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FHM's 25 College Hoops Greats

<font size="1">We present the heroes of the NCAA and the UAAP<br /></font>
| Jun 28, 2006
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WORDS: Chrissy D. Icamina and Jasmine W. Payo
PHOTOGRAPHY: Aaron R. Vicencio

We give them a big victory ride on our shoulders. Spanning almost 70 years of the best NCAA and UAAP moments, when it wasn’t yet about the money, but the glory—and beating the rival school to a pulp!

In October 1986, the UP Maroons bagged their first UAAP title at UE’s expense. The victory ended an excruciating 48-year championship drought. “It took the person of Benjie Paras who injected the Diliman squad with fresh spirit [and] a more than decent chance to try for that crown,” according to the October 17, 1986 issue of Sports Weekly. Paras could’ve easily bagged a second UAAP title for UP, but Shell succeeded in luring “The Tower of Power” into its squad.

In his rookie year, he led La Salle to the title in 1971 at the expense of Mapua. In 1974, victory was sweeter—to the detriment of archrivals Ateneo Blue Eagles, 90-80. In this triumphant campaign, Beng scored 37 points in his last game as an Archer. His jersey number 14 was also the first to be retired in the history of La Salle. Beng holds the record for the most points scored in an NCAA game with 55. He never missed a free throw.

He was known as the “Fortune Cookie,” but “The Mapua Institute of Technology will always remember him as the ‘Fortune Rookie,’” according to The New Builder, Mapua’s official student publication. The 6’2” swingman could play guard, forward, and center, depending on what the team required. In 1973, after the 1972 ABC Youth Games, the Fortune Cookie joined the famed Crispa Redmanizers and has since gone on to become one of the PBA’s greatest players.

Led by “King Eagle” Ed Ocampo, the Ateneo Blue Eagles shackled the Kurt Bachmann-led La Salle Green Archers’ bid for a sweep in the ‘50s. Ocampo steered Ateneo to the champion’s podium in 1957 and the following year, they picked up the 1958 NCAA crown via an overtime win over their archrivals, 105-103. That year found Ocampo bagging the MVP plum, too. Ocampo was also known for the adage “It’s not about winning or losing. It’s how you play the game.”

In 1927, Ambrosio Padilla contributed to Ateneo’s victory in the NCAA Championship—in baseball. The following year, he proved a lethal forward in court and became a scoring machine as he piloted Ateneo’s trouncing of the University of the Philippines for the NCAA crown. The Guidon sports scribes wrote: “He capped his years as an Atenean by being captain of the basketball and baseball varsity teams, and graduating not just as a scholar, but as summa cum laude.” He continued his studies in UP as a law student where he also became part of the State U’s basketball and baseball teams. In 1936, he was part of the country’s basketball delegation to the Berlin Olympics. Padilla graduated salutatorian in law school, earned the No. 3 spot in the bar exams, and went on to become minority floor leader and senator.

Luis “Moro” Lorenzo was an indefatigable sportsman, lending his athleticism in four Ateneo varsity teams: basketball, football, tennis, and track and field. But it was in basketball that the Moroman truly shone. “Averaging 30 to 35 points per ballgame, he was considered the most outstanding forward of Philippine basketball during his time,” wrote The Guidon. The year 1949 witnessed his hardcourt career earn various plums: “Mr. Basketball” of the Philippines, Most Valuable Player in the NCAA, and inclusion in the NCAA all-star team. In his last year in Ateneo, he was the Philippine basketball team’s star forward who delivered and became an essential part of the first ever basketball kings of the Asian Games.

The “Living Legend” of Philippine basketball was discovered and mentored by another legend himself, Coach Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan. When the Big J was signed to be a University of the East Warrior in 1964, no one expected that a lanky 6’1” point guard with not so outstanding dribbling skills would clinch a title for UE. But the hardworking rookie exhibited remarkable enthusiasm and eventually made a name for himself with his trademark barreling drives to the hoop. Jaworski anchored the Warriors towards both the National Collegiate Open and UAAP plums in 1965 and 1966.

“The NCAA’s greatest contribution to Philippine sports is Carlos ‘The Big Difference’ Loyzaga,” wrote Manolo Iñigo in his June 21, 2004 column in The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Loyzaga spelled “the big difference” for his team because the 6’3” center can bend a looming defeat into victory. The superlative shooter and rebounder started playing for the San Beda seniors’ team while still a 4th year high school student. At that time, the NCAA allowed the seniors’ team to field a player from the juniors’ squad. And the moment Loyzaga became a college Red Lion, he was, from the first day, already a national player. He powered San Beda towards the NCAA titles in 1950 and 1951.

Gabby Espinas, then a 22-year-old find from Olongapo, made NCAA history by winning both the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards in 2004. “From the start, I've been saying he plays like an import,” said Loreto Tolentino, Espinas' former PCU coach. A rebounding demon and a top shot-block artist, Espinas turned the Philippine Christian University from cellar-dwellers to champions in just one season. “At that time, I didn't expect it,” says the 6-foot-4 forward, who also tried out for the Far Eastern University but failed to make the cut.

For the full list, read the July 2006 issue of FHM

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