*Editor’s Note: Added Ateneo’s NCAA championship count
The best Filipino college basketball programs to source premier talent
The collegiate hoops scene is one of the most exciting forms of basketball. It has a rich history, produces exciting young players that become stars in the big leagues, and the school pride is as intense as it gets.
Whether you are a fan of the UAAP or the NCAA (or both), one thing is certain: These collegiate leagues give basketball fans quality entertainment.
But have you ever wondered which are historically the best Filipino college basketball programs? Some go by hype and say that UAAP teams have always outclassed the NCAA, while purists can argue that certain NCAA programs consistently produce legends of their own.
We made this list with two things in mind: the number of school championships and how the players they produced impacted the Filipino basketball scene. Naturally, our picks are up for debate, so feel free to comment your reactions below.
La Salle Green Archers
Notable Players: Mac Cardona, Renren Ritualo, Mike Cortez, Rico Maierhofer, Joseph Yeo, Jamie Malonzo, JV Casio, Jeron Teng.
San Sebastian Stags
Notable Players: Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang, Ronald Pascual, Paul Alvarez, Rommel Adducul, Rodney Santos, Eugene Quillban.
Notable Players: Alvin Patrimonio, Atoy Co, Freddie Hubalde, Leo Isaac, Joel Banal, Romulo Mamaril.
UST Growling Tigers
Notable players: Danny Florencio, Bogs Adornado, Rey Evangelista, Cyrus Baguio, Dennis Espino, Pido Jarencio, Allein Maliksi, Bal David.
The Top 5
UE Red Warriors
Notable ballers: Robert Jaworski, James Yap, Allan Caidic, Jerry Cordinera, Paul Lee, Paul Artadi, Ronald Tubid
It’s a toss-up between UST and UE for a spot in the Top 5. The Red Warriors edged the Growling Tigers since the former is ahead when it comes to championship count despite not winning a title in the past 38 years, which is a testament to how great the institution was in the past.
Not to mention UE also developed PBA superstars who many people consider idols in the sport. UE has produced the likes of Paul Lee, Paul Artadi, and Ronald Tubid, and members of the PBA 40 Greatest Players such as “The Big Game” James Yap, “The Defense Minister” Jerry Cordinera, “The Triggerman” Allan Caidic, and “The Big J” himself, Robert Jaworski.
We just realized the players they produced had one of the coolest nicknames too. Let’s hope this Recto-based squad can regain their previous level of excellence.
Notable ballers: Samboy Lim, Willie Miller, Freddie Webb, Lauro Mumar, Kerby Raymundo, Kevin Alas, Rhenz Abando, Raymond Almazan
Whether you love or hate them, Letran has been a staple of college basketball since winning their first NCAA title in the 1938-39 season.
They’ve won at least one championship for every single decade (excluding the 1940s when the NCAA halted for six years due to World War II), with the most recent in 2022 to complete their second three-peat title in the NCAA.
The Knights also produced PBA legends and members of the 40 Greatest Players like “The SkyWalker” Samboy Lim, Willie “The Thriller” Miller, and Kerby “The Kid” Raymundo; National team members and Olympians like Lauro “The Fox” Mumar, “Fastbreak Freddie” Freddie Webb, “Hot Hands” Chris Calaguio; and newer guys like Kevin Alas, Reymond Almazan, Rey Nambatac and Rhenz Abando.
Letran is the second-winningest team in the NCAA with 20 Seniors Basketball titles.
Ateneo Blue Eagles
Championships: NCAA (14), UAAP (12)
Notable ballers: LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, Kiefer & Thirdy Ravena, Francis Arnaiz, Larry Fonacier, Enrico Villanueva, Ange Kouame
Ateneo is the winningest college program in the country, with 14 NCAA trophies and 12 more in the UAAP when it joined in 1978. The Blue Eagles would find great success from the late 2000s and onwards, having won nine of the last 15 Men’s Basketball titles.
Many famous basketball players were Blue Eagles: the Gin Kings’ LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar, the Ravena brothers Kiefer and Thirdy, who are both currently playing abroad as imports, naturalized player Ange Kouame, Doug Kramer, Larry Fonacier, Enrico Villanueva, as well as all-time greats Francis Arnaiz and Vince Hizon.
The Blue Eagles are so remarkable at basketball that they are the first university backed by Jordan Brand outside the United States.
San Beda Red Lions
Notable ballers: Caloy Loyzaga, Chito Loyzaga, Robert Bolick, Abe King, Baser Amer, Frankie Lim, Calvin Oftana,
San Beda became a dominant force in the NCAA Seniors Basketball from the mid-2000s to 2010s, winning 11 of the league’s 13 championships. They are also the second team to achieve a rare five-peat in NCAA Seniors Basketball, only next to San Sebastian College-Recoletos.
The Red Lions honed great players throughout their history, from youngsters like Robert Bolick, Baser Amer, and Calvin Oftana, to older guys like Abe King, a 13-time PBA Champion, and player-turned-coach Frankie Lim.
Both Chito Loyzaga, one of the PBA’s 40 Greatest Players, and his father, Caloy Loyzaga, known as “The Big Difference” and the star of the 1954 Filipino team that nabbed bronze in the FIBA World Cup, also attended the school.
Currently, the Red Lions are on a three-year title drought in a league dominated by rival Letran, but they’ll be back for sure because, well, they are San Beda.
Notable ballers: Johnny Abarrientos, Arwind Santos, Glenn Capacio, Mark Barroca, Jeff Chan, Terrence Romeo, RR Pogoy, RJ Abarrientos
FEU is the winningest team in all of UAAP Men’s Basketball, having won 20 championships in total, the most recent of which was in 2015.
The Tamaraws, one of the initial league founders in 1938, brought Filipino basketball fans the most exciting players we’ve ever seen: Terrence Romeo, RJ Abarrientos, Arwind Santos, Glenn Capacio, Mark Barroca, Marte Saldana, Jeff Chan, and RR Pogoy.
And remember Johnny “The Flying A” Abarrientos, who caught the eye of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets? Yeah, he’s a product of the Tamaraws too.