THE SYDMAN SPECIAL: STA. LUCIA REALTORS’ TOP 30 PLAYERS


This is for the devotees of the Sta. Lucia Realtors who remained faithful with the squad through their joyous and sorrowful times.

Yes, there will be a lot of “holistic” words in this article.

Let us relieve the moment where "WE BELIEVED" in the power of Sta. Lucia.


Sta. Lucia traced its roots from the old Great Taste franchise that became the Presto Tivoli squad. Sta. Lucia was a glorious contender in the PABL upon their entry to the league. Notable stars included Marlou Aquino and Boyet Fernandez. When SLR was called to the pros in 1993, it hoped to reach the big league’s heaven.

Nat Canson initially called the shots and they were to anoint DLSU star center Jun Limpot as their top pick. Allan Caidic didn’t have the spirit to join the squad and he ascended to San Miguel, leaving a couple of hopefuls consisting of Vergel Meneses, Gerry Esplana, Bong Hawkins, Apet Jao, and Zaldy Realubit. Onchie dela Cruz went to Shell, Abe King finished his career with Purefoods (then known as Coney Island), while Arnie Tuadles retired before SLR redeemed themselves with Limpot. Amongst the notables joining the squad were Limpot, Boyet Fernandez, and Max Delantes.

Before we go to the rankings, EXY ROBLES should be praised! He was the man that took the team out of PABL limbo and he did not lose hope even if his team was suffering. ADONIS TIERRA is another name that the followers should admire because he remained dedicated with the flock whether he is the assistant or an interim head coach. It would have been splendid if he won a championship as a SLR coach. He never complained whenever a big named coach appears and forced him to descend from his spot.

Notable coaches that helmed the squad were Canson, Tierra, Derrick Pumaren, Alfrancis Chua, Norman Black, and Fernandez. Players that had a pit stop with the Realtors included Bong Alvarez, Jack Tanuan, Boy Cabahug, Naning Valenciano, Rob Wainwright, Johnedel Cardel, Banjo Calpito, Omanzie Rodriguez, Jun Jabar, Mike Orquillas, Leo Bat-Og, Marvin Ortiguerra, Gabby Espinas, Donbel Belano, Gherome Ejercito, Long David, Paeng Santos, Chito Victolero, Wilmer Ong, Benny Cheng, among others. Sta. Lucia paraded imports Lambert Shell, Fred Pea, Ansu Sesay, Damien Owens, Kwan Johnson, Ray Tutt, Joe Temple, Ronnie Coleman, Anthony Johnson, and former Laguna Laker Chris Clay amongst the Realtor notables (Note: Clay played as a local in the MBA but since he couldn’t prove his citizenship, he agreed to play as an import for the Realtors).

The team’s followers were floating in glee with their two championships and a couple of third-place finishes. The Realtors had four number one picks in Limpot, Dennis Espino, Paolo Mendoza, and Kelly Williams. Limpot, Espino, Marlou Aquino, Kenneth Duremdes, Williams, and Ryan Reyes represented Team Pilipinas on separate occasions during their stints with the squad.

So without further adieu...

GAME STARTS NOW!

Unlike other PBA teams with rich history, Sta. Lucia never really had a championship-hunting squad or a slew of Hall of Famers. You’ll probably see a lot of role players in the roster. While their contributions might be minimal, they became saving grace for the squad after they sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears to help the franchise tag wins for them to keep.

DISCLAIMER: By the way, this is MY TOP 30. If you don’t like how your teams fared then you need to make your own list. You see, it’s easy for people to type comments but I bet my balls it’s harder to create articles. I listed these guys in terms of popularity, tenure, stats, contributions (good or bad), and impact.

30 RICHARD DEL ROSARIO – Before the guy became a PBA commentator that trademarks ridiculing himself (he never scored in double figures in the course of his career), he was a serviceable center for SLR. Except in Alaska, he played his career alongside Norman Black. He reminds me of Chris Dudley… with less offense.

29 JACK SANTIAGO – The guy was the unluckier version of Dindo Pumaren because while he is an excellent orchestrator and shooter, he never really found a home in the PBA... except during a three-season stint with the Realtors where he became a reliable backup for Ronnie Magsanoc and Jason Webb.

28 CHRIS TAN – The guy is a beefy 6’1 PG. He started his career as a DLSU Archer with stints in the MBA’s Batangas Blades and Cebu Gems. Sure, he was Norman Black’s stepson but he never carried his weight for his selfishness. In fact, he loves to pass for shots often than to score shots even if he’s a deadshot shooter.

27 TOYING TEVES – Melchor “Toying” Teves was not a scorer but it didn’t matter because whenever he steps inside the court, he manages to restrict a top scorer from exploding. He played for four seasons with the Realtors and he was last seen as a pro via the MBA’s Davao Eagles.

26 KIKO ADRIANO – The former PSBA/FEU star was drafted by the Realtors in the 2001 Draft. He was a spark plug of the bench and he had a lot to offer offensively. After a lengthy stay, Adriano chose to sign with San Miguel and he was last seen in Red Bull.

25 ATO AGUSTIN – Agustin only played one season with the Realtors but his entry gave a lot of impact. Fresh from his championship stint as a Pampanga Dragon in the MBA, he vaulted back to the PBA via the Realtors. In his first PBA out-of-town game in Pampanga, he was about to make a speech why he returned to the PBA when cable subscribers in Luzon, mostly Sky subscribers, lost their signal. MBA hated Agustin’s return to the PBA and the sudden cable loss was pointed towards them. Viva-Vintage, the then-carrier of PBA games replayed the speech in their succeeding games. Agustin was unprotected during Red Bull’s expansion draft and found himself playing for the squad. He returned to the MBA via the Pampanga Stars as a playing-coach before retiring from the game when the MBA folded.

24 BOYET FERNANDEZ – A gifted shooter and a shady defender, he played his first four years with the Realtors. While he didn’t score his glory years while playing for the squad, he did retire as a Realtor. And then he brought glory to the squad by bringing home their second title in his rookie season as head coach.

23 NORMAN GONZALES – He is willing to do anything just to play. From a strictly inside operator with a knack for recovering loose balls, he learned to shoot jump shots which eventually became three-point shots. He can defend the imports and the star players of given squad and for his size, he is an excellent passer.

22 JASON WEBB – Many were disappointed when this former DLSU scoring star was merely a defensive stopper in the PBA. However, the former SLR third pick overall was a very capable quarterback, feeding off buckets to Limpot and Espino during his stints with the ballclub. He started his pro career and ended his pro career as a Realtor.

21 ALEX CABAGNOT – Before “The Cool Whip” became the prep SMB quarterback, Alex was the volatile player SLR officials loathe. He always wanted to go back to the US when something bad comes up, but he plays well when he puts his mind into it. He was part of the trade that sent Kenneth Duremdes to Coke.

20 DENOK MIRANDA – Coming from Coke, this FEU standout was an outstanding defensive PG. Sure, his scoring is limited, but SLR’s offense ran smoothly when he’s at helm. He was part of the second championship squad. He was unceremoniously sent off by the squad to the powerhouse San Miguel Beermen.

19 ROBERT PARKER – Sta. Lucia was scouting Kwan Johnson when Parker came up to the delegation and told them he was Pinoy. In terms of impact, he brought his swagger to the PBA via rim-rattling dunks and viral passion. Sure he was a scoring machine but he high-tailed when his citizenship proven fake. Worse, he left a lot of debt which caused Exy Robles and Buddy Encarnado to never trust Fil-Ams... until they acquired Kelly Williams.

18 JOSEPH YEO – For a team that was once very abundant in bench support, they found themselves lacking for one. A deal that sent the Ninja to the Realtors was something they needed. He proved to be a vital contributor as a reserve and was one of the key elements of their championship squad.

17 RYAN REYES – I remember when I judged the Realtors for drafting Reyes instead of a big man that they seriously needed at that moment... and it was a mistake. He is the third Realtor to win the Rookie of the Year award after Limpot and Williams. Reyes played both guard positions with ease. He was also a great rebounder. He won a title with the Realtors and he joined Williams at Talk N Text.

16 RONNIE MAGSANOC – After more than a decade of playing for Shell, the former many-time Mythical Team member found himself wearing a SLR jersey. He wasn’t the cat-quick player he once was but he can still orchestrate and managed to hit those big shots. He played his last in Purefoods before calling it quits.

15 CHRIS JACKSON – Stonewall Jackson was picked fourth by Purefoods but he played his rookie season with the Realtors. While a typical large Fil-Am would dominate with his offense, he proved his mettle through defense and his accurate three-point bombs. He was sent to Shell as part of the trade that sent Magsanoc to SLR.

14 NOYNOY FALCASANTOS – He came to the team as a high pick (I think from Noli Locsin’s draft class). He seemed to be Nelbert Omolon of his time but sadly injuries foiled his several chances to shine. He was barely used after his SLR stint as part of Ginebra and TNT.

13 JOSE FRANCISCO – He calls himself El Pistolero because he was an insanely accurate three point shooter. He was basically Rhoel Gomez... with more minutes. Injuries slowed him down in his later seasons and he was sent to Talk N Text before heading to the MBA.

12 GERARD FRANCISCO – The former UST Tiger was an early second round pick by the Realtors. Despite having a brief PBA stint marred by injuries, he was the man during Sta. Lucia’s first title victory. With his dipsy doo shots and low post plays, SLR finally scored gold! Francisco was hailed as the Finals MVP of that tourney. He last played for Coke where he is now part of the coaching staff.

11 ANDY DE GUZMAN – This marksman had a stop with the squad before becoming a MBA journeyman. He never took a shot he didn’t like although he did take a lot of shots. There is a reason why in seven seasons he averaged 10.5ppg and a factor for which is he is a great kickout option for penetrators and post-up scorers.

10 ROMY DELA ROSA – A pick up from Shell, this former Ginebra draft pick transformed from a post up scorer to a three-point shooting expert when he played for the Realtors. He played well for the team up until he chose to play for the Negros Slashers in the MBA.

9 NELBERT OMOLON – The guy is oozing with potential. He can either slash or shoot the open jumper... and he can play both forward positions effectively. The PCU star was always a step away for being a top draw but he is inconsistent most of the time. However, when he is in the zone, his immense array of arsenal will definitely destroy an opponent’s capability to win.

8 PAOLO MENDOZA – The guy once averaged 40 points in the UAAP. Playing for Agfa and Red Bull in the PBL, the UP hotshot was the top pick of the 2000 PBA Draft. Undersized for playing the SG, he played PG for SLR. While he had his moments, he wasn’t the offensive juggernaut the Realtors thought he would be. But he did prove to be vital in their championship squads.

7 GERRY ESPLANA – Before he was known as Shell’s Mr. Cool, he was the chief quarterback of the Realtors. A holdover from the Presto squad, the 1990 Rookie of the Year managed to extend his stay with the squad even if fellow Presto holdovers Vergel Meneses, Bong Hawkins, Zaldy Realubit, and Apet Jao were being sent to different places. He was traded to Shell were he made a bigger name for himself.

6 KENNETH DUREMDES – When Captain Marbel was traded to Sta. Lucia from Alaska (for a draft pick that was Brandon Cablay), it shocked the league. After all, Duremdes was a scoring juggernaut that would make the frontline of Espino and Aquino more invincible. While he was still the scoring threat, injuries plagued his stay with SLR. Worse, his entry proved costly. Because of his salary, SLR’s bench was dismantled. When he was traded to Coke, the scoring duties were transferred to Kelly Williams.

5 JUN LIMPOT – The guy was the first major piece of the Realtors’ hopes to win a PBA championship. Fresh from stints in Magnolia in the PABL and DLSU in the UAAP, the Big Deal was their inside powerhouse for almost a decade. Unfortunately he never won a championship for the squad and was sent to Ginebra for Marlou Aquino. Remember when he signed a huge contract to re-sign with the squad?

4 MARLOU AQUINO – Call the guy unmotivated and even lazy but when he came to the team, he was the ace in the hole. He brought the championship tradition he learned in Ginebra and gave it to the Realtors... in one season. Alongside Espino and Mendoza, Aquino was part of two Sta. Lucia title squads... and he was the one that remained after the two were shipped out to Coke. He was also a part of the Sta. Lucia squad in the PABL.

3 KELLY WILLIAMS – When Chot Reyes was forming his RP Squad, he discovered K-Will. The explosive frontliner would continue to bolster raves in PBL’s Magnolia. SLR had to pick him as their top pick and the Machine Gun didn’t disappoint. He played like an import for the squad – playing well in both sides of the court. His heroics claimed the second title for the Realtors and he will go down in history as the only Sta. Lucia Realtor to win MVP honours as part of the squad.

2 DENNIS ESPINO – Call him The Menace but he was the architect of their success. He is the Realtors’ all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and minutes. While he was the top pick of the 1995 Draft, he didn’t become an instant hit. An injury happened after an exhibition game in the Middle East that sidelined the former UST Tiger. While it was Limpot who was SLR’s first option in offense, Espino was the hard-nosed banger that can perform amazingly both in offense and defense. He also had an effective top-of-the-key jumper and back-to-the-basket shot. In 2000’s, this hot-head became the team’s heart and soul, resembling the captain role identified with Alvin Patrimonio. Because of his leadership, he was a key figure for the squad even during the time Kelly Williams was the focal point of the offense. Before he was traded to Coke, Espino was the active player with the longest stint with one team (SMB’s Danny Ildefonso now holds that distinction). He was the Finals MVP of SLR's second championship.

1 BUDDY ENCARNADO – I reserved this spot for the most notable figure in Sta. Lucia’s history. A relic as far as team manager and governors are concerned, he was part of commercial basketball since he was in the ESQ Merchants in the PABL, and eventually Sta. Lucia. He was SLR’s number one cheerleader and he stuck with the team in good and hard times. He was passionate about his work and he was hands-on in terms of personnel relations. He was the one Rob Parker owed debt and at the same time he was the one who is crying when the team won its first championship. While the SLR squad’s standing in the PBA was in question, he still tried to get a good deal in surrendering Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes (Encarnado was said to be responsible for also sending Charles Waters to TNT to be with his brother-in-law, Kelly). And even if the documents were signed to deal the franchise to Meralco, he was still negotiating for the power company to give his former wards roster spots. After his SLR work, he will still be part of the league as one of the guys taking care of the PBA Developmental League.

(Postscript: Written August 8, 2010)

The franchise was sold to Meralco recently... and funny how the vital cogs of the team now playing for Coke (Dennis Espino, Paolo Mendoza, and Norman Gonzales) would drive their squad to an early exit in the 2010 Fiesta Conference... which happened to be the last SLR game in the PBA.

Maybe they didn’t know that this was the farewell season of the Realtors.

But in fact, there have been signs.

The league’s green team gave their best players to different squads starting with Dennis Espino and Paolo Mendoza to Coke, Joseph Yeo and Denok Miranda to San Miguel, and Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes to Talk N Text.

With the franchise transfer, Meralco, Talk N Text’s sister company will probably retain the services of Yousif Aljamal, Ogie Menor, Ali Peek, Josh Urbiztondo, Gabby Espinas, and the improved Pong Escobal. Nelbert Omolon would probably figure as trade bait and while old, Marlou Aquino and Nic Belasco are still capable rebounds and their presence inside will still amount to something. I have no idea what lies for Jason Misolas, Donbel Belano, Dennis Daa, Kelvin Gregorio, and Chris Pacana, among others.

The team was probably last in terms of fans during the 90’s but they persevered and never gave up which led to titles people never thought that could happen.

With Sta. Lucia’s exit, the re-opening of Meralco as a basketball juggernaut would be revealed.

For the devotees, the “miracle” squad will never be forgotten.

Game over.

5 comments:

  1. by the way you have a nice site. it looks glossy! :)

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  2. Marlou Aquino over Jun Limpot? SERIOUSLY?

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  3. yes! yes! yes! yes! yes! yes!

    when limpot was there, sta. lucia was basically the current version of rain or shine - they're like a squad that has a star player but he can't lift them to the finals.

    with marlou, sta. lucia became title contenders (especially when they have a great lineup). you can't even say "the marlou factor" because during limpot's last days as a realtor, he was unmotivated as well.

    at least marlou steps up big - hustling and bustling especially in the playoffs.

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  4. by the way... i'm not a limpot hater!

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