WHEN SPIN.ph asked him who he believes are the top defensive players among the current crop of PBA players, Jerry Codiñera took a longer time than usual to come up with names.
Not that there are only a few defensive players in the pro league today. It's just that the 'Defense Minister' believes there were a lot more tougher defenders back in the day when Filipino defenders were mostly called upon to defend imports one on one - no thanks to the illegal defense rule.
Codiñera also felt the current generation of players are more offensive-minded.
“Nung araw kasi marami — si (Yoyoy) Villamin, (Abe) King, (Sonny) Cabatu. Kasi puro 6-10 ang import noon, Pinoy lang ang katapat nun,” the former University of the East star slotman said.
Guarding imports one-on-one is a thankless job, said Codinera.
“Pagdating mo ng third quarter, gulantang ka na," Codinera said. "First quarter, limang foul agad. Wala silang paki kung deliberate ang hampas sa 'yo."
Codiñera made defense his middle name in a career that started with Purefoods in 1988. He was named to the PBA All-Defensive Team nine times and won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1994.
For so long the frontcourt partner of four-time MVP Alvin Patrimonio, the 17-year veteran said to this day he still takes pride in his defense against imports.
“Sa amin noon, 6-6 (ako), bantay ko 6-10, single coverage. Pick your poison. Kapag hinagis ka, landing mo sa kabila; pag boxout, puro kalmot,” said the former Purefoods star.
After giving it some thought, Codiñera said there are some active players that impresses him with their defensive abilities. Being a center during his playing career, Codiñera understandably picked mostly frontcourt players.
Here is his list:
Arwind Santos may be known more as an offensive player for San Miguel, but Codiñera said the former Far Eastern University cager is a great defensive player, mainly because of his long wingspan.
“Mahaba ang kamay. He is an underrated defender,” said Codiñera.
For Codiñera, there was a reason why Ginebra coach Tim Cone put the rookie Ferrer on Santos during the PBA Philippine Cup finals. He also sees a similarity between the two players who feuded during the finals.
“Underrated pero magaling dumepensa ‘yun," he said of the former University of Santo Tomas star. "Nakita mo ‘yung binigay ni coach Tim Cone kay Arwind? Pareho silang defender at magaling sa timing.”
Next on Codiñera’s list was Abueva, whose talent on defense is not just limited to holding down opponents, but also has the ability to get in a player’s head.
“Physical and he intimidates people,” said Codinera, currently the coach of the Arellano Chiefs in the NCAA.
If there is someone that is taking a page out of Codiñera’s book at Purefoods, it’s Pingris. The Star Hotshots veteran is barely 6-4 but has an ability to guard players taller and bigger than him at the low block.
“He is quick and he is a good role player,” said Codiñera.
He is a guard but Codiñera believes Jalalon, his former player at Arellano in the NCAA, has what it takes to be the top defensive guards in the PBA in the future.
“Hindi pa siya nagfo-flourish pero he has a future kasi defensive guard siya,” said Codiñera.