Red Bull's Finest



It’s official.

After a couple seasons of being on life support, the Red Bull / Barako Bull franchise has been laid to rest. On July 8, 2011, the PBA board has finally approved the sale of the franchise to Airfreight 2100 with the conditions that the team will be competitive and will not become a SMC franchise.

Conduits... pero nothing else!

Will people remember the squad for their lackluster trades? Gee... I hope not. Red Bull in its eleven year history (technically it’s only ten with the Boosters taking a leave of absence after the first conference of the 2010-11 PBA Season) has reaped a bunch of accolades. There was one time that a PBA season wouldn’t feel complete if Red Bull didn’t make the semis. There was also a time when a PBA season wouldn’t feel complete if there aren’t any Barako / Thunder players either suspended or fighting.

The franchise traced its roots in the Philippine Basketball League during the mid-90’s. The team at times would use Agfa Color as its name (because nothing beats Agfa). The team had a bunch of talented collegiate stars from Manila and Cebu. Amongst the names listed in their all-time PBL roster are Danny Ildefonso, Braulio Lim, Henry Fernandez, Paolo Mendoza, Robin Mendoza, Lordy Tugade, Jimwell Torion, Edwin Bacani, Kerby Raymundo, Junthy Valenzuela, Bernard Tanpua, and Davonn Harp. The team had one championship (1996 PBL All-Filipino) before moving to the pros. In the 2000 jump to the PBA, the Energizers (Red Bull’s then moniker) picked up Harp, Raymundo, Torion, Valenzuela, Tugade, and Tanpua. They also selected UP and ANA Water guard Ogie Gumatay from the 2000 PBA Draft and Mick Pennisi as their direct hire. The Energizers also acquired Glen Capacio, Edmund Reyes, and former PBA MVP Ato Agustin via the expansion draft.

Obviously, the most important person in the history of Red Bull is its long-tenured coach, Yeng Guiao. Guiao was asked by George and Tony Chua and their cohorts to stir Red Bull to greatness. Guiao was then the PBL Commissioner but before that he had championships with Swift/Sunkist. Unlike his stint with the RFM franchise, Guiao didn’t have a Vergel Meneses or Nelson Asaytono to work on. Well... he did actually but both versions of Aerial Voyager and The Bull were at the brink of retirement and were past their primes. Guiao rewards hard workers playing beyond their potential. This is why subpar players like Topex Robinson, Celino Cruz, Warren Ybanez, Carlo Sharma, Reed Juntilla, and not-so-marquee versions of Mike Hrabak and Rich Alvarez were plucked out of obscurity to become helpful parts in his “regime”.

This coaching idea was enough to get Guiao cheered.

The coaching idea that was enough to get Guiao jeered?

Guiao is an ardent believer of extremely physical defense. He will curse to the rafters if he sees his ward fouling softly. It’s not that harsh, compared to the Crispa-Toyota days but the shots were enough to get classified near late 80’s Ginebra levels. Yeng Guiao and his Barako “goons” terrorized the court in gruesome fashion. This part of their repertoire made a bunch of people boo them.

If you look at it, most of the Batang Red Bull stars failed to prosper outside Yeng Guiao’s tutelage. From his debut squad in 2000, only Lordy Tugade and Mick Pennisi remain in the league. I wanted to do a Top 30 list but because of their short tenure, I fear that the players landing in this list are benchwarmers.

Because of this, here is Batang Red Bull Barako’s All-Time Starting Roster.

GAME STARTS NOW!   


STARTING FIVE:

POINT GUARD: WILLIE MILLER
The Thriller
He is the first and only Number One draft pick of Red Bull and The Thriller did not disappoint. While playing sparingly in his first season, he got the nod to start after the suspension of Jimwell Torion and a slew of impressive performances. His name is forever etched in Red Bull’s history as the only player to win the Most Valuable Player Award.

SHOOTING GUARD: LORDY TUGADE
The Alaminos Assassin
He joined the PBL team with little fanfare as his NU teammate Danny Ildefonso got most of the spotlight. When Ildefonso turned pro, Tugade was still in the squad but he has yet to rise. When he came with the squad to the PBA, we slowly saw the evolution of the Alaminos Assassin. He became one of the team’s most popular players and was the Finals MVP of the 2005-06 PBA Fiesta Conference.

SMALL FORWARD: JUNTHY VALENZUELA
The Hitman
If he played for another team, he would have been benched. Hell, I doubt if he would even get drafted. Because of Yeng Guiao rewarding the hard workers, he became one of the most popular Barakos ever. Sure, Guiao also uses him as the “hit man” as his moniker suggests, but The Hitman is also Guiao’s Go To Guy when Yeng needs a clutch basket or a defensive clamp.

POWER FORWARD: ENRICO VILLANUEVA
The Raging Bull
Just like what his moniker suggests, The Raging Bull was the epitome of being bullish. The former UAAP MVP was the forefront of Yeng Guiao’s inside offense. During his stint with Red Bull, Villanueva was almost unstoppable. He almost won a MVP Award, landed a Mythical Team stint, and was named Best Player of the Conference. Villanueva would have won a MVP if Red Bull’s financial woes didn’t force the squad to dismantle their lineup.  

CENTER: DAVONN HARP
The Anchor
If there was one person that can go head-to-head against the likes of Eric Menk and Asi Taulava, it’s the man they dubbed The Anchor. Sure, citizenship issues caused him to move elsewhere but the man is a powerhouse. He was instrumental in Red Bull’s early championship exploits and he almost won a MVP award had not for teammate Willie Miller.

IMPORT: ANTONIO LANG
Tony Lang was part of the Duke champion squads headlined by Christian Laetner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill. The former Phoenix Sun brought his championship savvy to Red Bull and gave the Barako their first PBA title. In return, Lang was named the 2001 Commissioner’s Cup Best Import. He would have given Barako their second title but he was replaced in time of the 2002 Commish Cup Finals. 


SECOND TEAM:

POINT GUARD: JIMWELL TORION
Tora-Tora
In the PBL, Typhoon Torion was a frightening offense and defense machine. When Red Bull moved to the PBA, the fearless Tora-Tora from Salazar’s Institute of Technology brought his game to a new level. He could have been a PBA superstar if not for his on-court and off-court struggles. He could have been the face of the franchise if he didn’t made his PBA career complicated.

SHOOTING GUARD: LARRY FONACIER
The Baby-Faced Assassin
Red Bull was lucky to find the former Ateneo ace still available in the late second round of the 2005 PBA Draft. Nicknamed the Baby-Faced Assassin, Fonacier delighted the crowd with his superb sniping abilities. He is probably the lowest drafted player to win the league’s Rookie of the Year Award.

SMALL FORWARD: CYRUS BAGUIO
Skyrus
Cyrus Baguio had a pretty mediocre rookie season and had to claw his way to get a starting nod. Having the core of the team get decimated also helped his cause but during the 2007-08 Season, critics saw the superstar version of Skyrus by leading the squad to consecutive semifinal appearances despite Red Bull’s talent inadequacies.

POWER FORWARD: NELSON ASAYTONO
The Bull
Beyond question, this version of The Bull is weaker and less bullish. Occasionally he would hit double figures and often his minutes are limited but Asaytono had about five years with the franchise doing his new shtick – hitting those insanely accurate triple bombs.  

CENTER: MICK PENNISI
The Slick
The guy is a sweet-shooting, trash-talking, part-Aussie, part-Filipino who became the last vital cog from their first season to leave the Red Bull camp. The Slick is also a great defensive threat who never backs down from a challenge. Aside from an awesome name, he is also an awesome clutch scorer.

IMPORT: JULIUS NWOSU
He is not a scorer but he got Yeng Guiao’s nod because he gives a premium on defense. This was great and all especially since Red Bull was reeling with the MIA’s of Davonn Harp, Mick Pennisi, Kerby Raymundo, and Jimwell Torion. The Nigerian was also instrumental in helping the Barakos win the 2002 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.


RESERVES:

GUARD: TOPEX ROBINSON
The diminutive guard was acquired by Red Bull after an impressive stint with PBL’s Shark Energy Drink. He didn’t carry his scoring to the pros but “The Pit Bull” managed to retain his impressive rebounding and orchestrating skills.  

GUARD: CELINO CRUZ
It was a shock that the former FEU stalwart was left unsigned when he was drafted but thanks to a stint with Shell, Cruz got his entry to the league. He did not disappoint and he was a decorated pawn in Yeng Guiao’s rotation.

GUARD: WARREN YBANEZ
The former PSBA Jaguar came to the team as a free agent. While he was the third point guard in Yeng Guiao’s rotation, he used his minutes well and at his unselfish playmaking abilities rewarded Ybanez increased playing time. After his contract expired, he became a fixture with the Philippine Patriots.

FORWARD: LEO NAJORDA
He meshed late with the squad finishing his commitments with San Sebastian but when he joined the squad in 2005, he did not disappoint. At one point he was one of the team’s scoring leaders and in fact the one of the last vital cogs (from their winning seasons) to be sent away from the franchise.

FORWARD: KERBY RAYMUNDO
At 19, this former Letran Knight was the top acquisition of the Red Bull Energizers. However, it was revealed that his high school records were falsified and subsequently he was suspended for a year. He returned just in time to help the now-called Thunder to the 2001 PBA Commissioner’s Cup title. Afterwards he was sent to Purefoods.

CENTER: CARLO SHARMA
He started out in Shell and drifted to Coke but he was never the guy people look at. That is until the bruiser was placed in the cudgels of Yeng Guiao where he was wonderfully used by Red Bull as their resident enforcer. There was a point where Sharma was more used than Enrico Villanueva – which was a subtle indication that The Raging Bull was on his way out.

IMPORT: RAY TUTT
King Tutt played in two seasons for the Thunder. He was a prolific scorer for their Governor’s Cup squads but he just can’t give team a title. He holds the franchise record for most points in a single game with 56 points.  

IMPORT: JAMES PENNY
James Penny was explosive, analytical, and has a high basketball IQ which made him the perfect import to send the team to the top of the 2005-06 Fiesta Conference. While he was just a replacement for scoring monster Quemont Greer, that feat gave him a bunch of return stints.  


Aside from the mentioned, other notable performers to don the Red Bull colors are Vergel Meneses, Ato Agustin, Al Solis, Vince Hizon, Glenn Capacio, Edmund Reyes, Noli Locsin, Jay Mendoza, Rich Alvarez, Homer Se, Paolo Bugia, Magnum Membrere, and a slew of others. In fact, Asaytono, Agustin, Capacio, Mendoza, Solis, Reyes, and Hizon retired after playing for the squad. When Red Bull has winning seasons they equip their roster with accomplished stars in the brink of retirement. When the Barakos have losing seasons, players use their stints as the squads to catapult their careers to the next level. Players like Gabby Espinas, Mark Isip, Hans Thiele, Reed Juntilla, Jojo Duncil, Larry Rodriguez, Paolo Hubalde, Pong Escobal, Gilbert Lao, Yousif Aljamal, and Jeff Chan made use of their Barako Bull stints wisely. The squad was also used as a re-starting point for veterans who thought they could still deliver like Sunday Salvacion, Aris Dimaunahan, Mike Hrabak, and Alex Crisano.

In terms of NBA players, joining the fray are Tony Lang, Julius Nwosu, Sean Lampley, Earl Barron, and former Chicago Bull Scott Burrell.

The Barakos finished with an all-time record of 150 wins and 169 losses but the win-loss percentage is deceiving since their last five conferences were purposely abysmal. Lopsided trades and financial despair was enough to send Red Bull to disbandment.

Red Bull is a franchise people love to hate. I remember a time when they battled Ginebra. People terrorized Junthy Valenzuela because he looks like current Bubble Gang star Diego Llorico. But Red Bull is more than what you’re thinking.

Red Bull is a team that gives equal opportunities for players to succeed.

Ang bumangga... GIBA!

Game over.

2 Awesome Critics:

No mention of Larry Fonacier?
Won rookie of the year as part of Red Bull and was instrumental in one of their championships?

Anonymous
July 12, 2011 at 10:02 AM comment-delete

uhh... dude he's at the second team part.

July 12, 2011 at 7:05 PM comment-delete

Post a Comment