes over time, expect to see a growing list of players included as Ginebra’s best. Going through the list definitely reeks nostalgia, and it was a fun exercise. I know many of you will have their own version of the list, and that’s what makes it fun. From their history, we can see similarities to the present. And knowing Ginebra’s history just makes us
appreciate them even more.
Until next time, never say die! – JOE CAMACHO