PBA pioneer still loyal to the game
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 6, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  PBA pioneer Alfredo Enriquez said the other day his love for basketball will never wane despite the tragedy that struck his son Woodrow who is now wheelchair-bound after suffering a spinal cord injury during an exhibition game between M. Lhuillier and Alaska in Cebu three years ago.

Enriquez, 65, played for 7-Up in the PBA’s inaugural season in 1975 and ended his pro career with Filmanbank in 1979.  The quick-stepping 5-8 point guard from the University of San Jose de Recoletos averaged 5.1 points in 142 games for 7-Up and Filmanbank, earning a reputation as a hard-nosed crowd darling because of his all-court hustle. His coach with both the Uncolas and Bankers was Lauro Mumar. Among his PBA teammates were Jimmy Mariano, Rudy Kutch, Larry Mumar, Jun Papa, Amang Ladores, Tino Reynoso, Marcelo Simbulan, Danny Florencio and Bong Chua.

In 2010, his son Woodrow – a guard with M. Lhuillier – crashed to the floor on a drive to the basket in the third quarter of an exhibition game. He rammed into Alaska’s Sonny Thoss and falling backwards, bumped teammate Ian Saladaga, causing a loss of balance. Woodrow lay motionless and was brought out of the court in a stretcher. His injury was similar to PBA cager Eugene Tejada’s accident in 2008.

“Mr. (Michel) Lhuillier spent over P2 Million for Woodrow,” said Enriquez who is based in Cebu. “He saved Woodrow’s life. For many years, Woodrow played for the M. Lhuillier Cebu Niños. He was the MVP of the URBL (United Regional Basketball League) in 2004 with Ramon Fernandez as commissioner. Woodrow once tried out for Sta. Lucia in the PBA but didn’t make it. Up to today, Mr. Lhuillier is taking care of Woodrow and our family and we will always be grateful for his support. Woodrow’s son Z. J. is now 12, in Grade 6 at San Jose. He’s the Milo BEST Center SBP Passerelle MVP. Our dream is for a third generation Enriquez to continue playing the game we love.”

Enriquez is an assistant coach with the Ninos under provincial board member Yayoy Alcoseba. “I’ve been with coach Yayoy since I left the PBA in 1980,” said Enriquez. “I was being recruited to play for Gilbey’s Gin in 1980 but my wife (Pacing) wanted me to concentrate on our fish business in Cebu. I was in Manila for five years playing in the PBA. Back in Cebu, I ended up working in the Cebu City Modern Abbatoir for 22 years. But no matter what I did for a job, I always found time for basketball.”

Enriquez said during his PBA career, there was little science and a lot of rough stuff. “We played with heart,” he said. “It’s not like in the PBA today where the game is now very scientific with strategy and tactics, players using their head not just their heart. Before, players got away with a lot of rough play. Once, I got elbowed by (Sonny) Jaworski and I fell on the floor. He walked up to me and held out his hand saying sorry, Bai. I saw Sonny a few years ago at the Sinulog festival in Cebu and it was like a reunion of old friends. A former PBA player whom I see at the Sinulog every year is Jing Aldanese.”

Enriquez said as a coach, he concentrates on training point guards. “Alex Cabagnot is one of the best point guards today,” he said. “He’s fast, he thinks and he passes very well. He’ll get you the ball if you’re open. A point guard is like the captain of a ship, he controls the game from the back. My advice to players today is to go hard every practice, every game, play tough defense, make the most of your career because you never know how long it will last.”

  Enriquez said there were two PBA games he’ll never forget. “First was when I shot two free throws with no time left for 7-Up to beat Great Taste and Manny Paner whom we call Manolo in Cebu,” he said. “Second was when 7-Up upset Crispa on a last second follow-up shot I made. We were down by one and Jimmy (Mariano) took a shot for the win but Crispa import Cyrus Mann deflected it. The ball went straight to me under the basket and I shot it at the buzzer.” Of the point guards he defended in the PBA, Enriquez singled out Bernie Fabiosa as the toughest.

 Enriquez said he owes what he is today to basketball. “My two daughters finished with Hotel and Restaurant Management degrees at San Jose and are now working abroad, one in Florida and the other in Canada,” he said. “Woodrow is now 34 and my other son Chris is 29. Chris was a varsity player but never played in the commercial leagues. I couldn’t ask anything more in my life, thanks to basketball.”

Enriquez joined the PBA group that visited Bogo City on a relief mission last Friday. He met PBA chairman Ramon Segismundo, PBA commissioner Chito Salud and players Arwind Santos, Willie Miller, Enrico Villanueva and Cabagnot for the first time during the mission. When Enriquez posed with Miller for a photo, it was a portrait of transition from then to now in the PBA.

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