Five outstanding Philippine teams that won Jones Cup titles
Gerry Plaza on Jul 13, 2018 01:33 PM
Mighty Sports, a team with a handful of former PBA imports, was the last squad to win the Jones Cup back in 2016 (Photo courtesy of Zhander Cayabyab).
Rarely do we watch, read or hear the Philippines dominate a world basketball league.
And in one international tournament held annually in Taiwan since 1977, Philippine teams have won the championship a total of five times, and these include finals victories over giants like the US.
The William Jones Cup may not be as prestigious as the Olympics or FIBA regional or world tournaments, but it offers a competitive platform for international teams mostly under the name of commercial clubs, educational institutions or local organizations to prepare for those major leagues.
Now on its 40th staging with UAAP and FilOil Flying V Pre-Season champs Ateneo Blue Eagles carrying the flag starting Sunday, we take a look back at those triumphant campaigns in the FIBA-sanctioned tournament that showed that the Philippines is truly a force to reckon with in world basketball.
1981 – Northern Cement
The Philippines won its first Jones Cup with a team composed of American college players, Filipino-Americans, and top local players. This was the legendary coach Ron Jacobs’ first Philippine team under the Danding Cojuangco-owned Northern Cement. The team had eight Americans (Steve Schall, Willie Polk, Michael Antoine, Steve Lingerfeller, Bruce Webster, Eddie Boy Chavez, Dennis Still and Jeff Moore) and two Filipino-Americans (Ricardo Brown and Willie Pearson) team up with two local standouts from the San Beda Red Lions, Frankie Lim and JB Yango. While Filipinos criticized the selection as not representative of a genuine Filipino team, Northern Cement swept past the competition, including a win over a US selection of NCAA Division 1 players by a margin of 20 points, and won over Sweden by 30 in the finals.
1985 – San Miguel Beer
The Philippine team, now donning San Miguel Beer jerseys, wasn’t highly seeded in the seventh staging of the Jones Cup, with powerhouse teams joining from Uruguay, Italy, Canada, Sweden, Chinese-Taipei, and the US, again bannered by NCAA Division 1 stars and coached by the iconic Purdue University coach Gene Keady. But little did they expect that this “underrated” ballclub mentored by Ron Jacobs would romp off the opposition, mainly due to Chip Engelland’s precise marksmanship, Jeff Moore’s intensity in the paint, Dennis Still’s dominance off the boards, Hector Calma’s playmaking wizardry, Samboy Lim’s aerial show, and Allan Caidic’s added artillery. And in the final game, they would run rings around the ballyhooed Americans and triumph in overtime, 108-100, to bag the country’s second Jones Cup gold via a sweep.
1998 – Philippine Centennial Team
This Pinoy selection is considered among the best assembled and supported troupe as it had popular players from the PBA in the roster and coached by the now winningest tactician Tim Cone. Preparing itself for the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, the Centennials took a victorious stop at the 21st Jones Cup. Parading such greats as Alvin Patrimonio, Johnny Abarrientos, Andy Seigle, Vergel Meneses, Jojo Lastimosa, Dennis Espino, Olsen Racela, Marlou Aquino, Jun Limpot and Kenneth Duremdes, the league-sweeping Centennial Team stamped its class and dominance on the court and bludgeoned the hosts Chinese-Taipei in the finals, 82-72, to take the Philippines’ third Jones Cup title after a 13-year drought.
2012 – Smart Gilas Pilipinas
Again after 13 years without a Jones Cup title, another formidable selection of Filipino players from both the professional and amateur ranks was formed to end this drought. With Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas taking over the cudgels of developing a competitive national team in international tourneys with Smart Communications as sponsor, Smart Gilas Pilipinas under coach Chot Reyes was fielded in the 34th Jones Cup. And true to their mission, Gilas ruled the competition with current PBA stars Ranidel de Ocampo, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Sonny Thoss, Sol Mercado, Larry Fonacier, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Garvo Lanete, LA Tenorio, and naturalized Filipino Marcus Douthit. In their final game, Gilas completed a dramatic come-from-behind victory over the US UPS team behind Tenorio’s late-game heroics, including the game-winning basket with a few seconds to play, 76-75, to bag the Philippines’ fourth Jones Cup title.
2016 – Mighty Sports
Amid a Gilas sabbatical from the 38th Jones Cup after a heartbreaking Finals loss to Iran the previous year, the Philippines was represented by commercial ballclub Mighty Sports coached by current UP Maroons mentor Bo Perasol with a team full of former PBA imports in its roster. This included Zach Graham, Al Thornton, Michael Singletary, Vernon Macklin, and Hamady N’diaye, with American reinforcements Troy Gillenwater and Dewarick Spencer. Led by PBA player Jeric Teng and ABL standout Jason Brickman, the team lorded over the competition and won the country’s fifth Jones Cup championship via a sweep, dethroning defending titlists Iran, 80-73 in their final game.
These champion Jones Cup selections brought honor to the country as it gave Philippine basketball a respectable, impressive boost in global stature. These monumental victories should further spur efforts to assemble dedicated, exceptional national teams that will shine in the big international leagues and make Filipinos proud.