THE consensus no. 1 pick is no longer a surprise as Fil-American guard Stanley Pringle is expected to be tapped as the no. 1 overall pick by Globalport in Sunday’s PBA Annual Rookie Draft at the Robinson’s Mall in Ermita.
It’s when Rain or Shine’s turn at no. 2 when the thrill actually begins as the Elasto Painters have kept to themselves who among the remaining 86 available hopefuls will they select especially amidst the issue surrounding star guard Paul Lee’s desire to leave the franchise once his contract expires by the end of the month.
The uncertainty of whether Lee remains with the franchise or not had forced coach Yeng Guiao to take a look at either Fil-Italian guard Chris Banchero, Kevin Alas, or Fil-Am swingman Matt Ganuelas Rosser for the team’s first of two first round picks.
Other than the drama unfolding between Lee and his mother team, also expected to be one of the highlights of the afternoon proceedings is the drafting of boxing superstar and eight-time world champion Manny Pacquiao, be it with Kia Motors, the expansion franchise which made him its head coach, or by any other `interested’ ballclubs.
Several names are also expected to end up as `sleepers’ considering the record number of 87 rookie hopefuls who made themselves available for this year’s draft.
After spending a month or so tracking down the exploits of most of these rookie aspirants and asking the thoughts of some PBA coaches about the composition of this season’s rookie draft, Spin.ph has come up with its own projected top 12 first-round picks based on the order of the draft.
The 6-foot-1 guard out of Penn State is hands-down the no. 1 overall pick according to most pro coaches and scouts the moment news broke out that he has applied in this year’s rookie draft.
The lightning-quick Pringle has played overseas since making a name for himself in college, playing for Belgium, Poland, and Ukraine, before spending the last two years suiting up in the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
Packing a solid, off-the-dribble skills, ability to penetrate to the basket, and sleek passing, Pringle helped the Indonesia Warriors win the 2012 ABL championship before settling for a runner-up finish last year when they were dethroned by Asia Taulava and the San Miguel Beermen.
Globalport board governor Erick Arejola said he doesn’t see any problem playing Pringle and sophomore guard Terrence Romeo together at the backcourt.
Arejola said he believes Pringle will be part of the young franchise’s building blocks for the future as the Batang Pier try to surpass their seven-win total from last season, while hopefully meshing well with veterans Jay Washington and Alex Cabagnot.
2. Rain or Shine: Chris Banchero
A few days before draft day, Guiao declared Rain or Shine is not in a hurry to make a decision as far as dipping its hands in the 87-man rookie pool, notwithstanding the team has two picks in the first around alone.
But following Lee’s surprising announcement that he wants to leave Rain or Shine, Guiao and management were forced to consider “plan B” which is to pick the best guard available from the pool as “insurance” in case the former University of the East stalwart indeed, decided to leave the team.
Banchero could easily fit the bill for Rain or Shine owing to ability to break down the opposing team’s defense with his daredevil attack to the basket, possessing a point guard mentality, and his good long-range shooting.
“Yes, magkakaron ng epekto (if Lee leaves the team). Dati kasi iniiwasan ko mga guwardya sa pick, eh kasi para kaming security agency dahil sa dami ng gwardya, pero ngayon, we need an insurance,” explained Guiao, who is still hopeful Lee changes his mind and decides to accept Rain or Shine’s maximum three-year offer worth P15 million.
The 6-foot Lee is currently with Gilas Pilipinas that will see action in the FIBA World Cup in Spain and the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
But Guiao reiterated Lee’s departure from the Elasto Painters will only be possible if another team is willing to give them quality big men in return.
It’s been an open secret at how the fiery Rain or Shine coach has been shopping around for a big man who could fill in the huge void in the team’s frontline.
3. Barako Bull: Jake Pascual
The dearth of quality big men in this year’s batch has made the 6-foot-4 Pascual a valuable commodity indeed.
Known as a hard-banging big man even from his playing days at San Beda, Pascual can actually play the power forward spot with relative ease owing to his scrappy attitude and solid defensive presence.
His quickness at the `4’ spot makes him a valuable piece for a Barako Bull side that is already preparing for the departure of veterans Dorian Pena and Mick Pennisi, both of whom are in the twilight of their respective pro careers.
The soft-spoken Pascual, last year’s Best Player in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup, said he doesn’t mind where he ends up come draft day as long as he sees his dream of playing in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league fulfilled.
“Excited na ako maglaro sa PBA at siyempre, excited din ako maglaro sa team na kukuha sa akin,” said Pascual, who has been a mainstay of the Gilas cadet team that bagged last year’s gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar.
4. NLEX: Kevin Alas
Team management is determined to carry over its successful campaign in the D-League to the pros, which is why this early, the Road Warriors intend to surround veteran center Asi Taulava with the right mix of talent.
NLEX team manager Ronald Dulatre said the Road Warriors are simply ironing out kinks in the contract extension of the 6-foot-9 Taulava, who is coming off a solid performance last season for Air21.
The Express have actually reached the semifinals of the Commissioner’s Cup, before making it back to the playoffs in the season-ending Governors Cup.
NLEX has since bought the Air21 franchise, assuming the talent core of the Express.
“Sa ngayon, may short list na kami for the draft. Ine-evaluate na lang namin kung sino ba talaga ang kailangan namin with the departure of Joseph Yeo (in a trade),” Dulatre told Spin.ph.
Alas has the speed and a high basketball IQ, qualities he developed after getting the proper guidance from father Louie, who served as his college coach during their stay together at Letran.
The elder Alas currently serves as Alaska coach Alex Compton’s top assistant.
As such, Alas is expected to make an impact for an NLEX team that will also try to make an immediate impression in its first season in the league.
The 6-foot-1 Alas is coming off an MVP performance for NLEX in the D-League, helping the six-time champions win the Foundation Cup title last June.
5. Alaska: Matt Rosser
After watching the two-day Gatorade Draft Combine, Alaska coach Alex Compton is convinced there are at least six or seven players who at the very least, could become outright game-changers in the league.
Picking at no. 5, Compton declined to name the Aces’ potential rookie selection, opting to wait for Sunday’s annual proceedings.
Nonetheless, the 6-foot-5 Rosser appears to be a nice fit for an Alaska team that this early, might start considering building on its future.
Since Dondon Hontiveros (37) and Cyrus Baguio (34) are not getting any younger, the Aces could easily welcome a talented freshman like Rosser, who, at the guard spot, can easily cause matchup problems for opposing teams.
Rosser was second in the D-League Foundation Cup in blocked shots with a 2.0 swats per game average.
Skill-wise, the former Cal Poly Pomona Fil-Am guard/forward showed his potential after averaging 7.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists for NLEX.
Rosser said he intends to bring in his winning mentality to any team he ends up playing in the PBA.
6. Ginebra - Kyle Pascual
The league’s most popular ball club is coming off a quarterfinal finish in last season’s Governors Cup under rookie coach Jeff Cariaso.
The Kings have since resumed their pre-season build-up last week, but are relatively quiet about their choice in the coming draft. Sources within the team however, said management is looking to stock up at the power forward roster, who can be a strong back up for Japeth Aguilar.
The 6-foot-5 Pascual can fit the bill as he has long been playing under the shadow of Jake Pascual (no relation) during their college years at San Beda, and later on, with NLEX in the D-League.
Still, the 24-year-old Pascual could be a nice fit for the Kings as long as he’s given the chance to play longer minutes.
So far, the youthful big man possesses a nice touch from the perimeter, is willing to mix it up inside, go for the rebounds, and won’t back down on defense.
7. San Mig Super Coffee - Anthony Semerad
Coming off a Grand Slam season, San Mig coach Tim Cone said the team is not expecting to select an impact player out of the draft.
Cone felt his core of two-time MVP James Yap, perennial All-Defensive member Marc Pingris, Peter June Simon, Joe Devance, and emerging stars Mark Barroca, along with incoming sophomores Ian Sangalang and Justin Melton are enough to continue the Mixers’ championship tradition.
“We’re not gonna look for a guy that’s gonna play 20 or 30 minutes for us, but we’re just looking for the best available athlete in the draft,” Cone said.
“If there’s a big man out there, I’ll take big. You know me, I take big before small.”
And San Beda’s Fil-Australian forward Anthony Semerad could be that solid pick Cone is looking for.
Anthony is the other half of the well-known Semerad twins (the other is David).
While the Semerad twins have gained attention owing to their good looks, Anthony is out to prove he and his brother David are more than just a nice decoration on the basketball court.
Between the two though, Anthony gets much more playing time this season at San Beda, averaging 20 minutes per game and delivering close to 10 points, 2.5 rebounds, and a steal in the ongoing NCAA men’s basketball season.
Since Semerad can play the four spot or slide to the wingman position with his decent touch from medium range, San Mig can expect the Fil-Australian to come off the bench while learning the triangle offense from veterans Pingris, Yap, and Simon.
8. Barako Bull - Ronald Pascual
Three years ago, Ronald Pascual formed one-third of San Sebastian’s dreaded “Pinatubo Trio” along with Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang.
Abueva eventually turned pro shortly after the Stags’ disappointing NCAA Finals Four exit in 2012, while the 6-foot-5 Sangalang followed suit last year and became an integral part of San Mig Super Coffee’s historic Grand Slam finish last season, leaving behind Pascual in the amateur rank.
A Gilas cadet pool member, Pascual finally decided to join his celebrated former San Sebastian teammates after deciding to join the draft notwithstanding a last-minute talk -- along with several other NLEX players – with team owner and patron Manny V. Pangilinan.
The 6-foot-2 guard/forward from Pampanga made himself available a day before the deadline for the submission of draft application.
Pascual’s value lies on his three-point shooting, something Barako Bull can utilize under coach Siot Tanquingcen, who took over the reins from Bong Ramos just before the start of the season-ending Governors Cup.
Pascual can learn a thing or two from two-time MVP Willie Miller, who has slowly transitioned to mentoring the younger players of the team such as Carlo Lastimosa and Jeric Fortuna.
9. Rain or Shine - Trade or pick Rome dela Rosa
Guiao stressed the team always has an option to trade its ninth pick or perhaps, exercise the option of using it to draft someone if he sees an available talent who could help Rain or Shine in the long-term.
The fiery mentor has made some wise trade moves in the past that enabled them to get at least the second overall pick in 2012 (Paul Lee), big man Raymond Almazan at no. 3 in 2013, and this year’s no. 2 selection.
While the task to shadow the opposing team’s scorers have rested squarely on the shoulders of defensive specialist Jireh Ibanes the past few years, adding a player in the caliber of Rome dela Rosa into the mix could give Rain or Shine the much-needed size off the bench.
The 23-year-old dela Rosa is the son of former Shell and Sta. Lucia gunner Romy.
In his last season with San Beda, Dela Rosa has earned a reputation more as a defensive stopper, though he admits that he’s constantly working on his perimeter shooting as of late.
The 6-foot-3 Red Lion is actually getting the much-needed help from ex-PBA gunner Ren-ren Ritualo, who’s been helping him improved on his outside shooting.
“I have been working out with him (Ritualo), and so far so good, kasi `yung mga penetration, kaya ko naman. Shooting lang hinahabol ko,” he said.
Dela Rosa said he’s been in touch with his father, who is now based in the United States.
And the elder dela Rosa’s advice to his son?
“My dad just told me, continue to work hard lang, buo lang ang dibdib, ganun lang naman daw sa basketball,” he added.
10. Barako Bull - Raul Soyud
With Tanquingcen’s thrust of going for young players and the opportunity to rebuild its frontline, Raul Soyud can provide the ceiling and be a potential post threat for the Energy.
Barako Bull is preparing for the eventual departure of old-hands Pennisi and Pena, both of whom have been slowed down by age and assortment of injuries in the past.
At the moment, the Energy only have two legitimate big men in incoming sophomore Dave Marcelo and Jondan Salvador, whom they reacquired from Globalport in exchange for Mark Isip.
At 6-5, Soyud has shown potential last season while playing for Derulo Accelero in the D-League, averaging team-highs in points (14.7 ppg.), rebounds (11.1 rpg.), and blocks (1.1 bpg.) per contest.
The former UP Fighting Maroon big man has a mean touch from the perimeter and a very good rebounder.
11. Kia - Manny Pacquiao or Rene Pacquiao
The world’s only eight-time world boxing champion has added the PBA to his growing list of activities that makes his already busy schedule even more crowded.
But Kia team manager Eric Pineda insisted basketball is Pacquiao’s passion.
With the world-class level he achieved in boxing, Pineda said the fighting pride of Saranggani intends to do the same character to expansion team Kia when he begins his professional cage and coaching career at the age of 35.
Despite being the oldest rookie to join the league, Pacquiao has not been remiss with his duties as a soon-to-be-PBA player.
Just last week, Pacquiao played in Davao City for his team’s MP Hotel on the same day the league held the Gatorade Combine rookie camp
He scored 10 points in the team’s losing stand against the Royal Mandaya Hotel-CMO during the 2014 Kadayawan Invitational basketball tournament.
Kia intends to use its pick in the first round to draft the Filipino boxing great himself, that is if no other team would attempt to beat the expansion franchise to the draw by taking in Pacquiao with the early pick.
In such case, Pacquiao hinted Kia might take in his cousin big man Rene Pacquiao.
The younger Pacquiao is a 6-foot-5 center, who played briefly for Hogs Breath in the D-League and suited up for Southwestern University during his college years.
The 27-year-old Pacquiao packs a soft touch from the perimeter and hopefully, could blossom as a pro under the guidance of lead assistant coach Glen Capacio.
12. Blackwater - Jericho Cruz
Even though Blackwater is one of three new teams this season, Blackwater owner Dioceldo Sy said the franchise doesn’t intend to finish dead-last in the 12-team field during its first year in the pro league.
No wonder, Blackwater is putting premium on youth which could easily complement several veteran players the Elite got from the dispersal draft last month.
Blackwater coach Leo Isaac said picking former Adamson star Jericho Cruz could boost the team’s two-guard spot because of his ability to score inside and outside.
“Kung available si Jericho, siyempre, kukunin ko siya,” Isaac said matter-of-factly.
Since the 6-foot-1 Cruz played for the Elite in last season’s D-League, Isaac feels the incoming rookie can have a smoother transition in the pro with Blackwater.
The former Falcon was a do-it-all guard for newly-named San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria, averaging 14.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in what turned out to be his final year with Adamson last season.
Cruz, also a member of the Sinag men’s team that ruled last year’s Southeast Asian Games men’s basketball gold medal, is noted for his scrappy and energetic plays - qualities that Isaac hope could help the Elite in their maiden season.