CAFE France said it will pass up on Asean Basketball League star Chris Banchero when the PBA D-League holds its first-ever rookie draft on Thursday to focus on building a sustained school-based program with the Centro Escolar University Scorpions.
Bakers team manager Jefferson Plaza said team management made that decision to pass up on the consensus No. 1 pick to fast-track its support for CEU’s collegiate basketball program under Scorpions coach Egay Macaraya, who also handles the Cafe France squad in the D-League.
“We owe it to the (CEU) students so we’re giving the players the exposure in the D-League,” said Plaza.
Since Cafe France plans to elevate new players coming from CEU in time for the October 24 opening of the D-League Foundations Cup, the team is bound to lose the option to draft Banchero as per draft rules for school-based D-League teams.
Both Cafe France and CEU are controlled by the family of Emilio Yap, who also owns the Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation.
Blackwater, in fact, has signed Banchero to an endorsement deal after forging a tie-up with San Miguel Corp. and had eyed him for its D-League team until the league instituted a rookie draft beginning with its next season.
[For full story, see Banchero mulls sitting out D-League if he doesn't end up with Blackwater]
Cebuana Lhuilier, which was supposed to pick second behind Cafe France under the original draft order, has also bared plans to forge a school tie-up with University of the East which - if it pushes through - would also see it relinquish its rights to the draft pick.
In such a case, the No. 1 pick may end up with Boracay Rum.
“Unless we still have the option to draft Chris Banchero at payagan kami ni commissioner (Chito Salud), then di na namin siya kukunin," Plaza said. "Ang bigat kasi kung di namin madala ang mga (CEU) players. But we will still reinforce the team with other (non-CEU) players,” explained the Bakers team official.
The 6’1” Banchero, the ABL Finals MVP last June after teaming up with Asi Taulava to lead San Miguel Beer to the regional league championship, leads a total of 143 aspirants for the D-League’s very first rookie draft.
Under the original draft order, the league’s six founding members enjoy the luxury of selecting ahead of the other teams with Café France holding the rights on the No. 1 pick, followed by Cebuana Lhuillier, Boracay Rum, Big Chill, Blackwater Sports, and NLEX.
Cagayan Valley takes its crack at the No. 7 pick, before Hog’s Breath and Jumbo Plastic select at Nos. 8 and 9, respectively.