Updated: Jan 16
PART 1: the-all-time-elite-ranking-sta-lucia-realtors-top-20-players-part-1
It's worth noting that this is the author's personal list of the top 20 Sta. Lucia players. It is based on factors like popularity, tenure with the team, stats, contributions, and overall impact. If you disagree with the ranking, make your own list. Just remember that it can be challenging to write about sports, so be respectful of the effort that goes into creating these types of articles.
I first published this article in 2010, and readers can expect to see more similar blogs on this site in the future. Without further delay, let's complete the list.
In the 1993 PBA season, the Sta. Lucia Realtors made a trade with the Alaska Milkmen, exchanging Bong Hawkins for Paul Alvarez. However, in the offseason, Alvarez was then traded to the Shell Turbo Chargers in exchange for Romy Dela Rosa. While Dela Rosa may not have had the same level of success as Hawkins or Alvarez, he did provide stability for the Realtors as a complementary player to Jun Limpot and Dennis Espino. Over the course of his five seasons with the team, Dela Rosa averaged almost 10 points and 4 rebounds per game. He eventually left the Realtors to join the Negros Slashers in the MBA. While Hawkins and Alvarez may have had more notable achievements in their careers, Dela Rosa played a crucial role for the Realtors as a reliable third-scoring option.
In the 1995 PBA Draft, the Purefoods Hotdogs got back their first-ever draft pick, Jack Tanuan, from the Sta. Lucia Realtors in exchange for the fourth pick of the draft. That pick turned out to be Chris Jackson, a Fil-Am player who was expected to be a high-scoring superstar. However, Jackson's playing style ended up being more focused on defense, earning him the nickname "Stonewall Jackson." He was known for being a versatile player who could act as a playmaker and inside defender, causing mismatches for his opponents. In his four seasons with the Realtors, Jackson averaged almost 5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal per game. He was eventually traded to the Shell Turbo Chargers.
In the highly regarded 2004 PBA Draft, Nelbert Omolon was selected as the eighth pick overall. Prior to joining the Sta. Lucia Realtors, Omolon had successful stints with the PCU Dolphins in the NCAA and the Welcoat Paint Masters in the PBL. Omolon is a versatile forward known for his ability to both slash and shoot, as well as defend against the opposing team's big men. When he is playing at his best, Omolon's wide range of skills can prove to be devastating to opponents. During his time with the Realtors, Omolon was a key contributor to the team's second championship and was named to the Mythical Second Team for his performances.
In 2003, the Alaska Aces were looking to rebuild their team and Kenneth Duremdes was the last remaining player from their championship era. During that year's PBA Draft, Alaska offered Captain Marbel to the Sta. Lucia Realtors in exchange for their first and second picks. This resulted in a trade of Duremdes and Leo Bat-Og for Brandon Cablay and Eugene Tejada. While Duremdes did team up with Marlou Aquino and Dennis Espino to reform the 1998 Centennial Dream Team, his expensive contract caused problems for the team's talent. Despite the loss of Marvin Ortiguerra, Chito Victolero, Omanzie Rodriquez, and Gherome Ejercito, the Realtors still acquired a high-scoring player who could have dominated the era if not for injuries.
Before he became known as "Mr. Cool" for the Shell Turbo Chargers, Gerry Esplana was the starting point guard for the Sta. Lucia Realtors. Esplana, a holdover from the Presto squad, was able to continue playing for the Realtors even after fellow holdovers Vergel Meneses, Bong Hawkins, and Zaldy Realubit were traded to other teams. As the chief playmaker for the Realtors, Esplana helped lead the team to multiple third-place finishes in the 1990s. Esplana is also the franchise's second-best leader in assists. Eventually, he was traded to Shell for Ronnie Magsanoc, where he further established his reputation as a standout player.
The 2000 PBA Draft is often remembered as a disappointment due to a large number of MBA free agents and Fil-Am direct hires selected in the first round. However, Paolo Mendoza was a notable exception as a highly-regarded scorer from the UP Fighting Maroons who would have been a first-round pick regardless of the talent available. Despite this, Mendoza was asked to play point guard by the Sta. Lucia Realtors, a role that seemed to unsettle him. Despite this, Mendoza went on to have a successful career with the Realtors, ranking third all-time in assists and games played, and fifth all-time in total points scored. He is also one of only three players to have played for the Realtors in both of their championships. While Mendoza may not have thrived in the point guard position, he made a significant impact on the team's history.
The dissolution of the Sta. Lucia Realtors has had significant negative consequences, including the loss of their second championship team. Kelly Williams, a member of that team, is highly regarded and worthy of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Although Dennis Espino and Marlou Aquino are often considered the main players on the team, Williams' contributions should not be underestimated, particularly since he is the only MVP in team history. The Sta. Lucia Realtors made a last-minute decision to acquire Williams, who has proven to be a successful addition to the team, despite the team's previous experiences with unstable Fil-Am acquisitions like Robert Parker and Alex Cabagnot. One of the biggest regrets in PBA history is the decision by larger market teams to take players from smaller, independent teams.
Marlou Aquino is one of only two players in Realtors history to have played in 400 games, and this number is likely to increase if his time with the team during his PABL days is included. Aquino joined the team after expressing his desire to leave Ginebra. While he never publicly stated that he wanted a trade, his performance had declined following the departure of Robert Jaworski and many of his Gordon's Gin teammates. When Aquino and Jun Limpot switched teams, Aquino was no longer the dominant offensive player he had been earlier in his career. However, he remained a formidable defensive presence and is the Realtors' all-time leader in blocks, as well as the third-highest scorer and second-highest rebounder in team history. He also led the team to two championships, with the first coming in his first year with the squad.
Jun Limpot was the first draft pick in Sta. Lucia history. He was selected over Victor Pablo and Johnny Abarrientos due to his impressive performances for the DLSU Green Archers and the PABL's Magnolia Ice Cream Makers. Limpot, known as "The Main Man" and "The Big Deal," lived up to his nickname with his strong play on the court. In 299 games with the Realtors, he averaged 19.5 points per game, just slightly less than Robert Parker's average of 20.5 points in 15 games (again, Parker only had 15 games). Limpot was also a two-time Mythical Second Team member during his time with the team, and his partnership with Dennis Espino caused problems for many defenders. The number 72 jersey, worn by Limpot, became popular among barangay liga tournaments. Despite his desire to win a PBA championship, Limpot left the team in search of a change of scenery, but Marlou Aquino won a title in his first season with the squad. Despite this, Limpot is still considered one of the best players to ever wear the Sta. Lucia jersey.
Dennis Espino is undeniably the top player in Sta. Lucia history. After the team acquired Jun Limpot in 1993, they sought out other players to help them compete for championships. The 1994 PBA season was a disappointment for the Realtors, but it did allow them to draft former UST King Growling Tiger and Limpot's former Magnolia teammate in the PABL. While Limpot was known for his finesse, Espino was a physically imposing player. Despite the team's lack of championships in the 90s, they frequently placed third thanks to the Limpot-Espino tandem. When Limpot left the team, Espino took on a leadership role and, along with Marlou Aquino, formed a formidable defensive unit. Under Espino's guidance, the Realtors won two championships. He is the only player in team history to play in 600 games, score 8000 points, and record 4000 rebounds. He also holds the team record for total assists and ranks second in steals and blocks.
When Sta. Lucia was in danger of disbanding, they distributed their best players to other teams: Dennis Espino and Paolo Mendoza went to Coke, Joseph Yeo and Denok Miranda joined San Miguel, and Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes moved to Talk N Text. Meralco, Talk N Text's sister team, retained the services of Marlou Aquino, Nelbert Omolon, and others, but they were eventually forced out as well.
Despite being unpopular with fans in the 1990s, Sta. Lucia never gave up and eventually achieved unexpected victories. With the franchise's departure, Meralco emerged as a formidable basketball team. For their loyal fans, the "miracle" squad of Sta. Lucia will always be remembered.