Just a year after seeing its brief dynasty coming to an end, Great Taste Coffee had to make drastic changes in its roster and head coach Baby Dalupan had to bring in his old reliable players from the Crispa Redmanizers in his bid to revive the team's winning ways.
Great Taste traded center Manny Victorino and dead-shot guard Jimmy Manansala to Shell to acquire former MVP Philip Cezar and Bernie Fabiosa, 2 players of Dalupan at Crispa.
Following the disbandment of Manila Beer, the Coffee Makers added another asset by bringing in streak shooter Atoy Co.
But the most essential piece came from the Rookie Draft, as Great Taste eyed the missing piece who would become the future of the franchise.
Dalupan had his eyes set on Allan Caidic, his long-time player from University of the East, but landing the lefty gunner to its fold wouldn't have been possible had the Coffee Makers not engage in a trade.
Shell was picking No.1 in the draft, but wanted to bring in point guard Al Solis to shore up its backcourt.
Alaska, picking next, had an agreement of a pick-and-trade deal with Shell for Solis and that allowed Great Taste to select the No.1 pick in the draft.
On this day in the PBA, 35 years ago, Great Taste started to rebuild its franchise by selecting Caidic as the top overall pick in the Rookie Draft and it wouldn't take long before “The Triggerman” made his presence felt and immediately became a part of a winning team.
Quickly, Caidic found himself very much at home.
"Nakatulong ’yung pagpasok ko ng 1987. I was supposed to join ’yung San Miguel noong 1986, pero dahil nga maglalaro pa raw kami sa RP Youth, I was asked to stay, pero hindi naman natuloy," said Caidic.
"Pero nakatulong ’yun dahil nga rin sa mga beterano kong teammates. Nag-gain ako ng experience, nag-grow ako as a player. Kasi kung napasama ako sa San Miguel noon, ganu’n pa rin magiging role namin. Divided ’yung playing time, sanay na kaming ganu’n sa NCC," he added.
"Pero nu’ng nahiwalay ako sa kanila, nagkaroon ako ng sariling identity. Modesty aside, ang dami kong nakuhang records and achievements. I've been playing 40 to 45 minutes. Tapos binigyan pa ako ng exposure ni coach Baby and coach Jimmy Mariano. Imagine, rookie ako, pero nabigyan ako ng playing time."
As a rookie, Caidic established records.
In Game 2 of the 1987 Open Conference best-of-7 championship series against Tanduay, Caidic finished with 48 points, the most by a rookie in a finals.
Caidic returned to the finals in the All-Filipino, but this time, the Coffee Makers got the job done as they swept the Hills Brothers Coffee Kings in 3 games.
By the end of the season, Caidic was unanimous Rookie of the Year winner and became only the 2nd player since Arnie Tuadles to crack the Mythical First Team as a newcomer.
Had Great Taste reached the finals of the season-ending Third Conference, Caidic would have become the first Rookie MVP.
Rey Joble is a sports journalist who has been covering the PBA since 1998, and followed the league as a fan way before that.
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