Top Blackwater pick Ael Banal embraces pressure, vows to live up to expectations
“Anyone has pressure, so it’s about just seeing it as an opportunity to get better and an opportunity to rise,” says Blackwater draftee Ael Banal. Jerome Ascano

DESPITE hearing the rumors coming into the draft, Ael Banal insisted he didn’t expect to become the top pick in the regular rookie draft on Sunday.

Blackwater bared it was going to make the US-honed amateur cager the No. 1 overall pick a few days before the regular draft and made it official during the proceedings at Robinsons Place Manila.

“There were a lot of rumors already for the past couple of days, but coming into the draft, I was just really enjoying everything, not really expecting anything,” Banal said.

But hearing those rumors eventually made the son of coach Joel Banal embrace his high-profile status.

"A lot of teams saw me in the Draft Combine, so that’s when things were starting to get a little bit chatty, but really, this whole process during the draft, I was just really keeping an open mind and just trying to enjoy everything,” Banal said.

[See Blackwater makes Ael Banal top pick in regular PBA draft]

And with the high selection comes great expectations and responsibility which Banal vowed to live up to.

“Anyone has pressure, so it’s about just seeing it as an opportunity to get better and an opportunity to rise,” the former Ateneo Eaglet and national youth team standout said.

“I’m really excited because Blackwater’s a young team so we have a lot of potential, lot of opportunities, so I can’t wait to play with my teammates and get ready for this next season,” he added.

“I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to play at the professional level.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos