The Rivalry lists: The top five PBA players from Adamson University

This is part of a series from The Rivalry naming the five greatest PBA players from UAAP and NCAA member schools. Some ground rules to explain the rankings:

1. Players are ranked according to their PBA achievements, and NOT their college achievements. 

2. If a player played for more than one school in college, the series writers – Jay Mercado and Jude Roque – will decide between themselves which school the player will fall under.

3. Players who excelled in college but whose playing years preceded the PBA are unfortunately not included (i.e., Caloy Loyzaga for San Beda).

4. Players who played for a college or university before that school joined the UAAP or NCAA are included for consideration.

5. Only current UAAP and NCAA member schools are included in the series, but not necessarily all of them.

Adamson University Soaring Falcons

The Adamson University Falcons (now called the Soaring Falcons) initially joined the UAAP in 1952 on a two-year probation. Unable to comply with the league requirements, the San Marcelino-based squad left the league only to rejoin in 1970. 

The school won its only UAAP title in 1977.

Here is The Rivalry’s list of the five greatest PBA players who went to Adamson University.

5.  Joy Dionisio (UAAP 1970-72/PBA 1975-1983)

College career

Gregorio “Joy” Dionisio was a noted two-way player for the Falcons when they rejoined the UAAP in 1970. He teamed up with former Toyota fastbreak finisher, Ompong Segura, his brother Tom, and Carrier’s Ching Ching Marcelino. The Falcons weren’t able to make it to the playoffs as the UE Red Warriors ended up winning the 1970 UAAP title in back-to-back fashion at the expense of the NU Bulldogs. He would later become a part of the 1972 RP Youth team that defended its Asian Youth title held in Manila.

PBA career

Accomplishments: 7x champion (all with Crispa), played 395 games in 9 seasons; averaged 6.3 points per game; played for 4 different teams – Carrier, Crispa, U/Tex, Galerie Dominique.

Many remember Dionisio for being the first player to score two points in the PBA in the inaugural game between Concepcion-Carrier and the Mariwasa Noritake Porcelain Makers on April 9, 1975. But his game flourished and became a household name when he moved to the Crispa Redmanizers in the 1976 season. Noted for his bruising defense and his wily court generalship, Crispa coach Baby Dalupan utilized Dionisio as his primary defender to go up against Toyota’s Robert Jaworski. 

Dionisio was part of Crispa’s regular rotation and was an integral member of their six championships from 1976 to 1980. He was part of the grand slam conquest of the Redmanizers in 1976 and proved to be one of the best backcourt defenders during his era. Apart from his rugged man-to-man defense, Dionisio owned a nifty jump shot and the ability to take the ball strong inside for a layup. He was also a reliable and efficient free throw shooter, especially during the clutch.

4.  Jericho Cruz (UAAP 2012/PBA 2014-present)

College career

It was in 2012 when Jericho Cruz played for the first and only time for the Falcons under Coach Leo Austria. Despite having future pros in Rodney Brondial, Don Trollano, Alex Nuyles, Jansen Rios, Eric Camson and Roider Cabrera as teammates, the Falcons couldn’t get their act together, fumbling with a 1-6 record after the first round, then winning two more in the second to end up with a 3-11 card, good for sixth place. Cruz was one of the team’s top scorers, averaging 12.3 points per game. He eventually opted not to play his final season with the Falcons in 2013. 

Jericho Cruz is the only active player on this list. (PBA Media Bureau)

PBA career

Accomplishments: 2x champion (one each for ROS and SMB); 2016 Most Improved Player; 2016 Mr. Quality Minutes awardee; 2015 All-Rookie Team; played for four different franchises – Rain or Shine, TNT, NLEX and SMB; has played 253 games to date and is averaging 10.07 points, 3.18 rebounds, 2.44 dimes and 0.96 steals.

When Coach Yeng Guiao plucked Cruz from the 2014 rookie draft as the ninth overall pick, fans already knew that Cruz would become one of the next most important players for the franchise. Guiao’s eye for talent and ability to develop the young skills of his players are legendary, and true enough, Cruz proved this from the get go, becoming Rain or Shine’s go-to guys, helping the Elasto Painters win their second franchise title in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup. 

A complete offensive package capable of scoring from inside and out, Cruz has further improved his game now that he’s with the Beermen and with June Mar Fajardo as his teammate. With the defense collapsing on “The Kraken,” Cruz has taken the offensive load alongside CJ Perez to reduce the burden on their 6’10 teammate. Cruz is the only active player in this list and may perhaps even go up higher if he continues with his fine play.

3.  Marlou Aquino (UAAP 1990-92/PBA 1996-2020)

College career

The 6’9 beanpole came from the UST high school program and played for the Falcons for three seasons from 1990 to 1992. Aquino combined forces in Season 55 (1992) with 7’1 EJ Feihl, 6’6 Giovanni Pineda, 6’5 Erwin Pastor, and 6’3 Kenneth Duremdes, to form the tallest local frontline in league history. The Falcons, though, were swept by the FEU Tamaraws, 69-59 and 94-83, in the finals.

PBA career 

Accomplishments: 3x champion (1 with Gordon’s Gin, 2 with Sta. Lucia); 1996 Governors’ Cup Player of the Conference; 1996 Defensive Player of the Year; 1997 Commissioner’s Cup Finals MVP; 1996 Rookie of the Year; 2x Mythical First Team; 2x Mythical Second Team; 4x All Defensive Team; member of the 1998 Centennial Team; played for 3 different teams – Ginebra, Sta. Lucia and Meralco. Played 648 games, averaged 12 points, 6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. Named one of the 40 Greatest Players in the PBA.

Aquino established himself as the premier center of the PBL as early as 1991 and was actually the starting center for the Philippine men’s national basketball team that regained the gold medal in the 1991 SEA Games. In 1994, he was also the national team’s starting center that played in the Hiroshima Asian Games. He was coveted by several teams, in particular Ginebra San Miguel and the Sta. Lucia Realtors, ending up with the former after being drafted #1 overall in the 1996 Rookie Draft.

He was the primary reason for Ginebra’s resurgence in the 1996 season after five dismal seasons. He led the team to a runner-up finish in the Governors’ Cup behind the grand slam-seeking Alaska Aces, winning the Best Player of the Conference award. He then won his first championship with Gordon’s Gin in the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup against the Aces, winning Finals MVP honors. He later won two more championships with Sta. Lucia in 2001 and 2007, both times playing pivotal roles in leading the Robles-owned franchise to the only two titles they have in the PBA.

2.  Hector Calma (UAAP 1976-78/PBA 1986-1994)

College career

The only player in this list who won a UAAP championship, Calma was the superstar player of the Adamson Falcons that won the 1977 UAAP championship at the expense of the UP Maroons. Calma was a do-it-all player who played both guard and forward positions in a team that had only one legitimate center in the 6’1 Antonio Sayson. Curiously, only two players from that team went on to play in the PBA – the other being 1985 Rookie of the Year Leo Austria. By 1979, he pursued a career playing for Solid Mills in the MICAA before becoming the lead point guard of the Ron Jacobs-led national teams from 1982 to 1986.

PBA career

Accomplishments: 10x champion (9 with SMB, 1 with amateur squad, NCC as a guest team); 3x Mythical First Team; played for the 1990 Men’s Basketball Team that played in the Beijing Asian Games; a member of the 1989 grand slam San Miguel Bee; played for only one franchise – San Miguel; suited up in a total of 389 games, averaging 9.8 points and 5.1 assists per game; named one of the 25 Greatest Players of the PBA.

One of the most decorated point guards of all time, Hector Calma has won in every single level of basketball that he has ever played in and was once the undisputed greatest point guard of the land from the mid 80’s to the early 90’s. Ron Jacobs once described him as perhaps the most cerebral point guard he has ever worked with.

Calma’s adept court generalship has made him perhaps the most important member of the SMB team during its run from 1987 to 1989. He was one of the principal members of the 1989 grand slam team and the hero of countless SMB victories. Calma would have led the national team once more in the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games if not for an assortment of injuries, leading to his retirement at the end of the season.

1. Kenneth Duremdes (UAAP 1992-93/PBA 1995-2008)

College career

Duremdes was part of the powerhouse Adamson Soaring Falcons team that ended up runners-up in the 1992 UAAP season behind the Far Eastern University Tamaraws. Playing alongside bigs Aquino, Feihl and Pineda, the Falcons were the heavy favorites to win the UAAP title that year after ending up with an 11-3 record, tied with the Tamaraws and the La Salle Green Archers, but clinching the first Finals seat because of a higher quotient. Duremdes was back the succeeding season in 1993 but the Falcons ended up in second place once more with an 11-3 card after the eventual titlists, the UST Growling Tigers, swept all their 14 games to win the title.

PBA career

Accomplishments: 6x champion (2 with Sunkist, 4 with Alaska); 1998 Most Valuable Player; 1998 All Filipino Finals MVP; 1998 Commissioner’s Cup Finals MVP; member of the 1998 Centennial Team; 2x Mythical First Team; 3x Mythical Second Team; 1998 Best Player of the Commissioner’s Cup; 2000 Best Player of the All Filipino Conference; member of the 1998 Centennial Team and the 2002 Philippine national teams. Played for four different teams – Sunkist, Alaska, Sta. Lucia and Coke. Played 527 games, averaged 13.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists. Named one of the 25 Greatest Players in the PBA.

Even when he was still playing for the Falcons, Duremdes was already projected as a blue chipper who will do well in the pro ranks. A tall forward known for his high-flying incursions inside the paint, the product of Marbel, South Cotabato was the third overall pick in the 1995 Rookie Draft and immediately won two championships with the Sunkist Orange Juicers. After moving to the Alaska Aces prior to the third Conference of the 1997 season, he immediately became the top offensive weapon of the team, winning three straight titles bridging the 1997 and 1998 seasons with back-to-back championships in 1998. 

It was that year when Duremdes became the league’s MVP and arguably the best player of the Philippines. He was the one of the leading scorers for the Centennial Team that won the Jones Cup and the bronze medal in the Bangkok Asian Games and was also a member of the all-PBA 2002 national team that finished fourth in the Busan Asian Games. His stint under Tim Cone also made him one of the best two-way players of his time. Alaska eventually traded Duremdes to Sta. Lucia for the rights to rookie, Brandon Cablay. There’s no denying though that KD19 is the best PBA player that ever came out from Adamson University.

Honorable Mentions:

Gherome Ejercito, Eddie Laure, Don Trollano, Ompong Segura

(Top photo courtesy of Bob Guerrero)


Share article

Latest articles


Subscribe to stay updated.