Boybits Victoria’s former coaches in Yeng Guiao, Derrick Pumaren, and Jong Uichico expressed sadness and disbelief over his passing late Wednesday due to heart attack.
He was 50.
Guiao, who was then handling Swift in the Philippine Basketball Association, said he had been training his sights on the high-leaping Victoria as early as 1994.
In fact, Swift was set to select third in the Annual Rookie Draft and with Tondeña and Coney Island deciding to tap Noli Locsin and Rey Evangelista as the top two picks, respectively, Guiao celebrated knowing that he will have a chance to coach the former San Beda University star.
“We have already decided to get him. Before Draft Day, we knew we were going to pick him,” Guiao told Daily Tribune in a telephone conversation.
Guiao said he had never seen a guard who could soar high for a dunk despite handling the likes of gung-ho playmakers like Rudy Distrito, Al Solis and Ric-Ric Marata.
“We were preparing for the future,” Guiao, now the coach of Rain or Shine, said.
“At that time, Distrito was about to retire and Al Solis was about to wind down as well, so Boybits proved to be a great fit with his talent. I recall how these veterans would always tease him in practice to provide them some sort of entertainment with his dunks, since these guards cannot do it by themselves.”
“I told him that he’s going to make it big in the PBA. He already had a lot of fans when he joined us because he’s also good-looking and has the making of a star. I gave him freedom which was needed by a rookie and even before I left the team as I was able to coach him for two conferences, there were teams which had already expressed interest in getting his services.”
Under Guiao, Victoria blossomed into one of the league’s most exciting guards, enough to emerge as Rookie of the Year in 1994.
When Guiao left, Pumaren took over and gave Victoria a chance to win two titles.
“Boybits was my starting point guard when I won two titles with Sunkist,” said Pumaren, who is fresh from a one-year tour of duty from De La Salle University in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.
“He was in his sophomore year at that time but he was able to run the show for us and gave stability to the team. He gained the respect of veterans like Vergel Meneses, Nelson (Asaytono), Yoyoy (Villamin), and Rudy (Distrito) to lead the execute what we want to get things done on the floor.”
He added that Victoria’s leadership was truly special.
“He was my second coach inside the floor and also a threat on the offensive end because he can score inside and outside if need be,” Pumaren added, saying that Victoria stood his ground against other elite guards like Johnny Abarrientos and, later on, Bal David.
Jong Uichico recalled the time he had to meet Victoria before he joined San Miguel.
“I remember I met him at Shangri-La and asked him point blank, ‘Are you really sure you want to play for us and become a back-up point guard of Olsen Racela?’ But he said he had no problems with that,” Uichico said.
Back then, Victoria, who was acquired from Pop Cola for Cris Bolado, was part of the Beermen team that was still building up with Racela and Danny Ildefonso serving as the only stars of the team.
Uichico would rather remember the great times that he shared with Victoria when they were having those winning runs with San Miguel in which they copped five titles in just two years.
“Boybits came in to us and played his role and that’s where I found out how humble of a player he was. He was a star player with his previous team, playing probably 30 to 35 minutes and he’s coming to us playing a minimal role,” Uichico said.
“But he blended with us perfectly and we used him as a dependable guy coming off the bench.”
Guiao said his memory of Victoria is that he was strong, athletic and invincible. That’s why news of his passing came as a shock to him and his family.
“We were shocked,” Guiao said.
“You wouldn’t believe that the memory of Boybits being a strong, athletic guy could end at the age of 50, which is still young.”
He added that Victoria may be gone, but his memories of being a premier playmaker, a good person and, of course, a great friend will live in his heart forever.