By Drei Christopher Villanueva
Joel Banal is one of the few individuals to win championships both as a player and coach in the PBA. As a player, he was a member of the Great Taste Coffee team that became the most dominant squad after the disbandment of Crispa and Toyota.
A heady player known for his ability to play multiple positions, Banal was a star player of Great Taste Coffee and in his early years, he established himself as one of the best scorers in the PBA. But his versatility made him more as a player every coach wants to have on his team and in 1983, Banal was given the most difficult task he encountered in his career – guarding The Black Superman Billy Ray Bates.
Bates was the super import who led Crispa to two championships capped by a grand slam in 1983. He would return to spearhead Ginebra San Miguel’s first ever championship in 1986. But Banal accepted the challenge and being a two-way player earned him a reputation as one of the most dependable cagers the pro league has produced.
As a coach, he was one of only a few people to win championships in different leagues — Mapua (NCAA), Ateneo (UAAP), Casino Rubbing Alcohol and Hapee (PBL), and Talk N Text (PBA).
These days, Banal’s reputation casts a big shadow on his sons, Gab Banal and Raphael ‘Ael’ Banal, who was recently picked as no. 1 overall in the recent PBA Rookie Draft.
In fact, Gab, the elder sibling, is already a free agent in the PBA and had to content himself with playing in the PCBL and the PBA D-League.
Great expectations are now being levelled on Raphael, but the 6’ 3” guard is up to the task.
“Right from the start, I knew the expectations would be so high,” said the younger Banal. More than living up to being the no. 1 pick, my dad made quite a big reputation as a player and as a coach. But I’m ready for the challenge.”
For Joel, he sees Raphael coming out of his own and won’t be surprised if his son turns out to be a better player than him: “I expect him to become better than me. I’ve seen that as early as 19 when Raphael became a member of the Philippine Youth team. I only joined the national team at the age of 21!”