IN the mid-2000, San Sebastian put together an impressive collection of high school players who, years later, would go on and make a mark, not just in college but in the pro ranks.
And despite seeing these players leave San Sebastian and excel for other schools in college, Staglets coach Raymond Valenzona said he doesn't regret and instead feels a sense of pride seeing these former 'Baste' players make a name for themselves elsewhere.
“Hindi ako nanghihinayang. Sa akin, proud ako sa kanila na nakita ko sila sa college at sa D-League,” said Valenzona, son of multi-titled coach Turo and head coach of the Staglets team that won four successive NCAA junior championships from 2005 to 2008.
As Valenzona rattled off the players who had played for that four-peat side, it is inevitable to think how dominant the school's senior team would have been had they stayed put for college.
In their final run alone in 2008, the Staglets had Almond Vosotros, Yutien Andrada, and Finals MVP Arvie Bringas, all of who later moved to La Salle. Bringas played for a few seasons with the Green Archers before transfering to Far Eastern University, but Vosotros and Andrada stayed at Taft.
Vosotros went on to have a stellar career at La Salle, helping the Green Archers win the 2013 UAAP title with that memorable jumper in the finals against University of Santo Tomas.
Before them, there were also Eric Salamat and Ryan Buenafe, who won Finals MVPs during their run with San Sebastian. Buenafe, who also won a season MVP in the NCAA, and Salamat went on to play big roles for the Ateneo Blue Eagles side that won five successive UAAP championships.
Also quietly making a mark for the Staglets was Paul Lee, who won a Mythical Five award in 2005 during the school’s first title run in that dynastic reign. Lee, of course, is now one of the biggest names in Philippine basketball having played for Gilas Pilipinas national team and Rain or Shine.
Other former Staglets players whose names ring a bell for college hoops fans are Arvin's brother Mark Bringas, former Alaska mainstay Raffy Reyes, and Jon Ortouste, who is one of the few Staglets players who went on to play for the Stags in college.
(Editor's note: We encourage readers to add more names if we left someone out)
Although Valenzona insisted he doesn't regret the 'what-could-have-been,' , he admitted this collection of players would have been good enough to win a championship or two for the Stags.
“Ang tantsa ko, kaya mag-champion ‘yun. Isang buong team na kami,” said Valenzona.
Despite most of them going elsewhere in college,Valenzona said he still has good relationships with his former players, who even egg on their former coach to this day to form a team composed of ex-Staglets.
“’Yun nga ang sinasabi ko sa kanila kapag nagkikita-kita kami, na malay natin makabuo uli tayo ng team,” Valenzona said. “Minsan may gathering na nagkikita-kita kami, nakikita ko na maganda ‘yung narating nila.”
While the former Staglets excelled elsewhere, the youthful coach recalled that most of them at that time weren't the top names in high school but stood out for their great work ethic on the court.
The team came together more by chance than anything else, he added.
“Noong na-recruit namin sila, dumating na lang sila na naipon na lang tapos na-buo na lang namin," he said. "Sa akin kasi nung na-recruit, dumating na naipon lang sila tapos nabuo na lang namin.
"Kahit mahina sila, pero meron silang magandang attitude na na-develop na lang ‘yung team. Nadala nila ‘yung attitude na ‘yun sa college,” said Valenzona.
“Iba ‘yung samahan. Isang pamilya kami. parang anak ko na sila. Hanggng ngayon, parang ganun pa rin,” he added.