Numbers don’t lie, says that famous adage, but they also do not tell the whole story.
Back during the time when basketball players sported shorts that were so short it would get them arrested by the Discipline Office (DO) had they been current students of the University, there was a man who once donned the Green-and-White jersey and shattered statistical records almost on a yearly basis.
Lim Eng Beng is a name etched not only in the history of the professional league but most especially in that of the De La Salle Green Archers. The famous player who then sported the number 14 jersey was part of the Archers way back when DLSU was then called De La Salle College and was yet to be a member school of the UAAP, and instead still played for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Like most student athletes, juggling academics and basketball did not come as an easy task. He had to take lesser units than an average student to give way to his team’s intensive trainings in time for the much anticipated collegiate hoop wars.
Unlike in present times when the La Salle-Ateneo rivalry has exceeded all other school match-ups, Beng shares that it was not only the Ateneo Blue Eagles that they called rivals back in his time but also the Mapua Cardinals.
When he played for the Archers from 1971-1974, he immediately won the crown for the Archers, as the team was bannered by him and then-captain Mike Bilbao to the NCAA crown, the first time for the Green Archers in 15 years. It signaled the arrival of the deadly scorer who could singlehandedly change the complexion of a game.
He was just getting started.
By the time that he was a junior in 1973, he was already getting various offers to finally venture into the professional league; however, the late Br. Gabriel Connon was able to convince him to stay for one more year, promising that he would be getting something special in return. So for one last time, Lim suited up for the Archers one last time; and the result?
He averaged 32 points per game in the 1974 season and set a single game record for the most points, which is 55-a record which stood the test of time. He was adjudged the Most Popular NCAA Player, was cast into the Mythical Five, received the Sportsmanship Award and ultimately bagged the Most Valuable Player (MVP) plum. To cap his stellar collegiate career, he steered the squad to the championship.
In celebration of the championship, Br. Connon revealed his surprise to him: his number 14 jersey was to be retired up the hallowed rafters of the University forever. He was later on inducted into the DLSU’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
Right after playing for La Salle, he easily got drafted in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), suiting up for the U/Tex Wranglers in 1976. Coming from a collegiate basketball setting, it was easy for him to point out the difference between playing for the two leagues.
Playing for the PBA for him didn’t require much aggressiveness and hunger because the players only play for the money. He also suited for teams like Conception Industries, Manila Beer, the FedEx Express and the fabled Crispa Redmanizers.
He, however, says that being in the PBA is unlike in the NCAA, where the team carries the name of their respective schools, which convinced them to play with everything they have to bring glory to the schools written across their jersey.
The competition in the NCAA gets so intense to the point that the fight not only happens inside the court but even outside. “There were times that I could not go out of the gym [inside the Rizal Memorial Coliseum] because my opponents were waiting for me outside the gym. I had to wait for them to get home.”
He was a wholehearted Lasallian player so despite the dangers that came with it, it is no wonder he prefers playing for the NCAA more than getting paid to play for the PBA.
When 1986 came, so did the end of his PBA career. He says that playing for more than two decades straight sort of burned him and he longed to pursue a career as a businessman. Despite being one of the marquee players in the PBA during his time, he was only making about P 10,000 a month.
For someone who considers playing basketball as innate in him, it was hard for him to totally forget about his past career. Currently, he is the coach of the college team of Chiang Kai Shek College, the school he played for in high school.
His commendable performance in the PBA, just like in the NCAA, garnered him another recognition back in 2000 when the association made him part of the 25 Greatest Players of PBA, bringing yet more pride to his Lasallian roots.
Lim also shares his insights about the current crop of Archers who starred in a fourth place finish in the recently concluded Basketball Tournament of the UAAP Season 73. While he sees talent in the current roster, he likewise boldly shares his disappointment every time he watches them.
He frankly mentions the lack of thinking players in the team. There are players who just show off speed and power and whose aim is just to score points without proper plays.
He emphasizes the importance of free throws, as it according to him is “the easiest two points of the game.” He mentions that when there are close games, free throws would spell the difference between winning and losing and that those charities have to find the bottom of the net.
Every aspiring Green Archer or basketball player would want someone like Lim Eng Beng to guide them in the same path of victory and recognition he has taken.
When asked what his advice is to future players, he simply describes what a basketball player to him should be like: someone who has determination; a set of goals that he has to work hard for to accomplish; the stamina to take in pain, especially physically; the heart to play; willingness to sacrifice oneself; and the ability to work with a team.
Numbers indeed do not lie, but they also do not tell the entire story.
As proven by his undying love for his alma mater, Lim Eng Beng is indeed more than just a record-breaker. He is a Lasallian who wants to win so bad that he would strap the entire world onto his back if he has to.