For former PBA import Daren Queenan, his time with Purefoods was memorable not only because he helped give the franchise its first PBA title, it was also where he got to play with two of the best power forwards in league history.
Queenan, who suited up for the Hotdogs in the 1990 Third Conference, vividly remembers playing alongside young bucks Alvin Patrimonio and Nelson Asaytono when both were just about to hit their primes. But even then it was clear to him which one was better.
“With Purefoods, and this is just my opinion, the best player, Patrimonio. Alvin,” Queenan said during a recent episode of An Eternity of Basketball. “He was a tough guy. He was very crafty. He was a good athlete but not like a leaper. But he was very smart, high IQ, very efficient ballplayer.
“I loved having him on the team. I’m pretty sure anybody else would. This guy, when I saw him – not when I was playing against him because when I was playing against him I wanted to beat his butt – when I actually was with Purefoods and I would watch him play on a daily basis, I could really get into his mind, I said, ‘I think this guy is gonna be MVP of the league for some time.”
Queenan’s assessment proved to be prophetic as Patrimonio would win the first of his four MVP awards the following season.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Queenan said when told about the four MVPs won by Patrimonio.
Queenan, who first played in the PBA in 1988 for Añejo Rum, also remembers the athleticism of Asaytono, who was then in his second season and was essentially a back-up to Patrimonio.
“We also had a player when I was with Purefoods. Nelson. Now to me, Nelson was a great athlete. Oh my God, this guy could jump, was a great athlete. And I thought he was just raw. Raw ability, raw talent. And I said if someone could really coach this guy I think he could really do well. Now I think Alvin just had a little more IQ. But I think Nelson would have shined depending on who was the coach. Because he had MVP ability as well if he was in a great situation.”
Asaytono was eventually traded to Swift in late 1991 and came close twice to winning the MVP, finishing second to Ato Agustin in 1992 and Patrimonio in 1993.
The Hotdogs had to overcome a 0-2 deficit in the best-of-five finals against the Alaska Milkmen. Queenan credits their turnaround to the superb mentorship of legendary coach Baby Dalupan.
“When you come back from 0-2, you’re practicing and you have to believe because the chances of you winning is extremely low probability. But this is when Coach Dalupan, this is when he showed his worth. He showed his worth because he helped us believe as well. He was like, ‘Hey we’re down 0-2 but we can still beat them. If we had done A,B and C we actually could have beaten them.’ And also the young players were very hungry and I would hear the grim reaper coming from the past. Purefoods has never won a championship. Oh my God. That’s what I heard. Is it gonna happen again? I kept hearing it during practice.
“And this is where Coach Dalupan got us together, reassured us that this is still winnable. Down 0-2, take one game at a time. We win the first one, start having a little belief. All we had to do was get the second one. As soon as we got the second one, we were like, ‘Okay we’re gonna win this.’ It wasn’t easy, but we knew we could win. We took over the momentum. There was a huge momentum shift. Anytime you’re in the finals, momentum is huge. Now instead of us doubting, we had the Milkmen doubting.”
While the title was the first for the Purefoods franchise, it would turn out to be the last of 15 PBA crowns for Dalupan, who died in 2016.
Watch the full episode on An Eternity of Basketball here: