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Brown to be feted by PBA today

Ricardo Brown (left) and San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo (Danding) Cojuangco.

Manila, Philippines - PBA legend Ricardo Brown will receive a PBA jacket symbolic of his recognition as one of the league’s 25 greatest players and a trophy affirming his 2009 induction into the Hall of Fame during a brief tribute at halftime of the B-Meg-Barangay Ginebra semifinal game in the Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum tonight.

Brown, 55, is in town for a nine-day visit to reconnect with fans and rediscover the country where he played his greatest games in the PBA from 1983 to 1990. He ended his eight-year PBA career setting league records as No. 1 in scoring average (23.1 points), free throw percentage (.876) and assists (7.3). Brown played on seven title squads, including San Miguel Beer’s storybook team that bagged a Grand Slam in 1989 under coach Norman Black. The Quick Brown Fox, as the late sportscaster Pinggoy Pengson dubbed him, was the PBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1983 and MVP in 1985.

PBA licensing manager Rhose Montreal organized Brown’s meet-and-greet events with fans who came in droves to snap a photo of the legend, get his autograph and engage in a conversation starting last Friday. Brown will be available for his final meet-and-greet encounter before the B-Meg-Barangay Ginebra game at the Big Dome.  His tour was arranged by Popong and Tet Andolong.

Brown’s original Hall of Fame trophy was sent to his address in the US three years ago and it came broken.  “I paid $250 for the shipping cost and when I got it out of the box, it was wrapped in a newspaper and cracked,” said Brown. “I had to get it fixed. So I really appreciate what the PBA is doing for me, arranging this tribute.”

A highlight of Brown’s visit was a lunch meeting with San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo (Danding) Cojuangco at the Executive Dining Room of the conglomerate headquarters in Mandaluyong last Thursday. Cojuangco brought in Brown, a Fil-Am whose mother Consuelo Vidal is from Manila, from the US through coach Ron Jacobs to play for the Northern Cement team that posted an 8-0 record to win the Jones Cup in Taipei in 1981. Brown’s teammates included J. B. Yango, Frankie Lim, Dennis Still, Jeff Moore, Willie Pearson, Eddie Joe Chavez and Steve Schall. Among the reserves were Itoy Esguerra, Ed Cordero, Ricky Relosa and Bokyo Lauchengco. On the way to the title, Northern Cement beat the US Midwest Selection, 86-85 in overtime, Adidas of France, 60-49, New Zealand, 73-55 and Taiwan, 74-44. Among those named to the mythical team were Brown, Still, Schall, Ronnie Henderson and Greg White of the US, Fran O’Hanlon of Sweden, Stan Hill of New Zealand, Mike Jackel of Canada and Greg Gooden of Adidas.

In 1982, Brown enrolled at La Salle, took up units and played a few exhibition games with the Green Archers. The next year, he turned pro with Great Taste. Today, Brown is the principal of Ross Middle School in Artesia, California. He holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Pepperdine University and a master’s degree in educational administration from California State at Fullerton. Brown and wife Lorma Sahagun of Ilocos Norte were married in 1984. They have two children, Justin and Kevan.

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“Mr. Cojuangco will always be very dear to my heart and I regret that I was not able to play more for him during my basketball career,” Brown said. “That was one of my true regrets, my career not evolving in a manner that allowed me to play for the one man whom I had wanted to play for and who was really responsible for me to live and love the Filipino culture that I so very much wanted to be a part of.”

A third round pick of the Houston Rockets in the 1979 NBA draft, Brown arrived here on his own last Monday. He said the public school where he is the principal has a 20 percent Filipino student population. “We’ve got about 700 students and it’s a very challenging job,” he said. “I wake up at 4 in the morning every day and drive to school for 1 1/2 hours then I drive back home another 1 1/2 hours. By the end of the week, I’m totally exhausted. Because of budget cuts, we don’t have a varsity program at Ross but we do after-school sports. I still shoot around and try to keep fit. When I played in the PBA, I didn’t really mind the physicality – it brought out the fire in me. I never shied away from contact.”

Brown said he’s concerned about players foregoing their education to turn pro. “I don’t agree with the one-and-done rule in the NBA,” he said. “In the NFL, you’re eligible for the draft only after your college class graduates. In the NBA, you can do just half a semester, sit out and join the draft after a year of college. The AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) is also taking away kids from high school. It’s where the pro scouts look for talents now.”

Brown said during his PBA career, he was never fined and will always cherish the experience of playing with highly skilled athletes. “Philip Cezar wasn’t so fundamentally sound but with his basketball body and mind, he was a great player,” he said. “If only he learned the basics from good coaches when he was about 10, he could’ve been the greatest. We played just a season together. In today’s PBA, the players are bigger but it’s still the same game. At Great Taste, we did a lot of high pick-and-rolls which are still being done now. Coaches are critical but you also need talent. John Wooden struggled before he won 11 UCLA titles because he had players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), Marques Johnson and Sidney Wicks. Today, the NBA is a guard-driven league. I would love to come back to the Philippines often and conduct clinics for kids. It’s a way of giving back to the fans for supporting me through the years.” 

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