BY the time he called it a career, Jimmy Alapag was one of the most recognizable Filipino basketball players to ever represent the country.
But when the Cal State San Bernardino standout was just getting his feet wet in the country, he was regarded as nothing more but an intriguing prospect. Alapag was considered promising being one of coach Ron Jacobs' last prospects, but unproven yet in the Philippine basketball landscape.
Fast forward to now and it's unbelievable that the longtime Gilas captain had to wait until the tailend of the first round before his name got called in the 2003 PBA Rookie Draft.
Yet after a closer look at that draft class, it's easy to understand why teams overlooked Alapag given the beaming talent the class has had, easily earning its place among the best draft classes in league history.
With that, Spin.ph decided to turn back the clock and do a redraft, factoring in everything these players have accomplished in their careers and looking at how these differences would have made in their careers.
Take a look on how the first round would have played out.
1. Jimmy Alapag (Alaska)
Where was he selected? 10th overall, Talk 'N Text
Who was picked on this spot? Mike Cortez
Just imagine the seismic shift had Alaska taken Alapag at the pole position.
The Aces, reeling from the retirement of Jojo Lastimosa and a draft day trade which sent top gun Kenneth Duremdes to Sta. Lucia, gets to revamp their franchise behind "The Mighty Mouse."
Little known as Alapag was in the beginning, the Fil-Am guard immediately announced his entry in the league in his maiden season, winning the Rookie of the Year award thanks to his sweet-shooting from deep and crisp playmaking.
Alaska surely would have benefited from that, giving coach Tim Cone a generational point guard he hasn't had since Johnny Abarrientos was traded to Pop Cola in 2001.
And it's a match made in heaven, with Alapag willingly setting up the table for an Aces side which heavily relied on their frontline of Ali Peek, John Arigo, and Don Allado.
Remember, Alaska and Talk 'N Text met in the semifinals of the All-Filipino Conference. Would Alapag trading colors change that series' outcome?
2. Enrico Villanueva (Ginebra)
Where was he selected? 7th overall, Red Bull
Who was picked on this spot? Rommel Adducul
Just how potent could Ginebra's frontline may have been if it took "The Raging Bull" at second?
Well, the possibilities are endless.
Villanueva would have made a living playing behind and learning from Eric Menk, who was then at the peak of his career, and Jun Limpot, who at that time remained a vital cog for the Gin Kings.
His role with the crowd favorites wouldn't be as different as his neophyte year in Red Bull, but how great of a luxury it could've beeb for coach Allan Caidic to have a force as brute as Villanueva waiting in the wings.
Had this happened, Villanueva wouldn't have had to wait for six years before he got to don the familiar Ginebra threads.
3. Rommel Adducul (Shell)
Where was he selected? 2nd overall, Ginebra
Who was picked on this spot? Eddie Laure
Many hoped for Adducul to show his wares in the PBA like he did in the MBA, and with Shell, "The General" without a doubt could've gotten his chances to show his wares.
Pressure would've been on the San Sebastian product to adjust his game to the pro league, just like he did at San Sebastian. And with the Turbo Chargers in dire need of support up front, he would've been immediately pushed the forefront.
Numbers were sure to be there, but it was tough times for coach Perry Ronquillo as Shell wallowed in the cellar that season behind guys like Mike Hrabak, Tony Dela Cruz, and Dale Singson.
Could Adducul's entry change those fates? Probably, but it would take more than just Adducul's heavy lifting to get the job done for the Turbo Chargers.
4. Mike Cortez (Talk 'N Text)
Where was he selected? 1st overall, Alaska
Who was picked on this spot? Harvey Carey
Here's where we enter bizarro world: Alapag goes to Alaska and Cortez goes to Talk 'N Text.
Cortez, one of the famed La Salle guards in the early 2000s, will be tasked to backstop a loaded Phone Pals crew which already had Asi Taulava and Mark Telan upfront.
"The Cool Cat" also wouldn't just share the backcourt but can also learn from the likes of Bong Ravena, Patrick Fran, and Donbel Belano.
Yes, Cortez did win a championship in his rookie year with Alaska in the Invitational Championship, but without question, it would be sweeter for him to help Talk 'N Text raise the All-Filipino Cup in his first tournament in the PBA.
5. Cyrus Baguio (Alaska)
Where was he selected? 14th (2nd round), Red Bull
Who was picked on this spot? Brandon Cablay
Alapag-Baguio tandem, anyone?
This redraft rectifies the shock of seeing the UST product slide to the second round.
Alaska would have loved to see this backcourt partnership usher in a new era for the franchise back in 2003, with Alapag manning the point and Baguio penetrating through the defense.
Baguio did play for the Aces from 2010 to 2016, but just imagine if "Skyrus" had played under Cone from the get-go.
We think it's only two words: more championships.
6. Billy Mamaril (Purefoods)
Where was he selected? 6th overall, Purefoods
Who was picked on this spot? Billy Mamaril
This one panned out well.
Billy Mamaril remained as is in our redraft, going to Purefoods and playing behind Kerby Raymundo, Rey Evangelista, Andy Seigle, and Alvin Patrimonio.
Definitely beefier and more rugged than his father Romy, Mamaril was a solid defensive cog for the TJ Hotdogs as the team boasted one of the most physical frontlines in the league that time.
His career may have turned out to be that of a journeyman, yet no one can question the impact Mamaril provided for his teams, as evidenced by the five championships he has under his belt.
7. Reynel Hugnatan (Red Bull)
Where was he selected? 9th overall, Coca Cola
Who was picked on this spot? Enrico Villanueva
Expect coach Yeng Guiao to fancy those little-known players in the draft. And a gem is what Hugnatan truly is.
Unheralded as he be may compared to his peers, the University of Manila product is an exceptional combination of toughness and finesse which surely fit him perfectly at Red Bull.
It wasn't hard to picture him running down the court with guys like Lordy Tugade, Davonn Harp, and Mick Pennisi, while also learning the ropes from Nelson Asaytono.
Hugnatan going to the Thunder in this rookie class might have also pushed him to shoot more from distance like Pennisi does - a skill he only developed late in his career.
8. Harvey Carey (San Miguel)
Where was he selected? 4th overall, Talk 'N Text
Who was picked on this spot? Marlon Legaspi
Carey has always been an exceptional hardworker down low, and his grit would be a welcome addition for the San Miguel side of coach Jong Uichico.
After all, it was a season when the Beermen sorely missed the presence of Danny Seigle, who was then recovering from a right Achilles injury.
Carey could've been a dependable option off the bench if he played behind Danny Ildefonso and Nic Belasco, while also gaining much needed inputs from Benjie Paras, who came back from retirement to briefly play for the Beermen.
The Fil-Am forward may fit like a glove in SMB, but it's still hard to see Carey wearing any colors other than that of TNT.
9. Ronald Tubid (Coca Cola)
Where was he selected? 16th (2nd round), Shell
Who was picked on this spot? Reynel Hugnatan
Coca Cola enjoyed having Hugnatan in his rookie season, but how much more success could they have had if they got a player as versatile as Tubid?
Tough-as-nails, "The Fearless" was a pest on the defensive end and was also a reliable offensive weapon off the bench - something we believe coach Chot Reyes would find valuable.
This was a year where Coca Cola reached all three finals but only won one - the Reinforced Conference, and we can't help but wonder how big Tubid's contributions could have been.
It may not be much considering that the Tigers had the likes of Jeff Cariaso, Rob Wainwright, and Leo Avenido then, but Tubid was the kind of player who made the most of any situation - a trait any coach would love to have in his team.
10. Sunday Salvacion (Talk 'N Text)
Where was he selected? 11th (2nd round), Ginebra
Who was picked on this spot? Jimmy Alapag
As if Talk 'N Text still needed any more firepower during those times, the Phone Pals could've gotten a real bargain with Salvacion dropping at 10.
The St. Benilde sniper was regarded as one of the deadliest gunners in the amateur ranks, one coaches Paul Woolpert, Joel Banal, and Ariel Vanguardia would have loved to have in their arsenal which by then already included Ravena and Fran.
Also, Salvacion would have immediately teamed up with Cortez and not wait until later on in their careers when they were in Ginebra, Meralco, and Blackwater.
Quite a deal for a pick which only cost the Phone Pals the services of Don Camaso.
Here's who were left in the field (original placing in the draft inside the parentheses) :
Eddie Laure (3rd overall, Shell)
Brandon Cablay (5th overall, Alaska)
Marlon Legaspi (8th overall, SMB)
John Ferriols (12th, FedEx)
Adonis Sta. Maria (13th, Shell)
Eugene Tejada (15th, Purefoods)