IN a PBA rookie draft pool mostly dominated by guards, former Gilas cadet member Justin Melton is confident he still has a place in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league following a productive stint with Westports Malaysia in the Asean Basketball league.
The Angeles, Pampanga-born 5-foot-11 guard is aware the odds are stacked against him considering notable guards are abundant in Sunday’s draft led by the Far Eastern University pair of Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia, Jeric Teng of University of Santo Tomas, Alex Nuyles of Adamson, and Fil-Canadian James Forrester of Arellano.
However, Melton said he chose to focus on preparing himself mentally and physically to realize his dream of making it to the PBA.
“Honestly, I'm just kind of focused on what I’m doing and hope for the best, not really thinking of the (top rookie) guards right now,” Melton told Spin.ph after joining Barako Bull at practice last Monday.
Melton is coming off fresh from steering the Dragons to a semifinal stint in the last ABL season.
Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia will be the first to attest to the potential of Melton, who he describes as the `Fil-Am version’ of Talk `N Text star Jason Castro.
“Justin is very athletic, our starting point guard in Malaysia. Nakikita ko nga sa kanya para siyang Jason Castro na may outside shooting din,” said Vanguardia, the former Jose Rizal University head coach who is now based in Malaysia.
Melton averaged 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in 19 games with the Dragons, who suffered a three-game shutout at the hands of the Indonesia Warriors during the semifinals.
The soft-spoken former Dragons playmaker scored a career-high 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting against the Warriors last May in a 65-77 Game Two loss.
The Mt. Olive College alumnus actually suited up for the Gilas cadets when the national team played in two international tournaments in Dubai and Hong Kong.
Reinforced by PBA players KG Canaleta, Ronjay Buenafe, and Jay-Arr Reyes, Gilas finished sixth in the Dubai International Basketball Championship, but redeemed itself behind a five-game sweep of the19th Super Kung Sheung Cup in Hong Kong, with former Letran Knight star Kevin Alas named as tournament MVP.