JOHN Ferriols of the Negros Slashers will forever be in the history books of Philippine basketball as the first player to win the MVP award in the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA), a regional professional basketball league that began in 1998 and lasted only four years.
But did you know that Ferriols nearly played for the Cebu Gems?
Ferriols has been part of Cebu basketball years before the MBA started as he played for University of San Jose-Recoletos, the same school that produced PBA legend Abet Guidaben of Crispa.
When the Gems were being formed, Ferriols recalled that he joined the rigorous tryouts but failed to make the cut.
“Nasa Cebu pa ako. Wala pa sa plano ko ‘yung sa Slashers kasi nagta-try out ako sa Cebu Gems. For two weeks ‘yun,” said Ferriols.
Fortunately for Ferriols, he got another opportunity to make it to an MBA squad when the Negros Slashers held their own tryouts in Cebu days after he was informed that he didn’t made it to the Gems lineup.
“After two days, nabalitaan ko na magpapa-try out ‘yung Negros Slashers sa Cebu Coliseum so, pumunta ako. Then nakuha agad ako. Pinapunta na ako ng Bacolod,” he said.
Later on, Ferriols was reunited at the Slashers camp with Maui Huelar, his former teammate at USJR. But that, too, nearly didn’t prosper.
“Nung nandoon na ako sa Bacolod, wala pa si Maui noon. May isa pang point guard na nagustuhan ng management. Pero hindi nagkasundo, si Maui ang kinuha,” said Ferriols.
That turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Ferriols and Huelar became part of a solid core that made the Slashers one of the strongest teams in the inaugural season of the MBA. They were joined by former PBA players Jack Tanuan and Johnedel Cardel, and coached by Jun Noel, Ferriols’ coach in the Cebu commercial team Sunpride.
Incidentally, Ferriols and the Slashers would cross paths with the Gems in the Southern Conference finals. Down 3-1, the Slashers fought back to beat the Gems in Game Seven arranging a national championship series against the Pampanga Dragons.
The Dragons, coached by Aric del Rosario and led by former PBA MVP Ato Agustin, eventually won the title, 4-1.
Ferriols played for the Slashers for the entire run of the MBA before being drafted by FedEx in 2003 in the PBA, where he played for another 15 years.
But Ferriols’ Negros stint made him a household name. He said the presence of veterans led by Tanuan, an 11-year PBA veteran, and a former coach in Noel on that team helped make him a better basketball player.
“Sabi nga ni Papa Jack (Tanuan), laro lang tayo, pakita lang kayo para makilala kayo,” said Ferriols.
“Malaking bagay si coach Jun,” Ferriols added. “Sasabihin pa lang niya, alam na namin kung ano gagawin namin. Si coach Jun, siya talaga kumuha sa akin sa Davao, pumunta pa ng bahay ‘yun. Siya na ‘yung parang father ko. Siya nag-alaga sa akin sa Cebu.”