MERALCO coach Ryan Gregorio has admitted 'great interest' in Chris Tiu as his coaching staff pores over the tremendous talent available in what he considers as one of the best PBA rookie draft classes in years.
The Bolts will be picking at No. 4 in the August 19 draft at Robinsons Midland Manila and Gregorio doubts if Cebuano slotman June Mar Fajardo, NCAA MVP Calvin Abueva of San Sebastian or Fil-American Cliff Hodge would still be available after Petron (twice at No. 1 and 3) and Alaska are through making their selections.
Still, the Meralco coach is confident there would still be a lot of talent available when it is the Bolts' turn to make their pick, starting with Tiu who was among the last from the 71 candidates to declare his availability.
"Let's just say we have great interest in Chris," Gregorio told Spin.ph. "But that doesn't mean we're sure of getting him come Draft Day. We may yet surprise you."
Gregorio said interest among teams in Tiu is understandable. The former Ateneo star will be an asset to any team basketball-wise and likewise brings what the Bolts coach calls 'value-added' potential.
"That's why it is hard to quantify Chris' value," Gregorio said.
Although Gregorio declined comment, insiders from the MVP group have revealed that Gregorio has asked Meralco's marketing people to do a study on Tiu's 'marketing value' to a team ahead of the draft.
Gregorio, however, assured that the decision on who to pick at No. 4 would be his to make and that it won't be influenced by management. Tiu has had a long relationship with the PLDT group owing to his stint with the Smart Gilas national team program.
If there is one major reason that could stop Gregorio from drafting Tiu, it should be the Bolts' overload of talent in the backcourt. Aside from starters Solomon Mercado and Macmac Cardona, the team also has Chris Timberlake, Chris Ross and Paul Artadi in the lineup.
The Bolts coach said that from the 71 candidates, there are about 14 to 15 players who are shoo-ins for slots on the lineups of the 10 pro league teams -- a testament to the depth of the draft class.
"In previous years, you can only point to at the most six players who are sure of making it as mainstays of the teams," Gregorio said. "This year there could be as much as 14 to 15 of them."
Gregorio said he won't be lacking in choices when it is the Bolts' turn to make a selection, naming several enticing prospects including Alex Mallari, a 6-5 Fil-American slasher who stood out for Big Chill in the last season of the PBA D-League.