I wanted to tell the story of how the first two picks of the 1985 PBA Draft could have a good career battle with the last two picks of the draft.
However, Leo Isaac got in the way. Isaac could be the second-best player of the draft as he is the Byron Scott to Sonny Jaworski’s Magic Johnson during Ginebra’s Bad Boys era.
The legendary rivalry that is Toyota versus Crispa had ended and their players were basically scattered to various teams. The biggest of enemies are now playing together and worse, they are still on top of their games. When Ricky Brown won Top Rookie honors in 1983 and Willie Pearson got it a year later, the PBA had technically welcomed just ten rookies. Sure, some of them were wearing the Northern Consolidated Cement colors... but they were a guest team... and not an actual PBA team with pro players. The biggest name of the draft, despite being a former PABL MVP, will go in with the notion that he is not the best player on the squad.
In fact, he’s not even an acceptable starter.
THE BEST FIVE:
Sonny Cabatu for me is the best player of the batch. He had a long career, he got to win championships, he got a couple of individual accolades, and as mentioned... he is the crowd darling in a time when young blood was scared of the pioneers. As mentioned, Leo Isaac brought the oomph for the Ginebra Bad Boys squad. Making his debut a year after the 1985 Draft, Isaac’s armpit free throw and the fact that he is a big point guard made the retirement of Francis Arnaiz a little less bad for the Gin hopefuls. Onchie Dela Cruz had his moments helping Tanduay score a couple of titles in the mid-80s before moving to Presto and Shell. I never really saw him play that extensively but I do recognize him from a lot of Ronnie Ricketts movies.
Leo Austria in my opinion is a backup point guard that never grew out of the shadows of Ronnie Magsanoc in Shell. He also played for Pepsi but at that time, he has slowed down and there were instances in which I saw him donning PABL jerseys. Anyway, being a key backup has its perks - and it's probably why he is able to take down superstar egos and mold them to championship-driven units like what he did with the San Miguel Beermen.
And then there’s Totoy Marquez. Joey Marquez’s baby bro for some reason was taken as the last pick and he made sure that they did him dirty. Marquez and his paliga number did awesome for Purefoods and Shell and perhaps his gameplay inspired another slasher of the same jersey number – Ronald Tubid.
It’s a toss-up between Sonny Cabatu and Teddy Alfarero. With Cabatu, you wonder if he’s going to have a better career if he played in another era. The thing about Mr. Takbong Mayaman is that he rarely gets injured, his minutes mattered, and for a second unit star, he is goddamn popular. I remember a time when Cabatu and Pido Jarencio were always packaged together. There was a time when they formed a one-two punch in a post-Chito Loyzaga and pre-Noli Locsin Ginebra squad. Cabatu got his first and only all-star appearance during that time.
And then there’s Alfarero. I guess the lack of teams and the mentality to succeed got in the way for the former national team member. Maybe had he waited for the San Miguel pack to move to the pros... his career would have been better.
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ONCHIE DELA CRUZ