ONCE some of the top amateur players sign up with the Gilas cadet pool, expect the PBA rookie class in 2016 and possibly in the next two seasons to be one of the leanest batches in league history.
But while the PBA has expressed support for the revival of the Gilas cadet program, it’s undoubtedly going to feel the brunt in the coming years in the absence of the best and most-sought after young talent from the league, beginning in the 2016 draft.
Well-known player agent Matthew Manotoc bared that with at least 12 high-quality amateur players likely to skip the coming draft, it’s a guessing game as to who will be the top pick (currently owned by Blackwater Elite).
“It’s going to be wide open. It’s quite shallow because you are going to take out 12 guys from the draft because they will join Gilas, which is not far from happening. So it’s really lean,” said the son of legendary Crispa Redmanizers coach Tommy Manotoc.
“The formation of the Gilas cadets team totally redefined the scouting,” he added.
However, Manotoc and longtime PBA agent Danny Espiritu believes the shallow draft pool gives lesser-known players, those usually overshadowed by the marquee collegiate names, the opportunity to shine and prove their worth the same way low draft picks like Gary David, Jeff Chan, and Vic Manuel have done in the past.
“Manipis talaga pero chance ito para sa mga less-heralded players na mabigyan ng break. Pero yung tinatanong mo ko kung magiging singlalim ito ng dati gaya last year, palagay ko hindi,” said Espiritu.
SPIN.ph did some leg work in identifying players whose draft stock is bound to rise in the absence of Ray Parks, Kiefer Ravena, and Mac Belo, among others.
While the talent pool in the 2016 draft is lean, it’s not exactly slim pickings. Here’s a look at the possible top remaining draft applicants.
Undoubtedly one of the best players in the country who’s not part of the Gilas cadets, the former University of Santo Tomas standout could be a top three pick in this year’s PBA draft. Daquioag was a vital piece in the Growling Tigers run to the finals of UAAP Season 78 before they bowed to Far Eastern University. Daquioag has also been one of the top stars in the PBA D-League while playing for Phoenix.
The NCAA All-Star MVP could be another option for PBA teams looking for a scorer at the wing spot. The former College of Saint Benilde star is doing well so far in the PBA D-League, while playing for Caida Tile Master in the last Aspirants’ Cup. He was disqualified from the 2015 PBA Draft as he lacked the necessary seven-game exposure in the PBA’s springboard league but he’s now eligible and expected to be one of the brightest remaining stars in the 2016 rookie class.
Arnold Van Opstal
The former La Salle center is reportedly being eyed by Gilas to be part of the cadets squad. But should he opt to enter the PBA draft, Van Opstal, who has been training in the United States, might just become the most sought after guy in the pool. Van Opstal has been away from the public eye as he did not play his last year of eligibility with the Archers due to an injury. His layoff, however, proved to be a blessing in disguise as the Fil-German cager had a thorough recovery and training in the States.
There’s not a lot of bigs in the coming draft so the former University of the East cager, armed with a decent stroke from midrange, could be a good option for a team sorely lacking a slotman. He’s definitely a viable first round candidate as the versatile 6-5 cager can provide added muscle to the team that will tab him.
Carl Bryan Cruz
Cruz has been posting consistent numbers for CafeFrance in the PBA D-League, and was instrumental in their championship run in the Aspirants Cup. A candidate for conference MVP in the Aspirants Cup, this Bakers forward’s outside shooting is something that can be an asset to PBA teams.
Alolino could be one of the top point guards in this year’s draft class with the likes of Jiovani Jalalon, Mike Tolomia, and Ravena being eyed in the Gilas cadet program. The former NU stalwart is a steady option at the point guard position, with some decent shooting to boot.
Speaking of shooting, the former Ateneo sniper is the best in the bunch. But he played for the Gilas cadets in the Seaba Stankovic Cup earlier this month, which keeps a slim possibility that he might skip the draft as well. If he opts for the PBA, Pessumal’s sweet stroke will definitely find a home in the league.
The ex-Arellano University standout can surely take advantage of the lean draft pool as he now has a bigger chance of catching the attention of different team scouts. The star of the Foton Tornadoes in the PCBL and FBA, Hernandez is a scrappy player, said to be in the mold of Alaska’s Muscle Man Vic Manuel and San Miguel legend Freddie Abuda.
Another name to watch in the coming draft is former Westports Malaysia Dragons star guard Rashawn McCarthy, who is a 6-1, 175-pound guard. McCarthy is no longer new to Filipino basketball fans as he already played for the Ama Titans and Racal Motors in the D-League.
Here’s another Fil-Am guard who will likely be assessed heavily in the draft. Scharer formerly played for the KL Dragons and was once known to be the ‘feeder’ of hard slamming Moala Tautuaa, who topped the draft last year.
Honorable mentions: UST’s Louie Vigil, SWU Cobras guard Mac Tallo, Mindanao Aguilas’ Michael Williams, Phoenix’s Daemon Jamito, San Sebastian’s Jamil Ortuoste, Mapua’s Joseph Eriobu and NU power forward Kyle Neypes.