Vergel Meneses (b. January 14 1969, Malolos, Bulacan) -- nicknamed "The Aerial Voyager" -- is a Filipino professional basketball player who last played for the Talk N' Text Phone Pals in the Philippine Basketball Association. He is also a former PBA Most Valuable Player and a many-time member of the Philippine National team. A high leaper blessed with a deft shooting touch, a dozen post moves and an eye for the open man, Meneses has been described as the most talented player ever to play in the PBA
He averaged 17.7 ppg, 1.6 apg and 2.2 rpg in 39 games during his rookie year but he lost the ROY award to bossom buddy, Ferdinand "Bong" Ravena. But everybody understood that it was simply because Ravena's team, San Miguel Beer, had a lot more success than Meneses' Presto team. However, he was named to the All-Star team for the year and also won the first of his back-to-back Slam Dunk trophies.
After spending one conference with Sta. Lucia, he was dealt to the Swift Hotdogs where his star continued to glow even brighter. Together with import Ronnie Thompkins, the two led Swift to the championship of the 1993 Commissioner's Cup.
During the year he showed all and sundry what a prolific talent he would be by winning the Most Improved Player (MIP) award while averaging 16.3 ppg, 3.0 apg and 2.7 rpg splitting time with the Realtors (22 games) and Swift Hotdogs (50) teams. He was also named to the Mythical Second Team as well as his 2nd All-Star berth and 2nd Slam Dunk trophy.
In 1994, he further elevated his game to newer heights by bagging the Best Player of the Conference award in the season-ending Governor's Cup which started a string of three (3) straight BPC awards spilling over to the first two (2) conferences of the 1995 season, thereby becoming the first three-time recipient of the award.
For the year, he led Swift Hotdogs to a runner-up finish in the Governor's Cup together with import Herb Jones. He was named to his 3rd consecutive All-Star and at season's end, he was amply rewarded with a berth in the Mythical First Team after posting averages of 19.6 ppg, 3.1 apg and 4.6 rpg in 71 games.
In 1995, Meneses won the prestigious Most Valuable Player award after only four (4) years in the league when he averaged a career-high 20.0 ppg, 5.4 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.8 bpg and 3.3 rpg in 70 games. He made it once again to the Mythical First Team, his 4th straight All-Star appearance where he won the first of his record-setting 4 All-Star MVP awards, and the BPC awards of the first two (2) conferences, the All-Filipino and Commissioner's Cups as well as the Pro Basketball Player of the Year award from both the PSA and SCOOP Awards giving bodies. By winning the BPC awards of the first two conferences he became the first multiple as well as three-time winner of the said award.
He also led his team, re-christened as Sunkist Orange Juice, to the championship of both the All-Filipino and Commissioner's Cups (with Ronnie Grandison as import). After that, the coveted Grand Slam was beckoning. However, a loss to the Shell Rimula-X team in the playoff for the second finals berth denied them a shot at clinching what would have been only the 4th Grand Slam in the league after the Crispa Redmanizers (1976 & 1983), and the San Miguel Beermen (1989). They eventually finished 2nd runner-up with import Stevin Smith in tow. In the process, he also lost the BPC award to former teammate Caidic for the conference denying him a sweep of the individual awards for the year (season MVP, All-Star MVP, BPC awards, Mythical First Team).
In 1996, he made it to the 5,000-point club becoming the 5th fastest player to do so. He also became the first local player in ten (10) years to win both the scoring and assists titles, averaging 19.6 and 6.6, respectively, while adding 4.0 rpg in 37 games. He also made his 5th straight All-Star appearance. However, the team bombed out in all 3 conferences failing to make it past the elimination round.
In 1997, he made it to his 6th straight All-Star game and averaged 17.1 ppg, 5.1 apg and 3.6 rpg in 37 games. However, his team, re-christened as Pop Cola Bottlers, continued its downfall, failing to make it past the elimination round of all 3 conferences for the 2nd straight year.
The 1998 season saw somewhat of a re-birth not only for Meneses but for the team as well as they posted two 2nd runner-up finishes in the All-Filipino Cup and Commissioner's Cup (with long-time Philippines resident Norman Black as import). But his inclusion in the 1998 Centennial team that represented the country in the 21st William Jones Cup (Champion) and the 13th Asian Games (Bronze Medal), spelled doom for the team in the Governors' Cup as it again failed to make the Final Four.
Individually, however, Meneses had another outstanding year. He averaged 17.6 ppg, 4.3 apg and 3.2 rpg in 30 games. He also was a Member of the PBA All-Star team that went up against the NBA’s Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Gatling and company in the "Shaq-a-rap Tour" as well as the Centennial team that went up against various NCAA Division I schools in the US as part of the country’s preparation for the 13th Asian Games. He also made it to his 7th straight All-Star game where he won his 2nd All-Star MVP, becoming the first player to win multiple All-Star MVP awards. He was later on joined by Benjie Paras who won both the 1989 ROY and MVP awards and repeated as MVP in 1999, who was a two-time All-Star MVP. The two were joined in the elite club much later by Asi Taulava and Jay-jay Helterbrand who split the All-Star MVP award from 2004-2007, Taulava winning it in even-numbered years in 2004 and 2006 and Helterbrand bagging it in odd-numbered years in 2005 and 2007.
The year 2000 was another good year for Meneses as he further cemented his place in the annals of the PBA as well as the PBL. He was selected as part of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players as well as the PBL’s 12 Greatest Legacy Team. He again made another All-Star appearance, his 8th, where he won his 3rd All-Star MVP award. For the season, Meneses averaged 13.3 ppg, 3.4 apg and 3.5 rpg in 32 games.
Meneses had four solid seasons with the Kings. In 2001, with injuries, as well as the arrival of rookie guard Fil-American Mark Caguioa, Meneses' minutes diminished. The highlight of his stay with the San Miguel Corporation-owned company was when the Kings made its first finals appearance in four years, when they lost to sister club San Miguel Beer in the All-Filipino Cup finals. Meneses posted averages of 11.2 ppg, 10th-best 3.2 apg and 3.1 rpg in 49 games for the year 2001 with Barangay Ginebra, his lowest averages since entering the league in 1992.
In 2003, he was named to the PBL’s Top 20 Players for his exploits at Magnolia, Burger City and Swift Hotdogs. He was also a three-time recipient of the POW award, for the periods March 10-16, 2003, March 17-23, 2003 and April 14-20, 2003. He also became the first local player in 2 years to score at least 20 points in a quarter when he scored 20 points in the 3rd quarter of FedEx victory over Ginebra. Meneses was voted into his 9th All-Star game where he was named as the All-Star MVP in 2003, his 4th overall, and also led the Express to a third-place finish in the 2003 PBA Invitationals. He was also the first recipient of the Sportsman of the Year award together with Benjie Paras and Rob Johnson.
He also became a sort of a 3rd-quarter man for the FedEx team as he scored: (a) 15 points vs. San Miguel Beer on April 16, 2003, (b) 16 points against Red Bull on April 27 2003, (c) 20 points contra Ginebra on May 2 2003, (d) 12 points opposite Talk 'N Text on May 9 2003 and (e) 19 points for the Commissioners All-Stars versus the Governors All-Stars in the June 1 2003 All-Star game.
He finished the year as the Express scoring leader and the league's 8th leading scorer with an average of 15.9 ppg in nearly an average of 30 minutes playing time. He added 3.0 apg and 2.8 rpg for the season and saw him reached the 2,000 assists club, the 19th player to do so.
2004 saw him reach the 9,000-point plateau. He also made his 10th All-Star appearance during the year becoming the North team’s leading vote-getter as well as the 2nd leading vote-getter for the All-Star festivities behind Danny Seigle. By making it to his 10th All-Star, he became only the third player with at least 10 appearances in the mid-year festivities after Jerry Codiñera and Alvin Patrimonio.
He again flashed his 3rd quarter explosion by scoring 13 points on March 17 2004 in a game against the Alaska Aces. He also found his way playing for his 6th team, the Red Bull franchise, where he was reunited with former coach Joseller “Yeng” Guiao.
In 2005, he played for the Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan-coached TM PBA Legends that defeated the TM PBA Greats, 96-92, in an exhibition match where he scored 21 points, second only to Caidic's topscore of 30 points. The game was the featured event of the league’s 30th year anniversary festivities. The two (2) teams were made up of the 25 Greatest Players that were chosen by coaches Dalupan and ex-Senator Robert Jaworski. Incidentally, Meneses was one of only 4 active players then, the other three being Codiñera, Johnny Abarrientos and Kenneth Duremdes.
Despite his brilliant career defined by numerous individual awards and championships as well as being a national team player on various occasions, he has become quite a journeyman having already played for 7 teams starting out with the Presto Ice Cream team drifting to Sta. Lucia, Swift/Sunkist/Pop Cola, Barangay Ginebra, FedEx Express, Red Bull and lastly TNT.
In 1998, Meneses was named into the Philippine Centennial Team for the Asian Games in Bangkok. With Meneses and former Sunkist teammate Duremdes sharing minutes in the shooting guard/small forward spot, the country took home a bronze medal in the said event.
Meneses played for the Ohana Harbor-Toyota team coached by Robert Jaworski (who was sidelined by an injury and was replaced by Bong Alvarez in the starting line-up) while the Martin Purefoods-Crispa team was handled by coach Cris Calilan. The two (2) teams figured in a four-game series each winning two games apiece.
Toyota scored a 91-89 win in the series opener at the Logan High School gym in Union City on March 8 before Crispa got even the next day with a 96-91 victory at the Arco Arena in Sacramento. Crispa made it two in a row with a 104-101 victory in Carson City before Toyota squared the series at 2-2, pulling off a 94-86 triumph in San Diego.
Guidaben, still showing some spring in his legs at 55, fired 21 points to lead all scorers in the Carson City contest. Co and Ronnie Magsanoc pumped in 19 apiece with Jojo Lastimosa adding 16, Yoyoy Villamin 11 and Adornado 10. Meneses rattled in 20 points to pace Toyota, which also drew double-digit outputs from Gerry Esplana and Manny Victorino.
In San Diego, Meneses once again topscored for Toyota with 23 with Jerry Codiñera and Coloso contributing 11 apiece, Olsen Racela 9 and Fernandez and Arnaiz with 8 each. The losing team drew double-digit outputs from Magsanoc, Villamin, Guidaben and Romy dela Rosa.
Others who played for Crispa were Alvin Patrimonio and Sonny Cabatu. Allan Caidic played the first two games and rushed back to Manila to attend to a personal matter. On the other hand, Manny Paner, Art dela Cruz, Hector Calma, Marte Saldaña and Yves Dignadice were the other players of Toyota.
Meneses also figured in the one-on-one series where he won over Alvarez, 6-2.
He's the Aerial Voyager.
After Danny Florencio there was Samboy Lim, and after Samboy Lim there's Vergel Meneses. On the time line of PBA innovators, aerial artists who stretched the limits of what could be done on and above the floor, Meneses holds a respectable place.
In the post-Samboy Lim era, the 6-foot-3 Meneses continues to move the game off the floor on the strength of his wondrous legs, then finishes plays with the creativity of his boundless skills. He personifies hang time, making up moves in mid-air before scoring with a graceful shot off the glass or a twisting lay up.
His aerial acrobatics continue to dazzle PBA fans, winning fans nationwide and making his nickname, Aerial Voyager, familiar around the country. Vergel, like Samboy, seems to defy gravity as he soars to the basket on the fly. Opponents know what Vergel can do, but they never know how he's going to do it - and that makes him virtually impossible to stop.
"In the eyes of most coaches today, there is no player as dangerous on the offense as Vergel," wrote the PBA Annual. "The reason is simple. The 1995 league MVP can break down opposing teams in so many ways, from his crowd-pleasing drives to his long jumpers to his ability to see the floor and hit open teammates with the perfect pass."
Sunkist almost completed a Grand Slam in 1995, the year the former Jose Rizal College Bomber airwalked his way head and shoulders above the rest and won the Most Valuable Player award.
The RFM franchise surrounded the flamboyant forward with a horde of talents to ensure winning, including a clone - Kenneth Duremdes - who would later turn out to be an equally great player and a fellow member of the elite MVP club.
One of Vergel's biggest assets aside from his aerial acrobatics is his big fighting heart. He is a big time player who is not afraid to seek the ball when the chips are down. He is a player who is willing to take the last shot and has been successful most of the time.
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