Alaska, Blackwater lead PBA draft winners; Kia, San Miguel Beer choices get thumbed-down by coaches
The top five picks - Stanley Pringle (GlobalPort), Kevin Alas (Rain or Shine), Ronald Pascual (SMB), Matt Rosser (NLEX) and Chris Banchero (Alaska) - drew mixed reactions from pundits. Jerome Ascano

WHO’S the biggest winner in the recent PBA Gatorade Annual Rookie Draft?

Most feel Alaska hit the jackpot.

Drafting at No. 5, the Aces surprisingly found former Asean Basketball League (ABL) star guard Chris Banchero still available that they lost no time taking in the Fil-Italian sentinel.

Coach Alex Compton admitted the entry of the good-looking cager at Alaska is like a manna from heaven as the team now has the luxury of combining the high-scoring guard with the prolific backcourt tandem of Cyrus Baguio and JV Casio, with support from veteran Dondon Hontiveros.

“It was a surprise for everyone that Banchero was still available for Alaska. They’re the biggest winner in the draft. My own opinion, he is going to be an impact player right away,” said former Air 21 coach Franz Pumaren.

“Banchero has a very high basketball IQ. If you need him to score, he can score,” he added.

Pumaren, the same man who patiently built a ragtag Air21 side into a playoff contender last season, also considered the other intangibles Banchero can bring to the Aces.

“His entry will be very beneficial to JV Casio and the whole team. If you look at the playing time of the (Alaska) stars, mababawasan `yun with the entry of Banchero,” said Pumaren, who served as one of the TV anchors during draft day.

“Imagine the load of the Aces stars last season. May luxury na ngayon na mag-rotate at mag-pahinga ng key players ang Alaska plus Banchero can also be switched to a two-guard,” he added. “Imagine him and JV together dagdag mo pa sina Calvin Abueva, Cyrus Baguio at Sonny Thoss.”

Bong Ramos, who served as director of the last PBA rookie camp, however, considered GlobalPort as the team that improved most following the draft.

“I think malaking bagay na nakuha ng GlobalPort `yung Stanley Pringle. The guy is a game changer. He can dominate the scoring, he can involve his teammates,” said Ramos.

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