The List: Top 10 Players in Their PBA Rookie Seasons

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The List: Top 10 Players in Their PBA Rookie Seasons

Post by Ginebra Tambayan on Wed May 30, 2012 12:08 am

The List: Top 10 Players in Their PBA Rookie Seasons
Jaemark Tordecilla and Jay P. Mercado, InterAKTV · Tuesday, May 29, 2012 · 10:35 pm

It’s not easy for any rookie to make a sudden impact in the league. But in the history of the PBA, several first year players have gone out to become great players right out of the gate.

In this installment of The List, we present the best rookies in their maiden seasons. As always, here are some honorable mentions:

Marte Saldaña

Upon joining the PBA in 1982, “The Mighty Mite” instantly became San Miguel’s top player. He teamed up with super import Norman Black to lead the Beermen to the championship in that season’s Invitational Conference, a runner-up finish in the Reinforced Conference, and a third-place finish in the Open Conference. For his troubles, Saldaña won that year’s Rookie of the Year award.

Jerry Codiñera

When he joined the Purefoods Hotdogs in 1988, Codiñera heralded the entry of the next generation of the league’s great big men to break the stranglehold of pioneers Ramon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben. Codiñera helped Purefoods to two finals appearances, and was named to the Mythical Second Team.

Paul Alvarez

Alvarez’s impact on the PBA in his rookie year can be summed up by his nickname: Mr. Excitement. His game transformed his team so much that media gave the whole squad a nickname: the Alaska Air Force. The only reason he didn’t win Rookie of the Year honors was because there was another first-year player by the name of Benjie Paras.

Jun Limpot

It’s hard to believe now, after his career is over, but some people believed that Jun Limpot would end up becoming the greatest PBA player after his rookie season with Sta. Lucia. He led the Realtors to a final four finish in the All-Filipino Conference in his maiden tournament, and tantalized the whole league with his seemingly limitless potential.

Jeffrey Cariaso

A top prospect in 1995, it shocked everyone when EJ Feihl, Chris Jackson, and Bryant Punzalan were picked ahead of Cariaso in the draft. He fell to the sixth spot, into the waiting arms of the Alaska Milkmen, whom he helped to a title in three championship appearances that season, when he won Rookie of the Year honors.

Danny Ildefonso

Ildefonso was the subject of a tug-of-war even before his very first game; he had supposedly signed with Pangasinan in the MBA, causing Shell to trade him to San Miguel in exchange for Noy Castillo to avoid a messy situation in 1998. As a young center, he helped transform the Beermen to become a more complete team, making two finals appearances. Ildefonso won Rookie of the Year and was part of the Mythical Second Team.

Mark Caguioa

Fans were shocked when Ginebra selected an unknown kid from Eagle Rock, California with the third pick in 2001. They were positively flabbergasted when it turned out that bleach-blonde punk could play. He helped Ginebra crash the 2001 All-Filipino finals, and won Rookie of the Year — and the undying admiration of the barangay — along the way.

10. Eric Menk

Menk joined the league in 1999 with Tanduay, the year of the so-called Fil-Am invasion. He made an impact in his very first tournament, winning Best Player of the Conference honors and leading the Rhum Masters to the finals. His Rookie of the Year chances fizzled later in the year, as fellow rookie Danny Seigle led the San Miguel Beermen to two titles.

9. Jojo Lastimosa

Lastimosa gained an immediate following by helping Purefoods make two straight conference finals in 1988. More than that, however, he embodied the new team’s fierce attitude to prove that he and his fellow rookies like Jerry Codiñera and, later, Alvin Patrimonio were more than just pretty boys, as they never backed down from the league’s veterans. He won Rookie of the Year honors that season, beating his other famous teammates.

8. Dondon Ampalayo

Ginebra’s “Magic Man” had a positively magical rookie season in 1986, helping the franchise win its first title in franchise history to win Rookie of the Year. He had all the makings of a superstar, a 6-foot-3 big man with three-point range, slashing skills, and a nice touch around the basket.

7. Arnie Tuadles

Toyota had a star-studded lineup, so it was a shock for even the team’s biggest fans when the squad trotted out a little-known rookie from Cebu as its new starting small forward. But Tuadles shocked them even more when he became a great, sometimes dominant, contributor for the team. A rugged big guy who could run the floor, hit the outside shot, and destroy opponents on the block with his contra-tiempo layups, Tuadles won Rookie of the Year in 1979 and was named to the Mythical Five.

6. Jimmy Alapag

Coming into the league in 2003, Alapag was a heartbreak kid of sorts. Out of college, he impressed Ron Jacobs enough to be included in the PBA national pool in 2002, only to suffer a broken hand in his very first game. When he returned in time for the 2003 draft, Alapag found that he was out of sight and out of mind, dropping all the way down to No. 10.

He came out on a mission, averaging 17 points, seven assists, and six rebounds a game to immediately take the mantle as best point guard in the league. He helped Talk ‘N Text to its first championship in franchise history, before winning Rookie of the Year and Mythical Five honors at season’s end.

5. Marlou Aquino

When Marlou Aquino was drafted in 1996, Ginebra fans had been suffering the worst stretch in franchise history. His entry transformed the squad immediately, and his dominance made him a candidate for Most Valuable Player honors. He won Rookie of the Year after leading Ginebra to the 1996 Governors’ Cup finals, the team’s first championship appearance in five years.

4. Ricardo Brown

Ricky Brown won Rookie of the Year and Mythical First Team awards in 1983, when he made an immediate splash as the main man on a Great Taste team that made it to all three championships that season. Each time, however, the Coffee Makers ran into the powerhouse Crispa Redmanizers, who ended up winning the Grand Slam that year. Despite that, however, “The Quick Brown Fox” already served notice to the rest of the league as the PBA’s most lethal backcourt weapon.

3. Allan Caidic

In 1987, Great Taste formed a powerhouse team that included former MVPs Ricky Brown, Atoy Co, Philip Cezar, as well as Abe King, Arnie Tuadles, and Bernie Fabiosa. So it was no small feat that Allan Caidic came in and established himself as one of the stars of the team.

Caidic helped Great Taste to the finals in his first two tournaments — a runner-up finish in the Open Conference behind Tanduay and a championship in the All-Filipino conference. He won Rookie of the Year honors and was named to the Mythical First Team.

2. Danny Seigle

In 1999, San Miguel traded its incumbent star Nelson Asaytono midway through the season along with Will Antonio to Pop Cola in exchange for role players Nic Belasco, Dwight Lago, and Boybits Victoria. It signaled that the Beermen were banking on rookie Danny Seigle to take over scoring cudgels.

Seigle didn’t disappoint. He led the Beermen to the championships in the last two tournaments of the season, and was named Rookie of the Year. He was a strong candidate to win the Most Valuable Player award, but fell short after being defeated by the top player on this list.

1. Benjie Paras

Like we wrote before in this space: in 1989, Benjie Paras wasn’t just a basketball player, he was a force of nature. “The Tower of Power” transformed the Formula Shell franchise as soon as he stepped foot on the court, teaming up with Bobby Parks and Ronnie Magsanoc to lead the team to the finals in his very first tournament.

Paras’ success in 1989 — he remains the only rookie to win MVP honors as well — signaled the beginning of the end of the PBA pioneers’ dominance, and ushered the next era of the PBA.

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