The five best Toyota imports of all time

The Rivalry will be coming out with a series of articles featuring the Toyota basketball team as a prelude to the 50th golden anniversary this year which will be celebrated with a grand homecoming of all Toyota / Komatsu players to be held on February 18, 2023 in Makati City.

The Toyota franchise in the PBA underwent many transformations until its untimely disbandment prior to the 1984 season. Along the way, the Tamaraws (Comets/Super Corollas/Silver Corollas/Super Diesels) amassed nine titles with eight of them coming in import-laden conferences. 

Toyota had a knack for finding quality reinforcements and many blended well with the squad’s core consisting initially of the triumvirate of spitfire guard Francis Arnaiz, future four-time MVP Ramon Fernandez and the “Big J” Robert Jaworski before eventually being joined by cornerstones Abe King, Arnie Tuadles and Danny Florencio. 

Toyota will always be associated with the imports that became synonymous with the club with some still being talked about in online nostalgia forums to this day because of how they impacted not only the franchise, but also hoops in the archipelago.

Here the five most iconic foreign cagers that laced up for Toyota in its nine seasons in the PBA.

5.  Byron “Snake” Jones

Byron “Snake” Jones was one of Toyota’s first imports. (FB)

This University of San Francisco product was one of the very first imports to play in the PBA’s inaugural staging in 1975 along with Charlie Walker for U/Tex and Mariwasa’s Cisco Oliver. The 6’8” 1973 fifth round pick of the Boston Celtics immediately made a huge impact to an already talented roster for the Comets with his steady perimeter game and rebounding efficiency, leading the team to the first two crowns in the league and averaging close to 20 PPG. 

After the 1976 season (where the Crispa Redmanizers won the PBA’s first ever Grand Slam), Jones transferred to the Wranglers and helped that franchise capture the league’s first title outside of the storied Toyota and Crispa domination in the 1978 Open Conference. Ironically in 1980, he also went on to suit up for the rival Redmanizers until the end of the 1981 season.

4.  Carl Terry (†)

Carl Terry was only 6’5″ but could play center for Toyota. (FB)

Before Barangay Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee took the league by storm as a replacement import for an injured Paul Harris, there was Carlos Fernando Terry, a 6’5” forward who was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the fifth round of the 1978 NBA Draft out of the Winston Salem State University. Toyota management took a gamble and brought him in to take the place of 6’11” TJ Robinson who was deemed as not a good fit for the Tamaraws’ style of play. Despite his height, Terry played center and was originally brought in to play that spot alongside burly Bruce “Sky” King. Terry electrified the Filipino basketball aficionados with his gung-ho style of tenacity and abilities to thrive in the open court. Many considered this Lexington, North Carolina native to be one of the best foreign players the league had ever seen. He towed Toyota to the finals in the 1978 Invitational Conference where they defeated Tanduay 3-1 for the franchise’s fifth championship. 

After that stint, Terry played in the American Continental Basketball Association (CBA) and eventually made his way to the NBA for the Washington Bullets in 1980. He suffered a torn ACL with that club and was never the same after. He was eventually left unsigned and plunged into substance abuse issues. Terry was tragically killed in a car crash in 1989 at only 32 years of age. 

3.  Donnie Ray Koonce

Donnie Ray Koonce, seen here playing for Alaska in 1986, won two titles with Toyota in 1982. (Ernie Sarmiento)

Another replacement import who went on to become one of the most popular to the Toyota faithful was this 6’3” Jack-of-all-trades out of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. The Super Corollas originally acquired the services of Oral Roberts ace Arnold Dugger but after just six games into the 1982 Reinforced Filipino Conference, management turned their attention to Koonce, a fourth-round selection by the Detroit Pistons in the 1981 NBA Draft. He had seen action with the CBA’s Atlantic City Thunder and was brought in to take over, leading the club to the crown in seven games over the San Miguel Beermen. Koonce was an instant sensation averaging over 26 PPG and upping the ante on Toyota’s hustle meter with his energy and efficiency. He stayed around up to the season-ending Open Conference where he teamed with Andrew Fields to lead Toyota to another title. So dominant was the Super Corollas’ reinforcement duo that he and Fields tussled for the Best Import award with Koonce winning by a mere one point over Fields. 

Koonce later on went on to suit up for the San Miguel Beermen in 1983 and the Alaska Milkmen in 1986.

2.  Bruce “Sky” King (†)

This Dayton, Ohio native was an integral part of three Toyota championships from 1977 to 1980—the longest tenured reinforcement in franchise history, and at the time, his service of eight conferences was the most by any import for a single team in PBA history.

King was picked in the fourth round by Detroit in the 1977 NBA Draft out of the University of Iowa and had an interesting skillset that was way ahead of his time: at 6’8”, he was (as the late broadcaster Dick Ildefonso put it) a “Long Tom Artist” as his rainbow jumper from what would have been beyond today’s regulation 3-point arc was his signature contribution to Toyota’s offense—not to mention his transition dunks which enthralled spectators at the “smoke-filled” Araneta Coliseum. He was also a menace on defense and was an aggressive rebounder whose favorite was always a streaking Arnaiz. 

Because of his unique abilities on offense, the coaching staff were always on the lookout for a second import who could play the pivot spot as King was a natural shooter who did not exert himself in the low block. 

King was also known for making efforts to get closer to the Toyota fans, be it being available for pictures and autographs or running to the stands and celebrating. 

Unfortunately, in 1986 after lifting weights at his parents’ basement, he succumbed to a massive heart attack and was dead at the young age of 30.

Bruce “Sky” King and Andrew Fields teamed up for Toyota in 1979 and 1980. (FB)

1.  Andrew “Andres Bukid” Fields

The first ever recipient of the PBA’s Best Import award, this lanky baritone from Atlantic City, New Jersey was—among all the Toyota reinforcements—the highest selection in the NBA Draft, being picked in the second round (40th overall) by the Portland Trailblazers in 1979 out of Cheyney University. The 6’9” center arrived for his tour of duty under initially controversial circumstances as despite the solid showings of Terry and “Dr. I” John Irving, Toyota management opted to go with this unproven 22-year-old to join forces with Sky King when the Tamaraws’ 1979 campaign commenced.

Fields quickly made a splash as the perfect complement for King’s game as he performed solely in the paint—on both ends of the court—eventually becoming known as a rim protector and a defensive specialist, while churning out high-percentage offense from the post. He began becoming Toyota’s “rock” as even after the league imposed height limits for team’s second import, Fields became the constant due to his rebounding prowess and ended his PBA career (when Toyota folded) with 15.5 RPG. 

Later dubbed “Andres Bukid” (a literal Filipino translation of his name) by his teammates, Fields still holds the PBA single game record for shot blocks with 13 and went on to be instrumental in three titles for the Tamaraws: the 1979 Invitationals (with Sky), the 1981 Open Conference (with Victor King) as well as the 1982 Open Conference (with Koonce) and is still the most beloved import to the loyal Toyota followers.


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