Ed Cordero recalls 54-point game for UST, finding niche in PBA

A lean 6-foot-4 shooter, Edgardo "Ed" Cordero never really reached star status in the PBA. But before turning pro, Cordero was a known scoring dynamo, blossoming into a certified collegiate star while playing for the UST Glowing Goldies under head coach Rogelio "Egie" Serafico in the late 1970s.

It was under Serafico's tutelage that Cordero learned the rudiments of the game, developing solid shooting skills that helped him score 54 points during the Glowing Goldies' narrow 95-89 win over the Adamson Falcons in July 29, 1979.

Although numerous scorers like Allan Caidic, Pido Jarencio, James Yap, and the more recent ones like Bobby Ray Parks and Alvin Pasaol, who dropped 49 in 2017, have lit up the UAAP, Cordero's 54 points to this day stands as the highest individual scoring output in a UAAP game in men's basketball history.

Cordero felt his scoring output could have been higher if there was a three-point line back then.

"Kung merong three-point line probably there's more kasi tumitira nga ako dun sa tuktok but it wasn't there," Cordero said during a guesting Tuesday on An Eternity of Basketball.

But the 60-year-old isn't taking sole credit for his personal feat.

"He (Serafico) had stats, and he was telling me that if a team shoots above 50 percent, more or less mananalo iyan so each player has to look at that. Ako, binigyan na niya ako ng mas mataas na standard. He told me na dapat maka-65 percent (shooting) ka dapat para yung imimintis mo puwede mo ipasa," recalled Cordero during one of his many conversations with Serafico at UST.

While it was common for his UST friends and supporters to talk about his scoring exploits in the UAAP back then, Cordero admitted that Serafico had a different way of keeping him focused.

"Going to that game (against Adamson), pag sakay namin sa bus, binulungan ako ni coach, 'Tigil-tigilan mo ang pakikinig sa mga kaibigan mo kasi baka ma-conscious ka sa gagawin mo. Kung ako sa iyo, bilangin na lang nila mintis mo kesa yung na-score mo,'" he said.

His 54-point explosion may have been huge, yet Serafico felt Cordero should have had a "perfect" game if he was just cerebral enough.

"On the way home pagbaba namin sa bus, sabi ni coach Egie, 'Alam mo ba ang na-miss mo, alam mo, yung una mong mintis dapat na-board mo,'" Cordero recounted. "Iyung pangalawa, dapat nilayo mo, iyung stepback nga. Then iyung pangatlo, nakita mo sumabay sa iyo dapat nag-up-and-under nga. Tapos iyung isa naman, dapat nai-semi-hook mo. Kung ginamit mo lang yung utak mo, dapat ikaw yung unang nakagawa ng 62 points na walang mintis.'"

Despite Serafico's straightforward approach, Cordero said he was not offended at all.

"Hindi naman ako na-offend. Ang sabi ko paguwi ko, 'Sayang ano, sana naka-62 points ako. But that gave me a very high standard talaga," added Cordero, a late bloomer who only started playing basketball at 13.

Short-handed UST

Cordero recalled that the Glowing Goldies managed to compete well during the 1979 UAAP season despite lacking in depth compared to powerhouse Far Eastern University.

Cordero got the bulk of support from Edmund Yee, a solid offensive player, and Frank Natividad as UST engaged defending champion University of the East in a playoff for the second Finals berth. FEU took the first Finals seat that season by virtue of a superior win-loss record.

Cordero though was already nursing fever on the day UST was to play UE.

"As in mataas ang lagnat ko nun. Nandun ako sa bus and sabi coach Egie, 'Bakit ka nakabalot?' Sabi ko, 'Coach para akong nilalagnat.'"

Serafico, a nephew of Herminio Silva, best remembered for steering the Philippines to a third place in the 1954 FIBA World Cup, asked if he could do the round robin.

"'Kapag round robin mo at walang hilo, maglaro ka, pero basta kung mamimili ka ng lalaruan, ngayon na kasi bale wala na yung susunud,'" Cordero said, recalling his pre-game chat with Serafico.

Cordero went on to shake off his illness, playing an outstanding game to help UST beat UE, 114-104, to reach the finals and set up a titular series with the FEU Tamaraws.

The Glowing Goldies made their critical move in an eight-minute stretch in the second half behind the efforts of Yee, Natividad and Cordero, who combined for 28 points during that stretch to turn the tables on the Red Warriors.

But while UST managed to reach the finals after that all-important victory, Cordero ended up getting confined at the UST Hospital due to flu-like symptoms, leaving the Glowing Goldies without their top slotman in the one-game championship.

The Tamaraws made short work of the Glowing Goldies come the finals, erecting a quick 17-point advantage in the first half before coasting for a 100-89 win en route to capturing the first of what would turn out to be a UAAP three-peat.

Fil-American Anthony Williams erupted for 35 points as he used his strength and athleticism to bully the UST defenders in the one-game finals.

"Powerhouse nuon talaga ang FEU kasi halos lahat sila nakarating sa PBA," noted Cordero.

Cordero said the Glowing Goldies still had a chance to compete in the UAAP title, but the Tamaraws were just too strong in the 1980 season.

FEU in fact, scored a 12-game sweep of the UAAP tournament that season. The Tams completed the sweep after escaping with a 72-71 win against the Cordero-led Glowing Goldies in the last playdate of the eliminations to bag their second straight UAAP title.

Under-utilized in the PBA

Before entering the pros, Cordero further honed his craft playing for the Philippine youth team that placed second behind China in the 1980 ABC Youth championships in Bangkok, Thailand.

The 6-foot-4 Cordero also joined the Philippine training team that placed fourth in the 1981 ABC men's championships in Calcutta, India. He even had a brief stint with Crispa in MICAA, before eventually moving over to the PBA as a rookie for a star-studded Toyota side in the 1982 season.

Cordero joined the fabled Toyota ballclub at the tail end of its stint in the pro league, serving as a greenhorn big man behind Ramon Fernandez and Abe King. He was able to win two PBA titles when the Super Corollas ruled the Reinforced and Open Conferences in his rookie season in 1982.

Because of his glowing amateur credentials, Cordero was tipped by local media as a the next Ramon Fernandez. However, that hardly became a reality when Cordero started his pro career.

For one, Cordero said that Toyota coach Ed Ocampo was not really familiar with his perimeter game, opting to put him in the post, just like Fernandez or King.

"Iyun ang medyo kinakalungkot ko nung sa PBA ako kasi they were looking at I can play the post but actually I cannot," confessed Cordero. "Even nung nasa college ako, and even nung nasa MICAA ako, di naman ako post player."

While he could rebound and play defense, Cordero felt his skill set was built more for the perimeter. However, he did say he could play the post as long as his defender was shorter than him.

"If I encountered somebody na nakapanuod sa akin sa Toyota, ang impression agad was three points. Yet, di naman ako sinasali sa normal course ng three-points. Parang extremes eh," he explained.

"Sa scrimmage pag nagkapalitan, mapupunta ako sa poste. Minsan poste, minsan sa wings, wala akong definite na participation except pag maghahabol, dun ako maalala ni coach Ed, so ipapasok ako."

Toyota failed to win a single PBA crown in 1983 and from there, the team disbanded. Its franchise was eventually taken over by Lucio Tan, which fielded in Beer Hausen at the start of the 1984 season.

Cordero said his "best years" as a pro happened during his stint with Beer Hausen as then coach Bonnie Carbonnel managed to utilize his strength by putting him at the shooting guard or small forward spots.

Since his defenders were shorter, the former UST Glowing Goldie contributed close to double figures, while helping Beer Hausen reach the Second All-Filipino Conference finals, which Great Taste won via a 3-0 sweep.

"Sa Beer Hausen kasi, dun ako ginamit sa dos and tres ni Bonnie Carbonnel," Cordero said. "And the rest, they were hoping to convert me but there was ljust the lack of tall guys."

Cordero had two more chances to win a PBA title during his stint with Beer Hausen, later known as Manila Beer. But the Brewmasters could only settle for runner-up finishes in the 1985 Reinforced Conference and the 1986 Open Conference.

Aside from Toyota and Beer Hausen/Manila Beer, Cordero's eight-year stint in the PBA saw him play for Tanduay, where he won his only PBA championship in the 1987 Open Conference, Shell and Alaska before he finally decided to retire at the close of the 1990 season.

Cordero played a total of 223 games in his eight-season career and averaged 6.5 points. But he will always be remembered for that 54-point UAAP game in 1979, especially since no other UAAP player has managed to break 50 up to now.