December 01, 2023

School Spirit: UE starting five among active players in PBA

School Spirit: UE starting five among active players in PBA
Art by Royce NIcdao

The UAAP and the PBA will remain connected ‘til we’re old and gray. The UAAP is a factory of young hoopers who turn into budding stars, while the PBA is where these promising ballers maximize their full potential. That’s how the circle of basketball life works in this particular setting.

Thus, we came up with a series where we form starting fives out of active PBA players who are products of the same UAAP schools. We previously had the De La Salle Green Archers alums under the spotlight. Now, it’s time for the UE Red Warriors legends to stand front and center.

Rey Suerte (Season 82)

The former Gilas Pilipinas guard was a one-and-done for the Red Warriors. But in his lone UAAP season, he gave the UE community a lot to cheer about. The Season 82 Mythical Team member’s best moment came against La Salle, wherein he scored 31 points, including an electrifying game-winning three.

In the PBA, Blackwater Bossing coach Jeff Cariaso has high hopes for the 29-year-old Suerte. In an interview on One PH’s Power & Play, Coach Jeff revealed just how much faith he has in Suerte. With that, expect the former Red Warrior to play an even bigger role for Blackwater soon.

Paul Lee (Season 70 to Season 73)

Lee was the last guy to lead UE to a finals appearance in the UAAP. He did it in Season 72, the same year when he won the Most Improved Player trophy and got his first of two Mythical Five selections. When he became the King Red Warrior, UE games became must-see TV. The Lethal Weapon’s bag was truly a thing of beauty.

In the pros, Lee has won every award there is except the MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year plums. Being one of the most reliable scorers of his generation, people will surely get mad—like they did in Nelson Asaytono’s case—if the Magnolia Hotshots dynamo won’t be included in the next iterations of the PBA Greatest Players list.

ALSO READ: Angas ng Recto: UE great Paul Lee’s throwback UAAP post will give you chills

James Yap (Season 63 to Season 66)

His defenders feared him as he scored over them in whatever way he pleased. Yap was a man among boys in the UAAP. The receipts? He was named MVP in 2003 and was a Mythical Five member twice.

That he didn’t lead UE to a UAAP championship remains one of basketball’s greatest mysteries.

But championships no longer eluded Big Game James in the PBA. He has seven titles under his belt, including a grand slam with the San Mig Coffee Mixers (the franchise eventually traded him for Lee, BTW). During his prime, he became a two-time MVP, all while serving as the face of the PBA. 

What else can we say? He's truly a top-tier all-time great. At 41 years old, he signed a one-conference deal with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.

ALSO READ: Big budol: James Yap’s latest post will make cyclists catch ‘upgraditis’ disease

Mark Borboran (Season 68 to Season 70)

Borboran was a tough matchup for anyone at the collegiate level. At 6-foot-4, he can drive strong to the rim and hit jumpers all the way from behind the three-point line. In Season 70, the hybrid forward led the Red Warriors to a 14-0 slate in the eliminations, which propelled them straight to the finals. Unfortunately, they got swept by the more experienced Green Archers. As a consolation prize, Borboran earned a Mythical Team selection.

In the PBA, his well-rounded skill set has continued to be his calling card. Playing for a total of six teams, he has exhibited enough end-to-end versatility to have a prolonged professional career. The 15-year veteran is currently teammates with Yap in Rain or Shine.

Alvin Pasaol (Season 79 to Season 81)

Pasaol was a scoring machine in the UAAP. To sum up his mammoth-like shot-making prowess: In Season 80, he dropped 49 points on a Ben Mbala-led La Salle team. No typo there. In his last season, he averaged 24.4 points to claim his second straight Mythical Five citation. Yes, Pasaol’s individual brilliance didn’t translate into team success, but it was undeniable that he was a next-level bucket-getter.

Now in his third PBA season, Pasaol’s breakout moment has yet to come. But for sure, once he gets the opportunity, the 6-foot-2 burly forward will find ways to put the ball through the basket. He’s a natural-born scorer, after all.

Breaking down the team

For this group to win games, they have no other option but to outgun their opponents. They’ve got to maximize their firepower and put the most points on the scoreboard. It’s as simple as that.

Imagine these fellas, getting in the zone at the same time. Putting up 150 points, just the five of them, is not far-fetched.

As for defense, well, let’s just say, they just have to stick to their strengths.