FORMER PBA coach Joel Banal described it in just one word: miracle.
Although it was five years in the making, the proud father of top pick Raphael Banal still marveled at the way things unfolded for his 6-foot-2 son during Sunday’s PBA Rookie Draft at the Robinsons Midtown in Ermita, Manila.
Joel, who suited up for Great Taste during his playing days in the pro league and was many-time team captain of the men’s national team, admitted having to sacrifice being away from his son, who had to study and play at Hope International University in California to prepare him for the tough grind in the PBA.
“It was a five-year plan for him to go to the States, because I told him you’ll have a better chance,” said Banal, who was in the gallery when commissioner Chito Narvasa called out the name of his son as the No. 1 pick in the league’s regular draft.
“So finally it paid off,” he said. “Being number one in the regular draft is really a miracle.”
It’s a big plus, too, that his son will be handled by coach Leo Isaac, a junior teammate of the elder Banal at Mapua. A fellow Cardinal in Gerardo ‘Bong’ Ramos, actually, is also part of the Blackwater coaching staff.
“I know coach Leo. He’s my junior when I was in Mapua. When I was playing, he came in as a 16-year old,” recalled Banal, the first coach to give TNT Katropa its first ever championship in franchise history.
“I know him (Isaac). He has a desire to win, he won’t quit, and he’s proven that. He won in Mapua, he won in teams he played for. So I told Raphael, you’re in good hands in coach Leo, and coach Bong (Ramos), and even with Blackwater management.”
Raphael is the latest in a long line in the Banal family to be involved in the pro league counting his father, his uncle Koy, brother Gabriel (formerly with Globalport), and cousin Frank Golla. That’s not to mention the other ones who also got to play in other major cage leagues.
“Probably in major basketball, we can form a 12-man lineup,” said the elder Banal with a laugh.
From the looks of it, however, Raphael seemed to have the biggest shot at approximating the success Joel had in the PBA, where he won four championships in six seasons with Great Taste.
“I’m happy that he’s going to a team that needed a shot in the arm,” said the 58-year-old former coach, who also served as commissioner of Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League (PCBL).
With a bright future ahead of him, does he sees his son eventually surpassing what he did as a pro?
“Ang prayer ko, mahigitan niya ng 10 times,” a smiling Banal said.