PROMINENTLY DISPLAYED inside the campus of Saint Francis of Assisi College in Las Pinas City is a large tarpaulin entitled “Legends of the Hardcourt” honoring one dozen famous alumni of the school who have made their mark in basketball both in the Philippines and overseas. Not bad for a relatively young learning institution founded only in 1981.
Arranged randomly and in no particular order, the tarp features representations of jerseys of Doves greats Ranidel de Ocampo, Yancy de Ocampo, Art del Rosario, Ervin Sotto, Al Vergara and Chris Pacana on the first row. The second row has the likes of Lawrence Bonus, the late Frederick Canlas, Hubert Burbe, Orly Alvarado, Armando Malabanan and John Alwyn Flores.
All the above mentioned names contributed to the Doves winning eight championships in the National Capital Region Athletic Association (NCRAA). All of them, with the exception of Burbe who dribbled for the PBL’s Montana Pawnshop, went on to find success as professional players.
Brothers Yancy and Ranidel are still very much active in the PBA with San Miguel Beer and Talk ‘N Text respectively. It can be said that they are the most accomplished of the lot with a resume spiked by many appearances for the national team beginning with the Junior level in 1999.
Point guard Alvarado, shooter Malabanan and power forward Flores got the ball rolling as the school’s first professional players after signing up with the MBA’s Socsargen Marlins in the league’s inaugural season in 1998. Del Rosario, a burly 6’5” center, joined them the following season.
Del Rosario though played with the Marlins for only a year and transferred to the PBA as a free agent with Shell from 2000 to 2002. Alvarado also left the team after his sophomore season and focused on local leagues in Cebu and Mindanao.
Flores was with the Marlins through their four-year existence and played the MBA’s final season with the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems in 2002. Malabanan likewise spent four years with the team except for the start of 2001 that saw him join the Pasig-Rizal Pirates until a midseason trade brought him back to Socsargen.
Literally speaking, Saint Francis biggest contribution remains its tall players. There was a time that the Doves’ average height could easily rival or surpass that of the professional squads in the PBA or MBA.
The de Ocampo brothers, del Rosario, Bonus, Canlas and Sotto all tower 6’5” or higher. Pro scouts wasted no time in grabbing the tall and surprisingly mobile young men.
Later on, the recruiting game became more competitive and the Doves suddenly found their pipeline of giants going dry. However, the program still managed to produce a solid court general in Vergara and Filipino-American gunner Pacana.
Both Vergara and Pacana landed jobs in the PBA and as professional imports in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL). Although without a PBA job at the moment, Vergara remains active by playing in minor leagues or barnstorming the provinces with other ex-pros while also coaching the Saint Francis elementary school teams.
Aside from playing as imports, a lot of the players settled down to work abroad like Flores, Malabanan, Burbe and del Rosario. Incidentally, Canlas met his end at home while on a vacation from his job in the Middle East.
Clearly, the tarp was placed in order to also inspire the current Doves varsity and the student body to be the best in what they do. For sure, the list will soon be updated with more products coming out of the school like one-time ABL import Rex Leynes.
Saint Francis of Assisi under long-time coach Gabby Velasco will unveil a new generation of cage stars when they compete in the first-ever National Capital Regional Universities and Colleges of Luzon Athletic Association (NCRUCLAA) beginning January 17, 2017 at the Cuneta Astrodome and aired on Basketball TV and Solar Sports. The Doves will battle 15 other schools and are one of the early favorites owing their combined 13 titles in the NCRAA and UCLAA, the two leagues that merged to form the NCRUCLAA.