There are several multi-titled coaches in the PBA, such as Leo Austria, Norman Black, Tim Cone, Baby Dalupan, Yeng Guiao, Chot Reyes and Jong Uichico. In this series, we identify the all-time starting five of these seven coaches, choosing from all the players each one has ever coached.
From being a student of the incomparable Ron Jacobs to carving out his name in the PBA's history books as one of the best coaches the league has ever seen, Jong Uichico has had quite the basketball journey. He won nine PBA championships with three different teams, which means he has also coached his fair share of amazing players.
I recently got to talk to Coach Jong about this topic but his take was a little different. He chose to form a five from their whole body of work and not just the version of themselves when he got to coach them. His choices were: Danny Ildefonso, Rudy Hatfield, Danny Seigle, Jimmy Alapag, and Johnny Abarrientos.
In this series, we identify the best versions of the players so, with apologies to Coach Jong, my list for his all-time five is a little different.
Center: 2000 Danny Ildefonso
In a span of six conferences from 1999 to 2001, the San Miguel Beermen were close to being untouchable in the PBA as they won five championships. It is one of the most dominant runs in league history that did not result to a Grand Slam. A huge reason behind this was Danny Ildefonso.
The first overall pick of the 1998 PBA Rookie Draft hit the ground running and was leading the Beermen to championships since his second year in the PBA. Ildefonso was named the PBA's Most Valuable player in 2000 and 2001 where he won the Best Player of the Conference award in five of the six conferences, but his version in 2000 won two titles in two Finals stints, while the Beermen only managed to win one in three tries in 2001.
Ildefonso averaged 15.2 points and 8.8 rebounds in 2000. Both these figures were a little better than his 2001 numbers even if he played fewer minutes.
He was a brute force in the shaded area with a reliable mid-range game as well, but what really made him dangerous was that he was a part of a loaded team. The defense paid for single coverage against him because he scored against anyone, and if they sent a double team, he was a willing passer.
Power Forward: 1999 Danny Seigle
With the exception of Benjie Paras, no rookie has ever made an immediate impact in the league quite like Danny Seigle. Joining the San Miguel Beermen as a direct hire in 1999, Seigle was a matchup nightmare for all teams because he was quicker than defenders his size but stronger than defenders who could keep up with his speed.
Seigle averaged 19.2 points and 7.2 rebounds during his first year in the PBA and won Rookie of the Year, besting other worthy adversaries such as Asi Taulava. He also made it to the Mythical First team during this year, while Ildefonso made it to the Second Mythical Team. Many felt he deserved to be only the second ROY-MVP in the PBA but, ironically, it was Paras who took home the award, a decade after he first bagged the plum.
Small Forward: 2015 Ranidel De Ocampo
Ranidel De Ocampo was a beast in 2015. If you need proof of that, go to YouTube and look for the second overtime period of Game 7 in the 2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup. He willed the Tropang Texters to victory with eight points in the deciding five minutes of the game. In a conference where Ivan Johnson was their import, De Ocampo led them in scoring in five of the seven games to earn Finals MVP honors.
During that entire season, De Ocampo averaged 15.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and shot a spectacular 41% from the 3-point range, enough for a spot on the Second Mythical Team.
Shooting Guard: 2006-07 Mark Caguioa
Although he won his MVP in 2012, the deadliest version of "The Spark" was arguably when coach Jong was still at the helm with Ginebra. It was their first year of partnership after the coach moved from San Miguel Beer and it quickly bore fruit as they won the 2006-07 Philippine Cup, ironically, against the Beermen.
Caguioa was impossible to stop in that series where he averaged 26.3 points per game. It was nothing out of the norm for the talented scorer as he averaged 24.6 points per game in that entire season, while also adding 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per contest.
Point Guard: 2008-09 Jayjay Helterbrand
One player that really reached his true potential under Coach Jong's tutelage was Jayjay Helterbrand. In his first three years in the league, he failed to average double digits in a season but Helterbrand picked things up upon Coach Jong's arrival. The two won two championships together from 2007 to 2008 but the best version of Helterbrand was when he was crowned as the MVP in 2009.
In terms of points, rebounds, and assists, Helterbrand was a little bit better in 2008, but what really improved during his MVP season was his shooting percentages. He normed 17.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game, shooting 40% from the field and 81% from the stripe (up from 28% and 70%).
Sixth Man: 2015 TNT Jayson Castro
There were a lot of options for Coach Jong's sixth man, such as Olsen Racela and Nic Belasco who were picking up Mythical Team selections left and right during their run, but I'd have to go with "The Blur" Jayson Castro. Uichico and Castro might have spent more time together with Gilas Pilipinas compared to TNT, but they also made magic together.
Castro averaged 18.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game in 2015 and was part of the First Mythical Team.