A TALENTED cast of 71 aspirants makes the PBA rookie draft on August 19 at the Midtown Robinson’s Place Manila one of the most intriguing and highly-anticipated in years.
The late entry of longtime amateur superstar Chris Tiu further added glitter and excitement to the league’s first official activity of its 38th season, throwing off predictions from league scouts who until Tiu's arrival had their draft order pretty much set.
Acquiring the precious No. 1 overall pick from Air21, Petron is already bent on using the selection on promising big man June Mar Fajardo of the University of Cebu, but the Boosters are keeping their cards close to their chest with regards to its other pick in the first round at No.3.
With Tiu projected to become a first-round selection at the very least, the proceedings are expected to take a lot of turns with Alaska selecting at No. 2, followed by Petron, Meralco, and Barako Bull (acquired from Petron).
Tiu, the former team captain of Smart Gilas-Pilipinas, is expected to figure prominently in the higher drafts alongside reigning NCAA MVP Calvin Abueva, former national player Aldrech Ramos, Fil-Ams Cliff Hodge and Chris Ellis, and PBA D-League MVP Vic Manuel.
Scouts believe Tiu may even make it to the next three places after Fajardo, with each reason cited as compelling as the other.
Alaska, picking second, should find Tiu an interesting proposition. Not only will he deepen the Aces' backcourt that only had LA Tenorio and little else, Tiu's wholesome image is also a perfect complement to the Alaska brand.
Meralco should also be a good fit for Tiu considering his long association with the PLDT group by way of the Smart Gilas program while being picked at No. 4 by Petron will see the former Ateneo star reunited with former national coach and now SMC consultant Rajko Toroman.
SMC director for sports Noli Eala played it coy when asked about the prospects of Petron picking Tiu at No. 4. "The draft is very nice this year," he said.
Completing the picks in the opening round are Ginebra at no. 6 (acquired from Powerade), Rain or Shine, Ginebra, B-Meg, and Talk `N Text, which could reunite Tiu with his coach at Ateneo, Norman Black, who is set to take over the reins for the Texters next season.
Fil-Ams also come in abundance in this draft with Hodge and Ellis among the notables. But also in the radar of scouts are Jason Deutchman, Charles Keith Jansen, and Alex Mallari.
Prominent local talents are not lacking either with the presence of San Beda big man Dave Marcelo, Jewel Ponferada, Ateneo’s Eman Monfort, JR Cawaling of Far Eastern University, the deadly Adamson quartet of Jan Colina, Lester Alvarez, Janus Lozada, and Jerick Canada, and Ronald Pascual, who forms part of San Sebastian’s dreaded `Big 3’ along with Abueva and Ian Sangalang.