Former PBA, collegiate stars get second chance at basketball careers in MPBL
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 22, 2018 03:10 PM
Marlou Aquino, a former PBA star, is getting to continue playing basketball in the MPBL (Photo courtesy of MPBL on Facebook)
by Arturo Gatus
For former PBA stars Marlou Aquino and Gary David and collegiate standouts Gino Jumao-as and JayR Taganas, the recently launched Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) is a most welcome lifesaver of sorts for their respective basketball careers. Or just plainly, a good reason to continue and enjoy playing the game they love.
Because of the PBA’s relatively higher level of competition and limited number of teams, not to mention the wear and tear caused by injuries, most of these comebacking players could not quite live up to their previous star status in the collegiate and minor leagues. After one or a few seasons they were relegated to being role players and were eventually cut from their teams to give way to fresher, less expensive talents in the annual draft.
Let’s take a look at some of these ex-PBA and collegiate standouts who are plying their trade again, this time in the MPBL.
Marlou Aquino (Bulacan Kuyas)
Easily the biggest name and one of the most accomplished among the comebacking stars, the six-foot-nine “Skyscraper” is also the most senior at 45 years old. Aquino achieved PBA stardom playing for the crowd favorite Ginebra Gin Kings in partnership with spitfire Bal David and under the mentorship of the Living Legend himself, Sonny Jaworski.
Although several years retired from the PBA, this former Adamson Falcon and national team mainstay is still able to give his team, the Bulacan Kuyas, some quality minutes coming off the bench. MPBL fans will never tire seeing his famous “kili-kili” shot where he literally shoots below the outstretched underarm of his defender.
Gary David (Bataan Defenders)
A 13-year PBA journeyman out of Lyceum, the man they call “El Granada” or “Mr. Pure Energy” is considered a late bloomer, having joined the PBA in 2004 when he was already 26 years old. The many-time national player first joined Montana Pawnshop in the Philippine Basketball League or PBL, the forerunner of today’s PBA D-League. From there he was drafted by the Coca-Cola Tigers then went on to join Air21, Global Port, Meralco, San Miguel and Mahindra before being waived only last year.
Throughout his entire career, David won multiple individual and team awards and became a 5-time All-Star. He even won a Sportsmanship award and was named as part of the All-Defensive First Team and was named Comeback Player of the Year in 2007. Now with the Bataan Defenders, David can still shoot the lights out and is actually leading the league in scoring with an average of 21.5 points per game. This is the least bit surprising considering he was also a four-time PBA scoring champion.
Egay Billones (Muntinlupa Cagers)
Now 42 years old, Egay Billones is one of the elder statesmen in the MPBL. This 5’9” playmaker out of Las Pinas College was drafted by Ginebra in 2000 but only got to play in the PBA starting in 2002 with Air21. In between, Billones suited up for Blu Detergent in the PBL.
His PBA journey lasted until 2010 with top teams Purefoods and Talk n Text. He had a brief stint afterwards with the Philippine Patriots in the ABL. Now Billones is enjoying a career revival of sorts with the Muntinlupa Cagers together with five other former PBA stars.
Paulo Hubalde (Valenzuela Classics)
Paulo Hubalde is one of the basketball-playing sons of former Crispa stalwart Freddie Hubalde, the 1977 PBA MVP. Just like his dad, Paulo played for Mapua in High School but became a UE Red Warrior in the UAAP.
He was picked up by San Miguel in 2005 then played for Ginebra, Barako Bull, Air21, Mahindra and Global Port in a journeyman career. In between, Hubalde starred in the ABL (ASEAN Basketball League) for the San Miguel Beermen and Alab Pilipinas. At 37, his chances of re-joining the PBA are already pretty slim although currently, he is still a major contributor to the Valenzuela Classics in tandem with fellow ex-pro Mark Andaya. Hubalde currently leads the league in assists with 6.5 per game.
JayR Taganas (Bulacan Kuyas)
Fondly nicknamed “Baby Shaq” during his San Beda days, this champion Red Lion has not lost the slightest bit of his rebounding ferocity as he leads the MPBL in rebounds with more than 12 per game. Not really surprising as Taganas had also equaled the all-time single game rebounding record for local players with 29, made during a PBA D-League game.
After college, Taganas got a day job at Maynilad. He was relatively inactive for five years but returned to active play when he joined AMA Online Education in the D-League. Although he attracted the attention of a PBA team owing to his record-breaking rebounding effort, he is still hoping to get a serious offer sooner than later because at almost 30 years of age, his basketball shelf life is nearing its expiry.
Gino Jumao-as (Navotas Clutch)
For every success story in professional basketball, there are also numerous sad stories that nevertheless serve as inspiration to persevere until the dream is finally fulfilled. One of these is the story of Zamboanga native Gino Jumao-as, an ex-UE Red Warrior and San Sebastian Staglet who after using up his college eligibility and while waiting for the opportunity to join the PBA, first honed his skills playing in the D-League.
Unfortunately, Lady Luck was not on his side and Jumao-as went undrafted in the PBA during the 2016 Draft. There were also no takers for him as a free agent afterwards.
However, Jumao-as did not give up. Despite failing to break into the country’s premier league, Jumao-as joined former PBA players Rudy Lingganay, Leo Avenido and Eric Salamat and suited up for Kabayan Pilipinas in the Thailand Basketball Super League.
After this stint, he was recruited by the Navotas Clutch for the MPBL’s maiden season where he continues to display his aggressive style of play by being among the leaders in steals and offensive rebounds.
At the end of the day, these comebacking players want nothing more than to earn an honest living, or just another shot at glory. And why not, because as the saying goes: “everyone deserves a second chance”.
Catch the MPBL games every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on S+A channel 23 and S+A HD channel 167.