Yeng Guiao is known as one of the PBA’s all-time best coaches. The fiery mentor is known to be a no-nonsense leader, someone tough on his players, players on the opposing team, and the referees officiating over the actual game. While Guiao has racked up a nice number of championships, what’s equally impressive is how he has helped numerous players reach their full potential after a stint in his academy of hard knocks.
Guiao is a bit unique in the sense that he doesn’t jump onto teams with stacked rosters, or squads with franchise players. Nor does Guiao work the trade channels for superstars. Instead, throughout his career, Guiao has preferred to develop the guys on his team, or draft picks.
With Guiao at the helm, everyone has the confidence to shoot from any part of the court. You could be a guard or a big man, but if as long as you’re open, it is your duty to shoot that ball. Furthermore, he’s unafraid to play everyone on his roster, shuffling players in and out, and starting whomever he feels like. It is said you have to always be ready for when your coach calls your name, but that holds doubly true when you’re on a Yeng Guiao team.
One particular type Guiao has done great work with in the past are wing players. He’s turned several late first-rounders or second-round finds into dynamic scoring options, capable of turning in brilliant performances on a regular basis.
Here are five gunners who have gone through the Yeng Guiao crucible and have come out looking much better because of it.
1. Lordy Tugade
Tugade used to be a killer on the court. Despite being one of Red Bull’s direct hires in 2000, he spent the early years of his PBA career on the bench. But when Yeng Guiao called his name, he never disappointed. Once the other half of the dynamic duo of the NU Bulldogs (along with 2x PBA MVP Danny Ildefonso), Tugade stepped up in a big way when key Red Bull players weren’t allowed to play due to unseen circumstances (Fil-Sham scam) or were traded.
By 2005, he had become one of Red Bull’s go-to guys along with Junthy Valenzuela and Enrico Villanueva. That year, they helped Red Bull win a championship and Tugade was named to the PBA’s Mythical 5. His post-Red Bull career wasn’t very fruitful though, as injuries derailed his career and eventually forced him to retire.
2. Cyrus Baguio
Despite a splendid UAAP career with the UST Growling Tigers, Baguio wound up as a second-round pick by Red Bull Barako. Sure, his athleticism and craftiness attacking the basket looked good at the amateur level, but many wondered if it would translate in the pros.
Baguio spent a lot of time early on riding the pine, stuck behind veterans like Willie Miller, Junthy Valenzuela, and the aforementioned Lordy Tugade. But as Barako began shipping out parts of their roster, Baguio started to get his minutes. Eventually, he was the team’s leader, averaging a career-high 18 points and earning Most Improved Player honors, during the ’07-’08 season, his fifth in the league. His strong play even got a him a spot on the 2009 Philippine National Team, where he stood out as one of that squad’s leading scorers.
Barako eventually traded away Baguio to crowd darlings Ginebra, but his stint there didn’t last. Dealt to Alaska after a season, he’s been an integral part of the latter team up until now, helping them win a few championships, and getting named PBA Finals Co-MVP in his first conference as a Milkman. Baguio is now going up against his former mentor in the on-going PBA Comm. Cup Finals.
3. Jeff Chan
Jeff Chan was FEU’s designated gunner during his days in the UAAP, spreading the floor for his more celebrated teammates like Arwind Santos, Mark Isip, Denok Miranda, and RJ Rizada. However, in his final playing year, the Tamaraws struggled with him as their number one option, perhaps contributing to him sliding into the second round in the 2008 PBA Draft, picked 17th overall.
Chan and Guiao’s initial time together was limited, as he was traded from the Barako Bull Energy Boosters to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. However, the two would eventually be reunited when Guiao moved over to the latter franchise.
Under Guiao, Chan flourished, becoming one of Rain or Shine’s go-to-guys in the clutch, as one of the best outside snipers right now in the PBA. Chan and Rain or Shine’s breakthrough moment came during the 2012 Governors’ Cup, as he led the team to its first title, while being named Finals MVP. His rep as a shooter also landed him a spot with the Gilas national team which won silver in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, and competed in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Until now, Chan is still connecting from deep for Rain or Shine, including in the on-going Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
4. Larry Fonacier
Larry Fonacier was brilliant in the UAAP as the “Baby-Face Assassin.” During his time as an Ateneo Blue Eagle, the team ended a 14-year title drought in 2002, with Larry sharing Finals MVP honors with Wesley Gonzales. However, he tore his ACL in his final season, which led to many shying away from someone who used to be a can’t-miss-product. One guy who wasn’t afraid of gambling on the injured Eagle? Yeng Guiao.
Fonacier bounced back in his first pro season by capturing Rookie of the Year honors, a testament to the hard work he put in, as well as the trust Guiao had in him. Since then, Fonacier has played for Alaska and Talk ‘N Text, and he’s also had stints with the Gilas program. All of that though probably wouldn’t have happened, had Guiao not rolled the dice on this guy.
5. Jericho Cruz
One of Coach Guiao’s latest finds, Cruz also happens to be the highest-picked player in this bunch, coming at ninth overall in 2014. However, despite two solid seasons with the Adamson Falcons, many felt that this was a reach of a pick, with Cruz being a “good stats, bad team” kind of guy.
Undeterred, Guiao has shown a lot of confidence in Cruz since day one. An integral part of the team’s rotation, Cruz has made people eat their words, showing an adept scoring touch, plus some tough defense. That two-way versatility has definitely helped Rain or Shine become title-contenders anew.