FOR years, the PBA has seen a long line of players revive their careers under Robert Jaworski at Ginebra.
From Rudy Distrito to Dante Gonzalgo to Rey Cuenco to Sonny Cabatu to Pido Jarencio, players who either bounced around the league or earned a bad rap in their careers ended up enjoying a new lease on life at Ginebra.
“Si Bobby (Jaworski) kasi ang tingin sa basketball, parang buhay ng isang tao. Yung mga nabibigo sa ibang team, kinukuha niya para mabigyan ng pagasa,” said Jaworski's longtime aide de camp Reli De Leon.
They Said It!
“Well, we all know the reason why Ginebra hasn't won another championship yet. It's the superstar effect on a player that burdens the whole team and its legion of fans. Last time they won the championship, more than half of their roster were role players but now? Meh. I like to watch Kia more lately because of the way they play as under dogs. Ginebra used to be many many years ago but not anymore." Unknownymous
“Mapapansin mo ang dami niyang player na pinasikat. Kasi alam niya na yung mga players na hindi sikat o hindi pinapansin, mas nakikita niya na magiging palaban at makikipagpatayan 'yun para sa kanya,” he added.
But times have changed.
The exact opposite is happening nowadays as players who Ginebra gave away are becoming the toast of the league - thanks to the opportunities and the confidence they gained after moving to other ballclubs.
In fact, the last three players to win Player of the Week citations from the PBA Press Corps - JC Intal, Dylan Ababou and Joseph Yeo - have at one time or another been part of Ginebra.
That is something Cabatu found lamentable.
“Sa amin kasi noon, kinukuha ni Jawo mga pang-develop niya. Ang problema naman sa Ginebra nun, pag sumisikat na at gumagaling, pinapakawalan na,” said Cabatu. “Pero ang Ginebra ngayon, nagtataka ako, mga sikat na player na kukunin nila, nawawala sa sirkulasyon.
“Ang daming mahuhusay na player sa Ginebra ang nabangko lang. Nagtaka ko tulad yung Ababou, Yeo at Intal. Ang gaganda ng laro ngayon. Galing lahat sa Ginebra yun,” he said.
“Ano nangyari? Bakit hindi sila napansin sa Ginebra dati?”
Cabatu aired the opinion that instead of giving up Yeo and Co., Ginebra should be stocking up right now on young guards with longtime backcourt stars Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand nearing the end of their careers.
“Nagkaka-edad na rin kasi 'yung Mark Caguioa nila.' Yung Jayjay Helterbrand nga nila, wala na talaga. Ilang minutes na lang nilalaro nun. Sayang yung mga nawala sa kanila,” said Cabatu, citing Allein Maliksi and Ronald Tubid as other top guards that were traded away by Ginebra.
“Dapat nga magsimula na silang maghanda sa future kasi tingin ko 'yung Caguioa, three years na lang 'yan,” he stressed.
Cabatu said Ginebra may not be feeling the pinch right now because imports are filling up major holes in its backcourt. But he aired the fear that the cracks will once again show in an all-Filipino tournament.
“Nakakasabay sila ngayon kasi may mga import sila. Pero tignan mo 'pag nag all-Filipino at same ang guard lineup nila, baka mahirapan sila,” said the former Ginebra center.
Still, Cabatu said he believes new Ginebra coach Frankie Lim knows what he's doing.
“Magaling si Frankie. Dating player 'yan tapos champion coach pa sa NCAA. Dati 'ring team manager, kaya alam niya ang ginagawa niya,” said the PBA's first-ever top rookie pick in 1985.
Asked if he is not afraid to receive a backlash from Ginebra fans, Cabatu let out a smile.
“Hindi naman siguro nila mamasamain sinabi ko," he said. "Totoo lang naming nakikita natin ang sinasabii natin.”