HOLY MOLY: Ael Banal set to be made top pick overall by Blackwater in regular PBA draft
Ael Banal stood out during the two-day PBA Draft Combine. Jerome Ascano

A BIG, talented combo guard who can easily create mismatches.

The description perfectly describes the need of Blackwater in the coming 42nd season of the PBA and no one can fill it better than US-honed player Raphael Banal, who the Elite are expected to tab as the No. 1 overall pick in the league’s regular rookie draft on Sunday at the Robinsons Midtown in Manila.

The 6-foot-2 product of Hope International University in California definitely caught the eyes of the team – and several others - during the two-day Rookie Draft Combine held at the Gatorade Hoops Center that it didn’t waste any time making up its mind in making him the head of the rookie class.

“We need a combo guard, and Banal can fill that gap for us,” team owner Dioceldo Sy relayed to SPIN.ph on the eve of the draft.

“Ang laki pa niyang guwardiya,” he added referring to the 6-foot-2 two-way guard, a fellow star player of Kiefer Ravena during their stint with the Ateneo Blue Eaglets, and later, with the Philippine Youth team.

[See Belo looks forward to playing alongside FEU elder Miranda at Blackwater]

Banal is expected to share the backcourt chores at Blackwater with veteran Denok Miranda.

“And remember, may genes din yan,” added Sy, obviously referring to Raphael’s father, former PBA player, coach, and national team mainstay Joel Banal.

Raphael is projected to be the first second generation of PBA players to see action in the league after brother Gabriel Banal, who suited up for GlobalPort for a few games during the season-ending Governors Cup.

The 24-year-old Banal initially enrolled in a six-month camp in Indiana upon arriving in the US straight from his stint with the Ateneo juniors team, then under coach Mike Jarin.

[See Hard practices under Vanguardia toughened Wright for PBA]

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The camp was handled by Ed Schilling, who later recommended Banal to Scott Robinson, coach of Victory University, where he enrolled and first played college ball in America. It was during his stint with the team that Raphael was converted from wingman to a point guard.

Banal is just one of two projected No. 1 picks by Blackwater on draft day. The team is also set to select talented big man Mac Belo in the special draft involving players from the Gilas Pilipinas pool.

“Ang ganda nga makita sa headlines, ‘Blackwater acquires Belo,’” Sy noted. “Di ba kalaban namin sa business yung Belo Essentials, hahaha.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos