NBA
Juno recruited by Ateneo
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2013 - 12:00am

Believe it or not, La Salle coach Juno Sauler almost played for the Ateneo senior varsity basketball team in the UAAP before deciding to stay green instead of turning blue.

That was when Sauler and La Salle Zobel high school teammate Gabby Cui just graduated from Alabang. Ateneo was rebuilding and coach Chito Narvasa offered both players slots on the Blue Eagles squad. Sauler showed up for four practices then chose to enrol at Taft instead. Cui went on to play for Ateneo and later turned pro.

Unlike at Ateneo, Sauler had no guaranteed spot with the La Salle team. He labored for two years in Team B before finally, getting a call-up from coach Gabby Velasco in 1992. Sauler joined the varsity in Jun Limpot’s farewell season so they were teammates for just one year. Today, Limpot is one of Sauler’s two assistants with the Archers, the other being Allan Caidic.

Sauler recalled that at first, he played behind Limpot and first back-up Oliver Bunyi in Velasco’s rotation. When Bunyi once showed up with the wrong uniform for a game, he was benched the rest of the season and Sauler got the nod to be Limpot’s chief reliever. Limpot said Sauler was a quiet guy, very serious, very attentive to Velasco’s instructions.

Sauler, 40, wound up playing three years with the Archers. He never played on a championship team. As a senior in 1994, Sauler was on the La Salle team that dueled UST in the UAAP Finals. The Archers were up by a point when Sauler drove in for a shot and missed with a few seconds left. UST’s Bal David got the rebound and was fouled. He sank two free throws to put UST ahead by one.  On the next play, La Salle’s Mark Telan flubbed a corner jumper and teammate Elmer Lago couldn’t connect on two put-back tries from successive offensive rebounds as UST held on to win. Nobody imagined then that nearly 20 years later, Sauler would coach La Salle to beat UST in Game 3 of the UAAP Finals for the championship.

“I took the shot because nobody else wanted to take it,” recalled Sauler. “We were lucky to even force a Game 3 because UST’s lineup was solid with Bal, Chris Cantonjos, Dennis Espino and Dale Singson. No regrets in playing for La Salle. I had a sure spot at Ateneo but I didn’t want to leave La Salle. I played two years in Team B before I was elevated to Team A.”

* * * *

While Sauler had a forgettable varsity playing history, Limpot was a celebrated star. He was a three-time UAAP MVP and led La Salle to two titles. In 1991, Limpot was on the Philippine team that captured the gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games and seven years later, played on the Centennial squad that bagged the bronze at the Bangkok Asian Games. One of Limpot’s Centennial teammates was Caidic who played in four Asian Games from 1986 to 1990 to 1994 to 1998. Caidic, by the way, brought home a silver and two bronzes from the Asiad.

Limpot, 41, enjoyed a 14-year PBA career where he was Rookie of the Year in 1993. He played on the Purefoods team that claimed the PBA Philippine Cup diadem under coach Ryan Gregorio in 2005-06. His teammates included James Yap, Kerby Raymundo, Marc Pingris, Noy Castillo, Roger Yap, P. J. Simon and Rey Evangelista.

After ending his playing career in the PBA, Limpot became a vegetarian. “My mother had breast cancer and I took care of her,” said Limpot. “Because she had to eat healthy, I wanted to set an example. I brought her organic fruits and vegetables and ate with her to show the food wasn’t bad. Before long, that’s all the food I was eating. I would even go to the mountains to bring back fresh vegetables untouched by chemicals or preservatives. With God’s grace, my mother lasted seven more years before passing away. Now, I’m trying to influence my father, recovering from a stroke, to also eat healthy. My wife Ian has her own diet and we encourage our three kids to eat meat so they can get protein growing up which is important for them at their age.

* * * *

Caidic, 50, was a UAAP star like Limpot. In 1982, he was named MVP in leading UE to the championship under coach Agapito de Castro. Caidic brought two more titles to UE with coach Jimmy Mariano. Some of Caidic’s varsity teammates were Jerry Codinera, George Ella, Aaron Torres, Charlie Fermin, Orly Javier, Jimmy Mariquit and Godofredo Lim Uy. During Caidic’s time, the UE manager was William Co, a student whose family owned Gold Label spaghetti and Boysen Paints.

Co said during Caidic’s time, there was no such thing as a championship bonus. “We were just a simple team,” said Co. “We loved the game and the guys played to win not for money but for the school. When we reached the finals, the team was quartered at Town and Country Motel on V. Mapa and when we won the title, there was no payout. As a team, we would eat at Max Fried Chicken or Manukan or Bakahan.”

Co left Manila in 1991 to start a new life in the US. In his early years in San Francisco, Co held three jobs, splitting the day’s hours to put in time. About eight years ago, he joined the San Francisco city government and now, he is in charge of the electrical and security systems of the entire airport complex. Co welcomed Sauler, Caidic and Limpot when they landed in San Francisco last Sunday to connect to San Antonio via Dallas.

ATENEO CAIDIC LA SALLE LIMPOT PLAYED SALLE SAN FRANCISCO SAULER TEAM TEAM B
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