NBA champion and former U-Tex import Glenn McDonald holds Filipino basketball legends Ramon Fernandez, William "Bogs" Adornado, Atoy Co and Philip Cezar in high regard.
McDonald had memorable moments battling the four PBA legends during his stint in the country's professional league from 1978 to 1983. While he came in with glowing credentials in 1978, two years after winning an NBA title, McDonald came away impressed with the quartet.
Fernandez used his lean frame and high basketball IQ to outfox his bigger and taller defenders throughout his 20-year career in the PBA.
"He was like an import for me. He can take over the game anytime he wanted to. I love his game, but I hated to guard him because he was smart and he didn't overdo anything," he said on a recent episode of An Eternity of Basketball.
McDonald even faced Fernandez when his PBA team U-Tex and Toyota clashed in a best-of-five title series in the 1980 Open Conference.
The Tamaraws were favored to rule that tournament and even came close to finishing off the Wranglers in the winner-take-all Game 5 after leading by four points with 16 seconds left in the game. But U-Tex simply refused to fold up under pressure as the team, mentored by coach Tommy Manotoc, forced overtime to eventually win the championship in dramatic comeback fashion, 99-98.
Still, McDonald had nothing but respect for Fernandez.
"He just kinda pinpoints where he wants to go and what he wants to do," he said. "We really had good battles in the PBA. I have utmost respect for him as a basketball player."
Cool as ice
Another player McDonald respected was Adornado.
He was impressed the moment he saw Adornado, who in 1978 was playing for Crispa. In fact, McDonald's U-Tex played against Crispa in the Open Conference finals that season.
Paired with Byron "Snake" Jones, the Wranglers dominated Adornado and the 400s by sweeping them, 3-0, to win the 1978 Open Conference to finally become the first PBA team outside of Toyota and Crispa to win a championship.
"He's (Adornado) one of the coolest players I've ever seen. He's so under control, so calm and he just pinponts what he wants to do," shared McDonald.
But from opponents, McDonald became teammates with Adornado when the league's first back-to-back PBA MVP moved to U-Tex in the 1980 season. McDonald even said Adornado reminded him of NBA legend Oscar Robertson.
"He reminds me of Oscar Robertson. He sets you up before he takes the shot. He's never gonna rush," McDonald said. "And when he came to join our team, it was heaven honestly. Then I started watching him in practice, this guy won't miss."
Aside from his long jumpers, Adornado was a master at faking off defenders -- something that McDonald's noticed as well.
"He knew how to fake and he gets you in the air. You gotta respect him. He's a very, very smart player," said McDonald. "I liked to play with him. And I was glad he came to do some damage and it paid off for us to get him."
Adornado was a lights-out shooter during his time, but McDonald said he could also play defense.
"When he was playing with me, Bogs played defense. We talked all the time, and he could lock people down when he really wanted to do it," he stressed.
With McDonald as his coach, Adornado won his third and last MVP award in 1981.
But if there's someone who deserves as much recognition as Fernandez and Adornado, McDonald believes it is Philip Cezar.
Cezar bagged the 1980 PBA MVP after helping Crispa win its eighth league crown when the Redmanizers clobbered archrival Toyota, 3-1 in the All-Filipino title series.
However, the limelight usually fell on Atoy Co, Abet Guidaben or even Freddie Hubalde and Adornado -- all excellent scorers for the Redmanizers.
"A person I feel sometimes wasn't given enough credit was Cezar because he was one of the most patient players I've ever seen," McDonald said of Cezar.
McDonald said Cezar, an undersized 6-2 forward, was a mean defender.
"Of course all of us rush things at times, but he was really always under control. He just understood how to play and he knew about spacing," he added. "He was always moving because he's not the type of player who would stand around. He was always on the go."
In fact, McDonald said whenever the team talked about its scouting report heading into a PBA game, he'd wonder why Cezar's name was often not mentioned.
"I just felt I hear so much about other players, but you're forgetting about Cezar. When we do scouting report, they talk about other players, but yeah, you know who I'm thinking about," said McDonald.
Having served as U-Tex's head coach in the 1981 season, McDonald feels a player of Atoy Co's caliber would have easily made his team if he had a choice.
Co, nicknamed "Fortune Cookie", was the first ever PBA player to score 5,000 points, a feat he achieved in 1979.
"First of all he's fearless and then he was awkward. He had that awkward shot that he can pull up anywhere off the dribble," recounted McDonald. "Atoy can stop at a dime, which not too many players could do that during that time. And then he had that will, you could see that in his face as he believes any shot he shot can just go up."
Co could score in bunches and was one of Crispa coach Virgilio "Baby" Dalupan's trusted gunners. McDonald, at times, even went to the PBA playing venue on off days just to see Co perform.
"Yeah, I used to love going into the games when we don't have games and watch him play. He was a really special player," he said.
Other than playing as a PBA import, McDonald went on serve as U-Tex's head coach in 1981, leading the Wranglers to third place in the Open Conference and a runner-up finish in Reinforced Filipino Conference.