Jireh Ibanes proud to witness Rain or Shine build champion team from scratch
Jireh Ibanes, the lone remnant of Rain or Shine's (then Welcoat) rookie team in 2006, says the final piece of the championsihp puzzle came when Yeng Guiao joined the franchise. Jerome Ascano

FROM Finals MVP Paul Lee to first-time champions Chris Tiu, Jericho Cruz, Raymond Almazan, and Jewel Ponferrada, all the way to rookie Maverick Ahanmisi, all are ecstatic with the recent success reaped by Rain or Shine in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

But for longtime team captain Jireh Ibanes, the fulfillment is twice as much.

The veteran wingman has seen Rain or Shine's transformation over the past 10 years - from the time the company was still a struggling franchise to the thriving ballclub with a winning tradition that it has become today.

In all those times, Ibanes stuck with the only team he has ever played for as a pro through thick and thin.

“Oo ako na lang ang natira,” he said of the early batch of Rain or Shine team (then known as Welcoat), rattling off the names of then fellow rookies Jay-R (Reyes), Jay Sagad, Abby Santos, and JunJun Cabatu

“I’ve been with the team from scratch, from the start. Talagang maraming talo, maraming iyak, maraming pagbabago.”

Through all these, the former University of the Philippines standout said co-owners Raymund Yu and Terry Que didn’t waver in their support for a franchise so accustomed to winning following their success in the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL).

“The way management handled us, they stuck with us. 'Yung puzzle binuo nila ng dahan dahan,” said Ibanes.

Of the original team built in 2006, only he and assistant coach Caloy Garcia remained with the Elasto Painters. Ironically, Alex Compton, coach of Alaska, which Rain or Shine beat in the last best-of-seven finals to win the franchise’s second title in four years, was also part of the first-ever coaching staff under Leo Austria.

“It’s tough playing against him (Compton), but I’m proud of him kung nasaan siya ngayon. What he’s been doing with Alaska, the best,” he said of his former coach.

He believes the final piece fell into place when coach Yeng Guiao came on board, adding if the team is not designed the way the fiery mentor had it run, success wouldn’t have come its way.

“Tiyaga lang talaga. Dati masaya na kami maka-lima o apat na panalo lang. Bawat panalo feeling mo championship,” said Ibanes, who was selected 11th overall (No. 1 in the second round) by Rain or Shine in the 2006 rookie draft.

“Pero naging habit (manalo) because of the players. And management, hindi na natutuwa na basta mag-qualify lang  kami sa playoffs, sa quarterfinals. They wanted the championship and they stuck with us.”

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Ibanes said his contract with the team is expiring at the end of the season, but doesn’t worry about not being renewed.

He added management appreciates what he had done for the team and what he brings to the table despite being less talented than the other Rain or Shine players.

“I’m thankful sa management because they appreciate hard work. With me, my kind of basketball is hard work, yung intangibles, and I’m really thankful that they appreciate it, kept me in the team, and allowed me to be part of this,” Ibanes said.

Certainly, he doesn’t mind playing another 10 more years with the franchise which kept its trust in him.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos