ANYONE among Rain or Shine's Larry Rodriguez and Alex Nuyles, and former Painter Ronnie Matias looms as the top pick in next week’s PBA dispersal draft, the trio surprisingly gettin more interest from the two expansion teams than two-time MVP Danny Ildefonso.
The consensus was made no less than by the coaching staff of expansion teams Kia Motor and Blackwater Sports, the two new franchises which take part in the July 18 dispersal draft.
Kia Motors assistant coach Louie Gonzales bared to Spin.ph that the team coached by boxing hero Manny Pacquiao was surprised to see Rain or Shine drop Rodriguez and Nuyles from its protected list.
“Oo, nagulat talaga ako. Hindi 'yung dalawa na yan ang ini-expect kong makikita ko sa listahan. Parehong maganda ang nilaro ng mga yan sa season eh,” said Gonzales, the one tasked by Pacquiao to help him form the team for its PBA debut.
Matias is no longer with Rain or Shine after being traded to Air21 and Globalport, before being sent to the dispersal pool by San Mig Coffee. But the crafty forward was part of the Elasto Painters 2012 Governors Cup champion team and was part of the Mixers’ official roster that just won a rare Grand Slam.
“And isa pa sa mga yun, malalaki. May laro. Ganyang players ang kailangan namin kasi may core na kami (ng players) na nabuo. We have been practicing regularly na with our skeletal force,” he said of Kia’s practices every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the Unilab gym in Mandaluyong.
Asked why team is bent on skipping the 37-year-old Ildefonso, a marquee player during his prime, if and when Kia earns the top pick, Gonzales gave a simple answer.
“Tingin ko kung kami ang top pick, kukunin namin `yung Larry Rodriguez. Future na kasi ang tinitignan namin eh. We would want to build a team that is going to be competitive in two to three years’ time,” he said, hopeful Kia can secure the top pick via a lottery set to be done before the dispersal draft.
“Sa totoo lang, one reason why we are also eyeing the three Rain or Shine boys is gusto naming gayahin ang naging porma ng buildup ng team under coach Yeng (Guiao). Sila ang tinitignan naming prototype. We want to emulate how Rain or Shine was built,” added the former FEATI men’s team head coach.
“Everybody knows how consistent a playoffs contender ang Rain or Shine the past two years.”
Blackwater Sports counterpart Boy Sablan disclosed the franchise is also focusing its attention on the three former Elasto Painters.
“Yun din ang gusto namin eh. 'Yung tatlo na yun,” said Sablan, whose son Gelo is now a rookie big man with University of Santo Tomas.
“Talent-wise kumbaga sa mga sundalo, trained ng isang mahusay na general like coach Yeng ang mga 'yan. Saka versatile sila, pwede role player, pwede ring mag-step up,” he said.
“Tsaka mga fighter talaga. Pwedeng umatake, pwedeng tumira sa labas. May mga depensa pa lalo na yung Ronnie Matias,” added one of coach Leo Isaac’s deputies.
Other players expected to be picked early in the dispersal draft are Bonbon Custodio, Hans Thiele, Jason Deutschman, Bryan Faundo, JR Cawaling, Mike Burtscher, and Ildefonso.