Ronnie and Benjie: a winning tandem

Ronnie Magsanoc and Benjie Paras (right, back turned) have teamed up on champion teams since their high school …

Long-time best buddies Ronnie Magsanoc and Benjie Paras have won several basketball titles playing together. They've won a total of seven basketball championships in various tournaments as a dynamic duo on the playing court. Of course, this Mutt and Jeff tandem is a deadly combination.

Magsanoc is a witty playmaker with outstanding offensive skills. For many years, his ball-handling and dribbling skills have become the barometer for guards in the PBA. And of course, he was famous for his long bombs from downtown. Paras, the only player to win both Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same year in the PBA, was a bull-strong inside operator with excellent post moves and shot-blocking ability.

Together, Magsanoc and Paras wreaked havoc on the floor. And they've been doing it since 1982.

Paras entered San Beda High in 1982 as a gangling 6'3" teener with limited basketball skills. But since he towered over everybody else in campus, the young Benjie was invited by no less than revered high school hoops guru Ato Badolato to join the Red Cubs team where Magsanoc was already a star player. Benjie was joining a powerful junior squad that had taken the NCAA diadem in the previous year. In the roster were future pros and coaches Eric Altamirano, Dindo Pumaren and Gerry Esplana, and Macky De Joya. Ronnie was a willing big brother to the younger Benjie, and he would be instrumental to the latter's quick skills development. That year, the Cubs successfully defended their NCAA title.

In the same year, both Paras and Magsanoc also collaborated to help win an NCAA Track and Field title for San Beda.

Ronnie, of course, played out his last stint with the Cubs that year and went on to don the Maroon jersey of the University of the Philippines in the UAAP. But in 1986, the two would be reunited after Paras decided to suit up for the Fighting Maroons as well. Again, the tandem proved to be lethal as it helped win for UP its first and only men's basketball crown in the UAAP. The Maroons, also starring Benjie and Ronnie, likewise took home the National Inter-collegiate championship that year.

"He's one of the reasons why I became successful (as a player) because he always knew where I was (on the court) and how I played. We were Batman and Robin on the basketball court," said Paras. "I looked up to him in high school being one of the veterans. He was also an MVP candidate that time. He's one of the reasons why I joined UP. Coincidentally, he went to Shell. And fortunately, Shell had first pick when I entered the draft."

Because of their impressive games, Magsanoc and Paras were also included in the National Men's Team roster that coveted the Guam Invitational title also in 1986. So in a single year, the reunited duo won three basketball plums together.

The following year, both would also be key players for the Philippines in its conquest of the South East Asian Games.

Shortly after joining hands for UP and the National Team, both were expected to make waves in the PBA. But as fate would have it, Magsanoc and Paras found themselves playing together once more, this time for the Shell franchise. Ronnie entered the pros earlier. But in 1989, Shell got the first pick in the rookie draft and, as expected, picked Benjie.

The next year, the pair got their first PBA title with Shell, and sixth basketball championship over-all. In the same year too, they helped the Philippines win the silver medal in the Beijing Asian Games.

In 1992, Shell won another PBA crown starring of course Magsanoc and Paras. But this would be the last time the duo would win a championship playing together. They've won a total seven titles since high school.

But exactly 20 years later, Benjie and Ronnie would add another feather in their cap, this time as basketball mentors. Magsanoc was named new head coach of the multi-titled San Beda Red Lions early this year. He invited Paras to be one of his deputies.

With Magsanoc at the helm, and with Paras on his side, the Red Lions claimed their third straight NCAA crown. It was also the tandem's eighth basketball title, but first as coaches.

"It's a huge blessing sharing the journey with Benjie. It's like a dream come true. Championships as teammates. First title as coaches," said Magsanoc.

Since their teen-age days, Benjie and Ronnie have become close pals and went through several battles together. But their friendship even became stronger after their playing days. "I always ask him for advice. When we retired, I became the godfather of his eldest daughter, and we would play in pick up games together about three times a week, including out-of-town and out-of-country games. We would always bring each other along when there are exhibition games," added Paras.

Magsanoc and Paras have won a total of nine titles together including one as basketball coaches, and one in another sport.

Perhaps they're not done yet.

Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.

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