The name may seem very unfamiliar to many, because the UAAP career of Eduardo “Eddie” Viaplana was almost as quiet as he is in real life, except when he was on one of his three-point shooting sprees, which oftentimes broke the game wide open for De La Salle and made the Green Faithful roar with approval.
Eddie Viaplana is a personal friend, someone this writer grew up watching, played with and against, and idolized as a shooter extraordinaire with unlimited range. Rarely has there been a shooter in the collegiate ranks with such a quick release and deadly accuracy from beyond the three-point arc, and fans of collegiate hoops in the late ‘80s will surely remember Eddie V, as he was oftentimes called, as a vital cog in the back-to-back La Salle UAAP Seniors champion teams of 1989 and 1990.
Born on 05 October 1968, Eddie did not become serious with basketball until he was already in his teens. Although he was taller than most kids his age, his greatest basketball skill, even then, was shooting from the outside. At the start of games, he jumped at center mainly due to his height, but after the jumpball, he would settle into his comfort zone, which was anywhere from ten to thirty feet away from the basket, and hoist up shots from anywhere, hitting his line-drive, from-behind the head set-shot, more often than not.
The shooting and scoring skills of Eddie V started gaining notoriety in the Dasmariñas Village Inter-color Summer Leagues in Makati, where he would regularly score in the 30s. This was despite double and triple-teaming. His quick release and shooting style allowed him to hoist his shot despite multiple coverage, and many times, his point total would be in multiples of three, because three-point shooting is what he did best, and what he did most. His skills did not go unnoticed, since in the Dasmariñas summer league, he played with and against many other standouts, such as Richard Bachmann and Joey Santamaria, who would be his teammates at De La Salle, and brothers Jun and Billy Reyes, of Ateneo and UST, respectively. Regulars at the Dasmariñas court would see Eddie routinely stand at the half-court line and hit set-shot three pointers, one after the other. This writer was himself a witness.
Enrolled in High School at little-known Southridge in Alabang, which did not even have a basketball varsity team until school-year 1985-86, his graduating year, did not hinder Eddie. Playing under coaches Leo Daez (who once played for Ateneo), Ompong Segurra (yes, of Toyota fame), and Bobby Rentoy, the buzz grew stronger about the long-range gunner from the south, when, despite strong centers from other schools (e.g. Benjie Paras of San Beda and Danny Francisco of Ateneo), he was named the Mythical Team center for the MMBL tournament. He started at center for Southridge, being its tallest player at only 6’2, and averaged about 30ppg, although once again, most of his shots came from the outside. Despite just one year of high school varsity basketball, he tried his luck as a walk-on at De La Salle, which was just entering the UAAP. Going through regular try-outs, coach Derrick Pumaren awarded him a spot on the team, which already included Bachmann and Santamaria, Gee Abanilla, Mike Huang, Dong Vergeire and Dindo Pumaren.
De La Salle did adequately in its first two seasons in the UAAP, but its breakthrough season was in 1988, when it reached the finals against archrival Ateneo. De La Salle lost in a close game, but, despite Dindo Pumaren leaving afterwards, De La Salle had a powerful team for the next season, with outstanding players both in the front and back courts. In ’88, DLSU won the National Inter-Collegiate Championship, a precursor of the current PCCL, previewing their roster of talent for the next UAAP season.
In the next two years, De La Salle would win back-to-back championships, with Eddie V starting at the shooting guard spot. His shooting was, in fact, so lethal, that plays were run specifically to get him open for his split-second release, usually from rainbow territory, which found the bottom of the net. Other players on the powerhouse champion teams were household names at the time, like Noli Locsin, Dwight Lago, Jun Limpot, Jonjon Cardel, Teddy Monasterio, Jonas Mariano, Addy Papa, and Rafa Dinglasan.
While still playing for De La Salle, Eddie played briefly for Magnolia in the PABL (now PBL). After five years and two championships with the De La Salle varsity, Eddie continued his PABL career with the Triple V franchise, also under Derrick Pumaren, and with Burger Machine under Chot Reyes. He was also part of a PABL selection that represented the country in the Jones Cup in 1991. It was after the Jones Cup when, during a practice session with Burger Machine, Eddie injured his knee, suffering an ACL tear. After a slow recovery, he decided to retire for good and join the family business, which deals in construction machinery. When joining the family business he might have had the idea to reconsider the business insurance by checking out brokers similar to lendingexpert.co.uk but I digress. Burger Machine, recognizing his high basketball acumen, offered him the head coaching job, but, in his words he “politely declined”, knowing he was not ready. Instead, he recommended his good friend and ex-teammate Perry Ronquillo, who won a championship as head coach of Burger Machine and eventually went on to coach in the PBA.
Growing up, Eddie idolized PBA legend Ramon Fernandez. But, it is his two other favorite players who he perhaps patterned his game after, with trademark great shooting touches – three-time PBA MVP Bogs Adornado and three-time NBA MVP Larry Bird – two of the best shooters ever to lace up high-tops. It was in emulating them that he developed his great touch from beyond the three point line.
Now, Eddie is firmly entrenched in the family business. He has been married since 1996 and has one daughter, Isabella, who is twelve years old. His interests include jogging, surfing the Internet, watching movies, reading, listening to music and watching and playing sports on occasion. He still loves basketball and is quite up to date with current goings-on in the major basketball leagues here and abroad.
When talking about the UAAP, Eddie says that he treasures every moment of the five years he had at De La Salle. For him, it was definitely a dream come true, to be able to play college basketball. He was just glad to have made the team, but is overwhelmed that more than just making the team, he started on two champion squads. Definitely, what stand out for him are the back-to-back championships in 1989 against FEU and 1990 versus UE. He is thankful to have played in the 1988 finals against Ateneo, even if De La Salle lost, because the experience gained there was invaluable.
Eddie says that the players on the De La Salle teams he was on were very close and got along well. He remembers the Ateneo players during his time very well, too – Jun Reyes, Francisco, Albert Mendoza, Seph Canlas, Jet Nieto and Nonoy Chuatico. He particularly remembers Nieto, who played the same position he did, but for the Eagles. Other notable players that played shooting guard at the time, whom Eddie guarded and who guarded him, were Bong Ravena of UE, Joey Guanio of UP, Nandy Garcia of Adamson, Andy de Guzman of FEU, Bobby Jose of UST and “a certain Artificio” of NU, Eddie recalls. He remembers that he was runner-up to Guanio in a three-point shooting tournament that ran for a whole season in 1989.
As for Ateneo, Eddie says that there was mutual respect between its players and the Archers. There was always the “alaskahan” between them, but he never took it personally and even found it entertaining. Some of his good friends studied in Ateneo.
Eddie envies the players nowadays, saying that “they never had it so good.” There is just so much support in terms of media coverage and alumni backing. During his time, Eddie said, “We were ecstatic to get a free pair of shoes and a bag!” But, while he admits that the players nowadays are more athletic, he doubts whether, skill-wise, they are superior to the players of his day (and says this with a big smile on his face). He does admit, though, that “every player is biased towards his era.” But indeed, the college players now get a lot more perks and benefits, which make him wish he was born later (!), but that shows progress and development. Other than occasionally watching the games, he is not involved with the UAAP today. He is happy, of course, with the performance of his alma mater in the past fifteen years, enjoying great success and many championship runs.
As far as the international game, he acknowledges that teams are getting stronger and stronger and keeping up is very difficult, but not impossible. We just have to take it a step at a time, and perhaps reigning once again in Asia is the first step.
Although he never made it to the PBA, he thinks the league is doing great. What he dislikes, though, is that some teams have many of the superstars on their rosters, which has “the tendency to cause a lack of competitive balance” (Funny he said this, since Eddie is the brother-in-law of Alaska Coach Tim Cone, who is married to the elder sister of Eddie, and you all know Coach Tim publicly expressed his displeasure with some recent trades.).
Having had the opportunity to play in the UAAP, make the finals three times and win successive championships, Eddie can only look back and smile. Some said he was too slow, others, that he was not aggressive enough. But despite his shortcomings, he worked hard, played for some of the most successful coaches in the country, and started on winning teams, always exhibiting sportsmanship and class. While his name may not echo the way many of the former UAAP superstars’ names do, those who remember him will never forgot his marksmanship from beyond the arc, from rainbow country, where he thrived.