Generations of Greatness

Top PBA draft pick Ael Banal is set to follow in his father’s footsteps

Despite the big shadow thrown by his dad, top overall PBA rookie pick Raphael “Ael” Banal is ready to take his shot

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 his prime, Joel Banal was known for his ability to perform both as a player and as a coach.
In his prime, Joel Banal was known for his ability to perform both as a player and as a coach.

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!”

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