Francois Wise has no problem recalling memorable moments from five seasons in the PBA even though it's been more than 30 years since he played in the league.
Wise, now 62 years old, took a trip down memory lane, talking about how former Boston Celtic forward Glen McDonald's invitation changed the trajectory of his pro basketball career for the better.
Wise spent four seasons with Long Beach State in college before being selected 81st in the fourth round of the 1980 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets.
Though he fought his way to the team's final 22-man roster, he was cut two weeks before the NBA season started.
McDonald invited Wise to play for the U-Tex Wranglers as an import in the 1981 PBA Open Conference.
After leading U-Tex to the 1980 Open Conference title as a player, McDonald was the U-Tex new head coach and said he thought of tapping Wise as the team's import because of their ties to Long Beach State.
"I didn't know anything (about the PBA). But I believe [the U-Tex Wranglers] just won a championship a year before," Wise said Friday. "[McDonald] says now he's taking over as head coach and it's a great place to play, the fans are great. But he didn't say it's hot. You know he says it's different, but you playing ball."
Wise left for the Philippines, his first time overseas.
"I didn't do any research [about the Philippines)]. I was just ready to go. My wife was pregnant so I just went over," Wise said.
The heat and humidity made an immediate impression on Wise. But so did the reception from PBA fans.
"We had a scrimmage against another team and it was packed for scrimmage where we were practicing so I had a little taste of the big fan support," Wise said. "But the players were great. I try to understand most of them as they speak a little bit of English and they ran everything through you."
Wise, like most imports, had to adjust to the physical play in the PBA.
Wise recalled playing against Ed Ducut, who was then starting his PBA career with Gilbey's Gin.
"The worst I probably got was from the big man, Ducut? Yeah, him, he put the punishment on you. He would get you on the floor when he was reaching for the ball," Wise said.
Ducut, a 6-5 slim big man, tried to get into Wise's head.
"You knew he was doing it [physical play] intentionally. I get it. But I never hit anybody on the court. That wasn't my nature, but sometimes you got to stand up and let him know but maybe I back off a little bit, and after the game, he congratulated me," Wise said.
Wise said McDonald warned him about the physical play in the PBA. McDonald played in the league for three straight seasons before being named head coach of U-Tex in 1981.
"It was physical. As you know, they let you beat up a little bit, but they don't bother me. I was amazed. But one it was hot and it was packed all the way around, and man, it was exciting in the first day, I really enjoyed it on opening game," Wise said. "Glen kind of informed us so he said, 'Hey, don't expect calls too much, you're an American, and you're not gonna get all of them. But just play through it.'"
Wise also played for Tanduay and Manila Beer before finishing his PBA stint in 1987 with Hills Bros. Wise said his pro basketball career was filled with ups and downs.
The American import once played as a reinforcement import in Mexico, where he had to stay in a hotel room with a door that couldn't be locked.
He also played for the Detroit Spirits in the Continental Basketball Association, a minor league in the early 1980s, where he had trouble getting paid.
The experience he had in Mexico and the CBA though was completely different from his PBA stay where he had a royal treatment beginning at U-Tex.
"I was spoiled pretty much because I got paid. Playing with U-Tex, you can go up and just get your money anytime, you just sit there so I get X amount of dollars or whatever," he said. "I loved it. I would recommend to everybody to go over there, especially if you're a ballplayer. Everywhere you go, everybody knows you."
He also fell in love with the food.
"One thing I do know, everywhere you go, they want you to eat," said Wise, adding his favorite Filipino dishes were pancit, adobo, and lumpia.
In the 1983 season, Wise made his second tour of duty in the PBA, but this time playing under Tanduay.
Wise became an unstoppable force underneath for Tanduay, and scored 74 points in a game on August 10, 1983.
Francois Wise's list of best PBA players
Francois Wise, who played for four different teams during his PBA career, remembers the best locals and imports he played with and against.
"I just enjoyed playing. I grew up playing physical, I played my whole life. And when you play with older kids, you let it go, you have to be tough, so I was used to that. I go to foul line a lot," Wise said, whose son Eric followed in his footsteps by playing as a PBA import for Barako Bull in the 2014 season.
"You pretty much had to do a lot (as a PBA import). You gotta be in shape when you come here because they expect a lot from you," he said. "I saw that first hand because if you aren't good enough and you don't put enough points, you won't be there for long."
Wise returned for a third PBA trip in the 1985 Third Conference before making his fourth and final appearance in the pro league with Hills Bros. He led the Coffee Kings to a fifth place finish in the 1987 Open Conference.
But before he wrapped up his final tour of duty in the PBA, Wise made his acting debut on local television after Hills Bros. teammate Joey Marquez booked him a cameo appearance on the popular comedy show Palibhasa Lalake.
"He asked me to come on this sit-com, and I was like, 'Okay'", he recalled with a smile. "He said 'You're going to be the American boyfriend (of the character played by Cynthia Patag). You don't have to say anything. When she comes in, just rip your shirt off.'"
Wise said he was paid for his brief appearance, although he added he would have done it for free. After his PBA career, he went back home to the United States and joined the Los Angeles Police Department, which he served for 33 years until his retirement in February 2020.
Wise averaged 36.7 points, 15.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 118 career games over five years in the PBA.