Whatever happened to the next great Filipino shooter?

With a whole list of records to his name, the legendary Allan Caidic is arguably the greatest shooter in PBA history. PBA Media Bureau

Ask any knowledgeable PBA fan to name the greatest shooter in league history, and chances are the name Allan Caidic will be a frequent answer.

The 1987 PBA Rookie of the Year and 1990 Most Valuable Player, Caidic was called 'The Triggerman' during his 13-year professional career for his shooting prowess.

Several local scoring records remain in his name to this day, to wit:

  • Most points in a game (79)

  • Most three-point field goals made and attempted in a game (17 of 27)

  • Most points in a half (53)

  • Most points in a quarter (37)

  • Most consecutive three-point field goals made in a game (8)

Caidic is second all-time in three-point baskets made with 1,242 (Jimmy Alapag leads the way with 1,250), even though he is the only player in the top ten who played less than 600 games. His career three-point percentage of .368 is 6th-best all-time and second-best for players who have taken at least 3,000 attempts.He led the league in three-point field goals made in each of his first five seasons, and the 160 triples he buried in his MVP season of 1990 is still the third-highest single season mark in PBA history. (By comparison, in the league's last full season in 2019, RR Pogoy hit 124.) Overall he led the PBA in this category for seven seasons, most all-time. He also led the league in single-season scoring average five different times, the most by any player.

In terms of career free-throw percentage, Caidic (.870) trails only Ricardo Brown (.876). They are only two players who shot .870 or better from the line in their careers.

It wasn't just in the PBA that Caidic struck fear in the hearts of defenders. He also had an excellent track record with the national team.

He scored 21 points for the Philippines national team in a 108-100 win against a United States team composed of future NBA players in the 1985 William Jones Cup championship game. He dropped 22 on China to lead the Philippines to the 1985 ABC (now known as FIBA-Asia) title, the last time the country topped the tournament.

In the 1990 Asian Games, the first time professionals were allowed to compete, he poured in 34 in a come-from-behind win over Japan. Hosts China respected his shooting so much that they assigned a player to shadow Caidic wherever he went during the gold medal match.

Even after retiring, Caidic continued to display his other-worldly shooting skills in various exhibition games, including in two against retired NBA legends in 2009 and 2010 that drew praise from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Glen Rice. Most recently in Canada, he knocked down 18 triples in a PBA Legends exhibition game last June.

There is no question Caidic is one of the all-time greats in PBA history, possibly one of the top ten greatest ever. And given his stellar performance in international competition, he also has a legitimate claim to being arguably the greatest shooter in Philippine basketball history.

But while the three-point shot is more widely used now than during Caidic's heyday, no one has come close to breaking his records.

Several outstanding pure shooters have emerged in the PBA after Caidic's retirement -- Renren Ritualo, Dondon Hontiveros, Marcio Lassiter and Matthew Wright come to mind -- but none of these players has approximated Caidic's accomplishments.

Meanwhile, in international competition, Korea, the Philippines' first great Asian rival, has continuously produced a talented, feared shooter every generation (Shin Dong Pa, Lee Chung Hee and Hur Jae come to mind). Not so with Philippines.

Caidic himself followed in the footsteps of past shooting legends who made names for themselves internationally: Narciso Bernardo, Jun Papa, Jimmy Mariano, Bogs Adornado. Yet after him, is there a player who can truly claim to be the next great Filipino shooter?

ESPN asked the man himself, and he believes that, at least in the Philippine setting, "shooting has become a lost art".

"Through the years, the evolution of basketball has changed," Caidic told ESPN in a mixture of Tagalog and English. "It depends on the system of the coach. If you recall, before, there were designated plays for shooters. They would set you up, they would set screens. At the same time the coach gives you the license to shoot. So you know your role on the team.

"What I've seen in the evolution of basketball, now anyone can shoot. Once you have the ball, it's up to you to do what you want. Shooters are just bail-out guys in the corner. When someone attacks, and he has no shot, it's an emergency kick-out to the shooter.

"Back in the day, there were plays for shooters. Screen the screener, single-double. Motion offense, they set screens for you. If you're open you can take it."

Gilas Pilipinas assistant coach Jong Uichico, who was teammates with Caidic during their days on the Northern Consolidated Corporation (NCC) national pool in the mid-80s, believes that the NBA's influence on local basketball culture could also have had an effect.

"So many factors," he told ESPN. "One is we're NBA-oriented. We tend to emulate them. So the skills that are being practiced are more on one-on-one skills. Unlike in the European game, they're more overall skilled. Like shooting, that's important to them because they are not that athletically gifted."

Uichico, who also heads up the Coaches Commission of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) that conducts workshops for Filipino coaches all over the country, believes the most recent generation of players, who grew up idolizing high flyers like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, would rather do one-on-one moves to get to the basket than shoot consistently from the outside.

"(In Europe), their emphasis is on shooting," added Uichico. "Every day, they emphasize shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting. Why? Because in the program development of the national team, the emphasis is shooting. But in the landscape in the Philippines, the thinking is, 'I can get to the basket anytime.'

"Michael Jordan is good. But why can't we emulate someone like a Steve Kerr?"

Aside from copying moves to the hoop, Uichico believes the current wave of Filipino players are also concentrating more on fancy dribbling moves, adding: "In the grassroots level, they're being taught how to dribble like (James) Harden and (Steph) Curry.

"That's what skills coaches are teaching, because that's what they're seeing in the NBA. Most of the players when they get the ball, the first thing they do is a stepback move. I'm not saying it's wrong. It's just that not all players have that move. Give those moves to Steph Curry or James Harden. The rest of us, we need to practice our shooting.

"In national program environment, shooting is so important because this is the only thing that will sustain us. Shooting and speed. Forget about size. We will never have size. We can have a little size but we cannot compare to the others. We can have speed and quickness, but speed and quickness are useless if we cannot shoot.

"The basic fundamentals are shooting, passing, catching dribbling. They're all important. You can't just be a shooter or a passer. But we're not emphasizing shooting that comes off the movement."

Practice makes perfect

Both Caidic and Uichico believe that while most Philippine basketball teams generally set aside time for players to work on their shooting, it's still not enough, and players have to put in the work.

"Not enough time is devoted to shooting in practices," noted Caidic, who has coached at both the professional and collegiate level. "Usually before practice ends, a coach will tell his players to make eight of ten free throws before wrapping up. Do you think those ten free throws will help you improve? No. It's more on volume shooting. Players need to put in extra work, extra shooting."

Caidic now conducts personal shooting drills to young players, where he emphasizes the importance of repetition.

"I do personal shooting lessons for kids," he explained. "I can guarantee you, in a two-hour session a kid I handle will shoot 400 to 500 shots. If you shoot only 50 shots after practice, 10 shots per spot, nothing will happen."

Aside from Caidic, one of the deadliest shooters to come out of the NCC program was Alfie Almario, who shot .368 from three-point land as an amateur player for NCC during the team's two-season stint as a guest team in the PBA from 1984 to 1985 (Caidic shot .398, while naturalized player candidate Chip Engelland hit a .411 clip).

While he didn't have a lengthy PBA career, Almario was arguably the best spot-up shooter his era. His secret? Practice, practice, practice, according to Uichico.

"After practice, he would shoot a lot," Uichico recalled. "That's why his shooting improved. If you practice those shots every day, 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, I'm sure you'll become a better shooter.

"I'd be taking off my shoes and he'd still be shooting. I'd be on my way home and he'd still be shooting. He became a good shooter, I did not. He spent the time, I did not. He could stay there for an hour after practice, just shooting.

"During our time, when we walked into practice, what was the first thing that we worked on? It's shooting. Now, when you go on the court, it's dribbling. I'm not saying it's wrong. I'm just saying we spend more time dribbling than we do extra shooting. That's why I emphasize extra shooting before or after practice.

"Yes, you should teach them how to dribble, but the dribbling has (to have) a purpose. Not you holding the ball for five seconds and your teammates are not doing anything."

Former Gilas Pilipinas coach Rajko Toroman concurs, adding that even if you're a naturally gifted shooter, you should still practice your shot.

"First of all, you have a natural shooter and the shooters who come to (a) high percentage by repetition," Toroman said in an email to ESPN. "Bogdan Bogdanovic said in one interview that after the practice he shoots 600 three-point shots. There is no special formula in practice, just repetition."

What other countries are getting right

In the 2019 FIBA World Cup, the Philippines ranked 31st out of 32 countries in three-point shooting percentage with a paltry .252 clip. In contrast, Iran shot .413 and Korea .313. The Koreans, in particular, have always been known to produce excellent outside shooters. What could their secret be?

"I once asked a Korean coach, 'How come your players have very consistent shooting?'" Caidic shared. "His answer was very simple. He said Filipinos start learning to dribble and pass first. Koreans learn to shoot first.

"A lot of Philippine teams, college teams and even the national team, have gone to Korea to learn this. But the way I see it, it's hard to replicate because the Koreans have been doing it since they were young. So if their 3 (small forward) or 4 (power forward) shoots a three, they have a high percentage."

"In the international arena, you should be able to make the open shot, even if you're a big man," Uichico noted, while adding that Koreans also practice how to get off certain shots.

"The difference between their shooting and ours is their shooting is off the movement, not a standstill shot. Most of the shots you are getting are off the pick, off the move, off the catch. So those are the shots that need to be perfected, not standstill."

Toroman thinks that it also boils down to confidence. Just because you're a good shooter in the PBA doesn't mean you'll also be a good shooter in international competition.

"When you play in the PBA and you play in the World Cup, it's a different level of confidence and different level of defense," added Toroman.

The Serbian coach, who most recently handled the Indonesian basketball program, also believes a team's offensive system must help its shooters.

"Sometimes you have to create open situations for your shooters," he noted. "Overall the most important (factors) for the good shooters are character and repetition."

Joe Lipa, a many-time national team coach, was one of the first Filipino coaches to bring his teams to Korea to study the style of play there. He also notes the importance Koreans give to shooting practice.

"They have a lot of drills for three-point shooting," Lipa shared. "And they train day in and day out. We're not far behind, but in their case they always have that one outstanding shooter."

Lipa also shared Toroman's view about international play differing from the PBA.

"International competition is at another level, especially in Asia," he said. "And you're under more pressure. The talents you are facing are tremendous. That's why if you recall when Danding Cojuangco took over the NCC program, he got Allan Caidic, developed Almario and got Chip Engelland."

So who are the best Filipino shooters in recent times?

It's fair to say that no one has come close to duplicating Caidic's career. Uichico says that it's possible his former teammate is simply a generational talent.

"Maybe Allan is one-of-a-kind. I don't have the answer. Maybe he spent more time perfecting the shots that he will be taking in the game. I really cannot pinpoint an answer as to why the rest did not get to that standard."

That being said, Uichico says a number of players have come along in the past several years whom he can call excellent shooters.

"Renren (Ritualo) has such a fundamentally sound shot," he noted. "(But) he did not come out to be another Allan Caidic.

"The only two names that come to mind when you say knockdown shooter are Jeff Chan and Marcio Lassiter."

Toroman, who coached Lassiter on the original Gilas team from 2009 to 2011, also has the San Miguel hotshot on his list. "Philippine players are good shooters," he said, before rattling off the names of Lassiter, Matthew Wright, LA Tenorio, Jvee Casio, Kiefer Ravena and Dwight Ramos.

Caidic went one step further, naming the 12 players he feels would provide the best shooting for Gilas Pilipinas in next year's World Cup. "Matthew Wright, Dwight Ramos, Rhenz Abando, Calvin Oftana," were the first four names he mentioned. "Then I want thinking and smart point guards. Matt Nieto and Robert Bolick. SJ Belangel.

"After that, it's June Mar (Fajardo), (Carl) Tamayo, (Jordan) Clarkson, Japeth (Aguilar). Twelfth man, choose among (Kevin) Quiambao, (Francis) Lopez, (Will) Navarro, (Justine) Baltazar."

Caidic called Oftana and Abando "long and athletic steady shooters," while Nieto reminds him of Hector Calma, his former NCC and San Miguel teammate who is regarded as one of the smartest point guards the Philippines has ever produced. Belangel, he added, has a lot of confidence.

Lipa mentioned only Lassiter, while adding that he doesn't agree that the Philippines has a dearth of shooters.

"You know, we have a lot of good shooters. It's only a matter of assembling them," Lipa claimed.

(Note: Marcio Lassiter has the highest three-point field goal percentage among active players at .379. That mark is also third-best all-time behind Ronnie Magsanoc who shot .383 for his career and -- surprise! -- Michael Hrabak, who is the best three-point shooter in PBA history with .401.)