JERRY Codiñera became known as the ‘Defense Minister’ during his time in the PBA.
With good reason.
In his 17-year career, the 6-foot-5 slotmf University of the East earned nine All-Defensive Team selections including seven straight from 1991 to 1998, all earned during his stay with the fabled Purefoods franchise.
But Codiñera admitted the job of containing PBA players in his heyday was far from easy. In fact, the longtime frontline partner of Alvin Patrimonio had no problem recalling the five local players he found hardest to guard.
Not surprisingly, the first two on his list were Ramon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben, the premier big men in the PBA's early years. Fernandez and Guidaben combined for six PBA MVPs and are the top two leading PBA scorers of all time.
Codiñera said it was Fernandez and Guidaben who gave him his baptism of fire in the pro ranks.
“Nung rookie ako, nandyan talaga si Ramon Fernandez at Abet Guidaben. ’Yun ang talagang baptism of fire. Iniiskoran ako ng 20 [points],” said Codiñera of the two legends.
Codiñera said Fernandez and Guidaben's wide array of offensive skills and sure hands from the perimeter made them so tough to stop.
“Excellent shooters, excellent sa perimeter, as in sure ball,” said Codiñera.
Another player on Codiñera’s list was a fellow member of the 40 Greatest Players list in Benjie Paras, who he said was special because of his rare mix of speed and power.
Paras won the MVP and the Rookie of the Year in 1989, the only player to do so in the league. He captured his second MVP a decade later at 31 years old.
“Streaky player, malaki, brute power, ang tangkad. He may be awkward pero overwhelming ang power, malakas, at athletic,” said the son of baseball great Filipino 'Boy' Codinera.
He may not be among the 40 Greatest PBA Players but Manny Victorino made Codiñera's list of defensive headaches.
Victorino held his own against Fernandez and Guidaben during their heyday in the PBA, averaging 13.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks during his 15 seasons in the league.
“Malakas sa totoo lang si Manny Victorino,” said Codiñera of Victorino, who eventually became his teammate with Purefoods at the tailend of the latter's career. “Sila ang talagang nasa protect list. They can’t be in one team na two franchise players.”
This player might not be in the superstar category, but Yoyoy Villamin made his presence felt in the eyes of Codiñera as one of the toughest players to defend. The player they call ‘The Bicolano Superman’ averaged 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds over his 17 season career in the PBA.
“Hapit maglaro, fight to finish hanggang matapos ‘yun,” said Codiñera. “Laban ‘yun at 6-3 and a half. Undersized siya na player.”