Philippine basketball

‘Puso’: Top PH team players in last 40 years

Ariel Ian Clarito
Here’s our choice of top players who donned the country’s colors in the last 4 decades

Wearing the flag on one’s jersey is the ultimate dream of any player. This is why we have seen our top cagers answering the call when they are given the opportunity to represent the country in international competitions. 

In the past 4 decades, there have been a number of Filipino national team stalwarts who not only excelled in the international arena but also showed puso (heart).

Here are our choices for the top players who have suited up for the Philippine basketball team from 1980.

Allan Caidic

No Filipino player has evoked fear in the hearts of opponents as much as the Triggerman did. Even when facing prolific gunners like Lee Chung Hee and Hur Jae of South Korea and Sun Fengwu and Hu Weidong of China, there was always that quiet confidence that the Philippines had a fighting chance because Caidic could shoot just as good or even better than them.

Caidic played in 4 straight Asian Games from 1986 to 1998. 

He was named MVP of the 1985 FIBA Asia (then known as the Asian Basketball Confederation or ABC Championships), the last time the Philippines emerged champions in Asia. Caidic torched China for 22 points as the Philippines triumphed over the defending champion, 82-72. 

Caidic is the only Filipino to win the Jones Cup twice, in 1985 and 1998. He also earned a SEA Games gold medal in 1985.

Alvin Patrimonio

Like Caidic, Patrimonio also played in 4 straight Asian Games competitions. As a 20-year-old collegiate player from Mapua, he won a bronze in the 1986 Asian Games. He also bagged a silver in 1990 and another bronze in 1998 and helped the Philippines finish 4th in 1994. 

Patrimonio was undersized for his position at power forward, but this did not stop him from going toe-to-toe against bigger frontliners like Ma Jian, Zhang Bin, and Gong Xiabin. 

In 1987, Patrimonio helped the all-amateur national team place 4th in the ABC Championships where he was named to the tournament Mythical Five. He also bagged a SEA Games gold that year. 

The man known as The Captain also was part of the 1998 Centennial Team which won the Jones Cup.

Rommel Adducul

Eighteen years after Patrimonio made the Asian Mythical Five, Rommel Adducul became the next Filipino to receive the same honor. He made the Mythical Selection of the 2005 FIBA Asia Champion’s Cup. 

Adducul may not have had a PBA career as stellar as the others on this list, but in the international arena, his accomplishments have been remarkable.

After first serving the country as the starting center of the Philippine Under-19 team in 1994, Adducul was also the only Filipino chosen to be part of the Asian All-Stars, making the team on 3 occasions (1997, 1998, 2000).

He won the SEABA Championships 4 straight times and was named MVP of the competition in 1999. He also won 3 SEA Games gold medals in 1997, 1999, and 2001.

Jayson Castro

Sam Daghles of Jordan and Medhi Kamrani of Iran were generally recognized the top playmakers in Asia until someone called The Blur came along. 

Jayson Castro was named to the Asian Mythical Five twice, earning the honor in the 2013 and 2015 stagings of the FIBA Asia. He helped Gilas Pilipinas win 2nd place in both competitions, and in the process, cemented his status as the undisputed best point guard in Asia.

Castro also earned a Mythical Five spot in the 2015 Jones Cup where Gilas Pilipinas once again finished 2nd behind Iran. He was part of Gilas Pilipinas that played in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He also has a SEA Games gold medal which he won in 2007.

Asi Taulava

No one has worn the Philippine jersey longer than Asi Taulava. He first suited up for the national squad in the 2002 Asian Games where the Philippines placed 4th. His last stint with the national team was in the 2018 Asian Games. 

Only The Rock can boast of having played under 5 different national coaches: Jong Uichico, Chot Reyes, Yeng Guiao, Rajko Toroman, and Tab Baldwin. 

Taulava also played in the 2010 Asian Games and in the FIBA Asia in 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2015. 

He has played in the Jones Cup 3 times, winning the bronze in 2005 and 2011 and the silver in 2015. He also won back-to-back SEABA titles in 2007 and 2009.

Gabe Norwood

Norwood was the defensive lynchpin of the national team for over 10 years. 

He was the team’s utility man with his ability to guard low post players. In the 2013 Jones Cup, he was tasked to sometimes play power forward, then shift to shutting down opposing team’s shooters and main gunners.

Fresh out of George Mason University which he helped reach the US NCAA Final 4, Norwood was recruited to play for the Philippines in the 2007 FIBA Asia. He played in 3 more FIBA Asia competitions after that. 

He will be forever etched in FIBA history for his emphatic in-your-face slam over the outstretched arms of Argentinian legend Luis Scola. 

Ranidel de Ocampo

Whenever Gilas Pilipinas needed a crucial basket, RDO was always ready to deliver, whether it was from his inside incursions or from his long bombs. 

De Ocampo was the 4th leading scorer of Gilas in the 2013 FIBA Asia. He was the team’s top scorer in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup even when Marcus Douthit was around. He was also the team’s 5th leading scorer in the 2014 FIBA World Cup and the 2015 FIBA Asia.

RDO was the national team’s top stretch 4 from 2011 when he played with the original Gilas team in the 2011 FIBA Asia until his last stint in 2015. 

He was part of the national teams that won the Jones Cup in 2012, placed 2nd in 2015, and placed 3rd in 2007. He also has a SEA Games gold from the 2003 edition.

Samboy Lim

Fans will probably never know how good Samboy Lim really was because his playing career in the PBA was riddled with injuries. But in international competitions, Lim skywalked like no Filipino ever did.

Before joining the Northern Consolidated Cement, Lim had already won a SEA Games gold in 1983. 

With the NCC, he won the ABC Championship/FIBA Asia in 1985. Along with Caidic, he made the tournament Mythical Five.  He also won the SEA Games gold that same year. 

Lim and Caidic were referred to by legendary American coach Gene Keady as “Heckle and Jeckle” after they helped lead NCC to the Jones Cup title after a pulsating 108-100 overtime victory over Team USA which featured future NBA players. 

Lim was one of the leading scorers when the Philippines won the bronze in the 1986 Asian Games and the silver in the 1990 Asian Games.

Honorable Mention: LA Tenorio, Jimmy Alapag, Kenneth Duremdes