FOR many years, Jojo Lastimosa found himself playing in the Philippine Basketball Association All-Stars, one of the most memorable perhaps came in the 1989 edition when he was still seeing action for the Rookies and Sophomores team alongside Alvin Patrimonio, Benjie Paras, Ato Agustin, Jerry Codiñera, Ronnie Magsanoc, Nelson Asaytono and Dindo Pumaren, among others, going up against the Veterans team headed by Robert Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez.
Three decades later, Mr. Lastimosa is returning to the All-Stars, this time in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) where he was chosen as head coach of the North side playing against the best players from the South.
Mr. Lastimosa is thrilled to face the new challenge and vowed for an intense match-up with their counterparts in the upcoming PayMaya-MPBL All-Star Game on March 2 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I played in the All-Star Game many times before and it was a serious game. Even in 1989 when we were playing for the Rookies and Sophomores, there was so much pride at stake,” Lastimosa told BusinessWorld.
“Here, the guys are gonna be serious. For me as a coach, I will find the best five who’s going to win it for me.”
Leading the way for Lastimosa’s North All-Star team are guards Mike Ayonayon of the San Juan Knights and Gary David, his old reliable from the Bataan Risers.
Mr. Ayonayon, the high-leaping guard of the Knights, ended up as the player with the most number of votes. He garnered 2,086 votes.
Mr. David, a five-time PBA All-Star and a former scoring champion in the pro league, is excited to be back playing in such a prestigious event.
“It’s an honor to be back, playing against younger guys. I know I can still contribute and I want to repay the trust and love given to me by the fans,” said the 40-year-old David.
Messrs. Ayonayon and David will be joined in the North starting lineup by forward Aris Dionisio of the Manila Stars and Cedric Ablaza of the Makati Super Crunch while Big Mac Andaya of the Pasig Pirates will be the starting center.
Mr. Lastimosa also selected veteran guards Paolo Hubalde of the Valenzuela Classic and Almond Vosotros of the Caloocan Supremos, frontliners Jay Collado of the Quezon City Capitals and Gian Abrigo of the Mandaluyong El Tigre, forward Jaypee Belencion of the Pasay Voyagers, burly undersized but hardworking center JR Taganas of the Bulacan Kuyas, Levy Hernandez of the Pampanga Lanterns and Marlon Gomez of the Navotas Clutch.
An agreement was reached by Mr. Lastimosa and South team coach Don Dulay, and this was approved by MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes, to allow them to select two wildcard picks to make their roster a 15-man lineup.
As per league rule, only one player per team is supposed to play in the All-Star Game, but the deal allowed teams to have multiple participants in the event.
Chris Bitoon of the Manila Stars was tapped to shore up the guard spot of the North side along with forward Larry Rodriguez of the Knights, they are the two wildcard picks of Mr. Lastimosa.
Mr. Dulay, who coaches the Davao Occidental Tigers, on the other hand, has Allan Mangahas of the Muntinlupa Cagers and celebrity baller Gerald Anderson of the Marikina Shoemasters as his starting guards and will be joined in the South All-Star first five by Mark Yee of Davao Occidental and Gab Banal of the Bacoor Strikers, who will play the forward spots. Jhaymo Eguilos of the Batangas City Athletics was named as the starting center.
Selected as reserves for the South All-Stars were Cebu Sharks gunner Patrick Cabahug, Basilan Steel guard Jojo Tangkay, underrated stretched four forward Marco Balagtas of the Rizal Crusaders, deadshot guard Reed Juntilla of the Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines, spitfire guard Ian Melencio of the Imus Bandera, highly physical big man Michael Mabulac of the Laguna Heroes, guards Paolo Castro of the Parañaque Patriots and Chris Masaglang of the General Santos City Warriors.
Mr. Dulay also tapped Leo Najorda of Davao Occidental and Jeff Viernes of the Batangas City Athletics as his wildcard picks. — Rey Joble