Last week, Juan Gomez de Liaño dropped a career-high 29 points against the defending champions, the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles. The game served as a reminder to the UAAP community why reigning Rookie of the Year was fondly called “the James Harden of the Philippines” back in his high school days.
Like the Houston Rockets superstar, Juan GDL is a leftie with a dynamic offensive game full of crossover dribbles, step-back jumpers, and smooth finishes around the rim. And if Juan GDL keeps his level of play consistent throughout the season, he will undoubtedly become one of the best UAAP players, just like Harden is in the NBA.
And with Juan GDL’s UAAP success so far bringing further appreciation for lefties, now is a good time to look back at some of the best lefties to have stepped on the UAAP court over the past several years. Will Juan Gomez de Liaño end up being the best of the bunch?
Jeff Chan, FEU Tamaraws
Known today as the “Negros Sniper” in the PBA, Jeffrei Allan Chan was once a member of the FEU Tamaraws. Chan was already a noted marksman during his collegiate days and was a key member of the 2005 FEU championship squad led by Arwind Santos. Upon Santos’ graduation, Chan took on the mantle of being the Tamaraws’ main man. Although FEU failed to make it to the Final Four that season, Chan still proved his worth by earning a Mythical Five selection.
Eric Salamat, Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles
Salamat may be one of the most underappreciated Ateneo players in recent history. Many Ateneo fans are disappointed in him due to the fact he wasn’t able to step up as the “main man” during his final playing year as many expected him to. Nonetheless, the Blue Eagles still won their third straight championship that season, and the former San Sebastian high school stand out did play a big role for all three titles. Salamat was one of the best perimeter defenders throughout his UAAP career, and it is safe to say that Ateneo may not have won the games they had if not for his timely stops and occasional clutch baskets.
Jason Perkins, De La Salle Green Archers
Jason Perkins’ UAAP career was an interesting one. As a bruising power forward who can also hit the occasional outside shot, he was selected as a member of the Mythical Five in his first year in the league and helped Jeron Teng lead La Salle to the championship. The “Hefty Lefty” then proceeded to see his minutes dwindle every season afterwards until he was a sporadically-used bench player for the Green Archers during their Season 79 title run, his last season in the UAAP. Despite the weird development, being a Mythical Five member and a two-time champion definitely warrants Perkins’ inclusion in the discussion for the best lefties the UAAP has seen in recent history.
Mark Borboran, UE Red Warriors
Mark Borboran was one of the pioneers of the modern power forward in the UAAP. During a time when power forwards were supposed to be operating mainly from the mid-low post, Borboran was out there bombing threes and attacking defenses from the perimeter. In his final year in the UAAP, Borboran steered the Red Warriors towards a sweep of the elimination rounds and an outright Finals berth (where they were upset by a determined La Salle side) while also earning himself a spot on the Mythical Five.
Bobby Ray Parks, Jr.
Perhaps the greatest leftie the UAAP has seen in recent history, Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. was the personification of NU’s return to relevance in the UAAP basketball scene. The son of legendary PBA import Bobby Parks was an all-around player with virtually no weaknesses to his game. He can hit it from the outside, drive to the basket, and create shots for himself and for others. At 6’4 with above average athleticism, he also had the size and mobility to defend multiple positions in the UAAP.
Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. won the league MVP in his first two seasons with the Bulldogs while turning NU into a consistent Final Four contender.
[EDIT: An earlier version of this article was posted without mentioning Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. That was an unforgivable mistake on my part]