THERE really is still a future for players who don’t hear their names get called in the PBA draft.
Billy Ray Robles is taking a backdoor route to the pros as he has been busting his tail off as practice player for Rain or Shine since going undrafted in this year’s draft.
The unheralded 5-foot-10 combo guard was projected to be among our sleeper picks, but was one of 16 out of the 53 applicants who didn’t get out of their seats to take the stage in the draft last month.
After taking Mike Tolomia in the special draft, the Elasto Painters decided not to select a player in the regular draft but eventually took a chance on Robles, who played for new E-Painters coach Caloy Garcia in the D-League and Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League.
Still, Robles, who emerged as the MVP in the maiden conference of the PCBL, has to earn his spot in a side that is already set with a 14-man lineup.
“Steady na kami sa fourteen… Pero you never know,” Garcia said after their tune-up game against Blackwater on Thursday morning.
Robles put up a solid showing in the E-Painters’ 111-107 tune-up game win against Phoenix on Wednesday, but the product of little-known Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College failed to make the most of his precious minutes at garbage time against Blackwater.
“Yesterday, ang ganda ng nilaro niya, kasi maaga siya pinasok, pero kanina, he wasn’t expecting siguro na gagamitin pa siya, but we had a good lead so I just used him,” Garcia said.
That’s a lesson for Robles and former San Sebastian bruiser Dexter Maiquez, who has been an RoS practice player since last season.
“Like kanina, pinagalitan ko yung dalawa (practice players) kasi ang sabi ko, when it comes to tune-up games, those are the times they can play,” Garcia said.
“Kung gusto niyo umangat sa level na ‘to, you cannot relax. Ang mga minutes sa inyo sa tune-up games, very minimal, so you have to make the best out of it. Sabi ko you’re going to go in only one spurt, so yung one spurt na yun, kailangan ibigay niyo.”
“Not necessarily dito ka maglalaro; if you play a tune-up game and the other coach sees something in them, hindi naman namin iipitin eh,” he added. “That’s why we’re trying to help them out also.”