'Pinoy Sakuragi' earns praise from former teammates

Published May 27, 2021, 3:35 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Marc Pingris won seven championships with James Yap, left, and PJ Simon, right, as teammates with the Purefoods franchise. (PBA Images)

James Yap and some members of San Mig Super Coffee’s 2014 Grand Slam team joined in on paying tribute to Marc Pingris, who decided to retire after 16 seasons in the PBA.

Yap posted a heartfelt message on Instagram, thanking Pingris for everything he had done during their time with the Purefoods franchise.

They won seven championships during their time which saw the team parade multiple brands, including the triple crown which saw Yap and Pingris play prominent roles during that run.

“Madami-dami din tayong pinagdaanan na gyera sa loob ng court, magkasama tayo sa hirap at sa saya. Sabay tayo nagsimula in 2004 kaya nagulat ako na magretire ka na,” said Yap, who is now with Rain or Shine.

“Gusto ko na take tong opportunity na to na pasalamatan ka sa lahat ng ginawa mo para sakin. You were one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. Our brotherhood and friendship started with basketball pero alam ko that we go beyond that, na kahit di na tayo pareho naglalaro di magbabago ang samahan natin. Congrats sa retirement tol. See you around!”

Pingris’ retirement meant that Yap is the only active player left from the 2004 PBA Draft class.

Yap was selected second overall by Purefoods while Pingris was taken third by FedEx. The two joined the pro ranks after a brief time as teammates with Welcoat in the Philippine Basketball League.

Joe Devance, another member of the Mixers’ Grand Slam squad, also expressed his appreciation towards the man they call “Pinoy Sakuragi” for his blue-collar work in the paint.

“You have been a great teammate, a great leader and a great person! You put the Philippines on your back and represented a whole nation with great class and PUSO!!! Our team we had will forever be remembered in the history books and you were our backbone,” Devance said.

“You already know how I feel about you, Ping, it’s all love and we will always remain brothers playing basketball or not! I know the work doesn’t stop now but enjoy getting away from the game you put so much heart, blood sweat and tears for. Love you my brother!!!” added the current Barangay Ginebra San Miguel cager.

Mark Barroca, one of the remnants of that Grand Slam team, praised “Ping” for his sacrifices and leadership on and off the court.

“Maraming salamat tol sa 10 years na pag sasama natin sa court marami tayong pinag daanan na laban nanalo tayo at natatalo tayo. Pero sobrang bless ko na makasama kita manalo ng mga championship at yung grand slam natin.

“Saludo ako sa sakripisyo na ginawa para team yung mga leadership mo sa loob at labas ng court. Marami kang napa-hanga mga tao. Good luck tol sa next chapter ng buhay mo. Wala ng makaka pantay sa Sakuragi ng Pinas,” added Barroca.

Yap, Devance and Barroca followed the lead of former San Mig coach Tim Cone and beloved utility man Jun Rillo, who was remembered for measuring the length of Pingris’ foot from the endline during the 2014 Governors’ Cup Finals.