This Day in PBA History: Eugene Quilban sets record 28 assists

Rey Joble

Posted at Aug 09 2022 09:14 PM

Johnny Abarrientos was the smallest player to win the Most Valuable Player. 

But Eugene Quilban, his predecessor as the lead point guard at Alaska, was the smallest player to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1991.

Quilban was a key member of Alaska's first champion team that included former collegiate teammate Bong Alvarez and new star player Jojo Lastimosa when Alaska won the title of the season-ending Third Conference of 1991. The Milkmen defeated Ginebra San Miguel in four games of their best-of-five championship series.

In 1991, Alaska had an opportunity to rebuild, as the team just acquired Lastimosa from a trade with Purefoods in exchange for Boy Cabahug. From the Rookie Draft, Alaska was able to get Alex Araneta as the top overall pick and then Quilban, who was acquired as the No.3 pick.

Purefoods, actually, had the ownership of the No.1 pick, but Alaska was able to forge a three-way deal which also involved Sarsi's Elmer Reyes. The Hotdogs were able to secure the services of the veteran Reyes, who became a vital cog in their title run in the 1991 All-Filipino. 

Quilban flourished as a potential star court general, but his stint with Alaska was short lived, and coach Tim Cone didn't have an opportunity to watch this point guard grow more as a player under his tutelage. 

"We only had Eugene for one year," sad Cone. "When he won the Rookie of the Year, we ended up moving him to Pepsi for Jun Reyes, the younger brother of Chot Reyes. So we only had him for only one year."

"He kinda languished at Pepsi because they were not a strong team. For a pure point guard to succeed, you really need strong players around you. Guys who you can set up, guys who can spread the floor for you, so you can attack. He didn't have that early in his career. 

"He had that with Alaska a little bit because of Jojo. He didn't have an opportunity to play along longer with Bong Alvarez because of the injuries, but he still had more better players with Alaska. Pepsi was an expansion team. They were very weak in their first couple of years in the league. So, Eugene never had a chance to develop personal growth with me and those players with Alaska during those times."

Lastimosa, who benefited from those Quilban assists, described the two-time NCAA Most Valuable Player as quite similar to Johnny Abarrientos' playing style except that The Flying A was more dominant.

"They played somewhat similar in a sense that they were both quick and smart. Both were able to create for his teammates. Johnny just had a different flair into his moves that was ahead of our time," wrote Lastimosa in a Viber message to ABS-CBN News. 

But Quilban had that opportunity of playing in another finals run with his new team, 7-Up, in the Third Conference of 1992, but they were swept by Tony Harris and the Swift Mighty Meaties coached by Yeng Guiao.

He had several good games in that 1992 season and on this day, August 9, 30 years ago, Quilban was able to register the record for most assists in a game during the Uncolas' 123-100 rout of Shell.

Quilban dished out 28 assists. 

Looking back, Quilban's former coach at 7-Up, Derrick Pumaren, described the player as one of the best pure point guards he has ever coached.

"Eugene was a small point guard that can create and look for open teammates. He can score, if needed, but he knows his job was to facilitate and run the team. He's a court general, smart and deceptive," added Pumaren via Messenger.

He wound up with the most number of assists during the 1992 season (384). He had a triple-double performance on September 29 that year as he finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

Quilban averaged 10 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game in 1992.

But when Dindo Pumaren moved to Pepsi in 1994 after Pepsi traded rookie pick Ritchie Ticzon, Quilban's numbers diminished as "The Bullet" would emerged as the league's top playmaker during that time.

He moved on to play for other teams — Mobiline, Pop Cola and the last PBA team, Sta. Lucia, before playing in the MBA for the Davao Eagles.

Quilban will have a reunion of sorts with his alma matter as he was invited by his former teammate and Stags coach Egay Macaraya, to join him in the coaching staff a few years ago.