Legends of the Court: The Best Cebuano Basketball Players

Basketball is not just a sport in Cebu. The passion for this sport runs deep in the province, with the game being played and highly celebrated at all levels—from casual three-on-three to barangay, interschool, and professional leagues that draw large crowds.

This love for basketball in Cebu is very evident in the many talented players that have emerged from the province over the years, from amateur to professional, and even in our national team. In fact, in the rundown of PBA players in 2019, Cebu has the second-most number of delegations next to Pampanga.

Dribbling Greatness: Here Are the Top Cebuano Basketball Players

Needless to say, Cebu has become a hotbed of basketball talent, producing some of the best players in the country. Here are some of the court legends from Cebu who have proven their worth on the national and international basketball scene.

  1. Donaldo “Dondon” Hontiveros

The Cebuano Hotshot, who is now serving the public after garnering the most votes in the 2019 city councilor elections, is a decorated athlete known for being the 6-foot-2 wingman and three-pointer of the University of Cebu Agilas, Cebu Gems of the now-defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association, and PBA as a member of Tanduay Rhum Masters, San Miguel Beermen/ Magnolia Beverage Masters, Air21 Express, Petron Blaze Boosters, and Alaska Aces, for 17 seasons.

Best known for his sharpshooting skills, Dondon Hontiveros became a three-time PBA champion and 13-time All-Star. He also represented the country on the national team, where he gained recognition for his remarkable fast-break plays. Together with Gilas Pilipinas, they secured the silver medal in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship held in China.

  1. Jerry “Defense Minister” Codiñera

Jerry Codiñera may not be a familiar name to the Gen-Zs and some millennials, but true-blooded basketball fans will always remember him as the son of the softball-baseball legend Filomeno “Boy” Codiñera, who hailed from Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City.

Although Jerry May spent his childhood in Manila, his heart and bloodline belong to Cebu. He is widely recognized as one of the greatest players to have graced the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) during the 1980s. Towering at 6.5 feet, he was nicknamed “Defense Minister” for his defensive prowess. With a remarkable 17-year career in the league, he garnered five championships, 11 All-Star selections, three appearances on the Mythical 1st Team, and nine spots on the All-Defensive Team. His impressive track record earned him a spot among the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players of All Time in 2000. 

  1. June Mar “The Kraken” Fajardo

Regarded as one of the best basketball players in the Philippines—with a record-breaking six consecutive PBA Most Valuable Player awards and championships under his belt—the homegrown talent from Pinamungajan, Cebu, currently plays for the San Miguel Beerman in the Philippine Basketball Association. Like Hontiveros, he has been a member of the Philippine national basketball team, Gilas Pilipinas, and has represented the country in several international competitions.

In his younger and teen years, he played center for the University of Cebu Webmasters and the San Miguel Beermen in the ASEAN Basketball League. Like Codiñera, he was a six-time Mythical First Team and eight-time Best Player of the Conference, on top of being hailed as the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year.

  1. Alfie Almario

Included in our list of the best Cebuano players is the finest shooter of the 1980s, Alfie Almario. Playing for the national team, he is best remembered as the “Triggerman of the RP Youth” that crushed China for the ABC Youth Championship at the Araneta Coliseum in 1982. Along with him were Leo Austria, Hector Calma, Derrick Pumaren, Jong Uichico, Elmer Reyes, Jun Tan, Teddy Almario, and the late Rey Cuenco. In 1985, he was also a member of the national team that won the highly prestigious Jones Cup.

Before retiring in 1990, he played for the San Miguel Beermen from 1986 to 1990 under coach Norman Black and became a member of the 1989 Grand Slam Team. 

  1. Francisco Vestil

If you’ve traveled through Barangay Mambaling en route to SRP, you may have come across F. Vestil Street. Interestingly, this street is named after a Cebuano Olympian who represented the Philippines in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London as a member of the RP Men’s Basketball Team. Although the team finished 12th out of the 23 competing nations, Vestil made history as the country’s flag bearer, a remarkable achievement that cemented his place in Philippine sports history.

In 1999, he was heralded by the Philippine Sports Commission as the 1999 National Basketball Hall of Fame Awardee. He also participated in the Invitational Games in Korea in 1938 and in the Far East Games in Tokyo, Japan, in 1940. He became one of the first batch of athletes to be inducted into the Cebu Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

Truly, Cebuano’s passion for basketball has led to the development of several talented players who have made their mark on the sport at the local, national, and even international levels—including Elmer Cabahug, Ernesto Estrada, Raymar Jose, Arnie Tuadles, Eliud Poligrates, Barkley Eboña, J.R. Quiñahan, Aldrech Ramos, Greg Slaughter, Brian Heruela, Roger Pogoy, Mark Tallo, Paul Desiderio, Kris Porter, Ron Dennison, Reed Juntilla, Rob Labagala, Calvin Oftana, Bibiano Ouano, Manuel Paner, Roger Pogoy, Cristobal Ramas, Dale Singson, Jercules Tangkay, Warren Ybañez, Junthy Valenzuela, and Roberto Yburan. May this legacy continue to bear fruit and inspire the next generation of players to push forward and remain steadfast in their chosen field.