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    The 2021 PBA Rookie Draft class has no shortage of quality bigs

    Feb 10, 2021
    PHOTO: Spin.ph / Thailand Basketball League / MPBL

    [Editor's note: Second of a series]

    BIG men are rare commodities in the PBA.

    That explains the mad dash for frontcourt players every draft exercise, with teams intent on shoring up their lineup with able bodied bangers who are ready to take on the challenge of going to war against the likes of June Mar Fajardo, Christian Standhardinger, Beau Belga, and Poy Erram, just to name a few.

    This year's PBA Rookie Draft has a lot of 'em.

    And with all the talk branding this class as one of the deepest in years, a bumper crop of able big men are ready to make the leap.

    For the second part of our PBA Rookie Draft series, Spin.ph names its picks on who we feel are the best frontcourt players available in the pool.

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    Larry Muyang (La Salle/ Letran)

    Age: 25
    Height: 6-6

    It's easy for teams to discount Muyang for his burly frame, but he knows all too well how to utilize his size.

    The Sta. Ana, Pampanga native smartly uses his wide body to his advantage, making it tough for defenders to box him out in the paint while making his impact down low.

    That was evident in Muyang's final season at Letran, where he averaged 12.7 points on 56-percent shooting, to go with 7.0 rebounds and 1.0 assist to help the Knights capture the NCAA Season 95 crown. He made the same impact in his travails for Pampanga teams, namely the Giant Lanterns in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) and Delta in the National Basketball League (NBL).

    Undersized as Muyang will be in the PBA, there's no question that he's really one of the better bigs in this year's crop.

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    Santi Santillan (UV/ La Salle)

    Age: 24
    Height: 6-4

    Santillan's toughness was his calling card wherever he went.

    The Lapu-Lapu City product proved that he's no pushover in his two years in La Salle, where he averaged 11.4 points on 44-percent shooting, to go with 8.4 rebounds in 25.9 minutes back in his final year with the Green Archers in UAAP Season 81, and continued that standout showing for Marinerong Pilipino in the PBA D-League.

    Santillan is always willing to do the blue collar job, one he kept up when he played in the MPBL as he garnered 11.4 points on 41-percent shooting, 7.5 boards, and 1.2 assists in 24.6 minutes in 17 games with the Zamboanga Family's Brand Sardines.

    But it was in the 3x3 circuit where he honed his perimeter game, adding a dependable perimeter offense as he became the Philippines' No. 6 ranked 3x3 player and possibly, a first rounder in this year's draft.

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    William Navarro (San Beda/ Ateneo)

    Age: 24
    Height: 6-6

    Numbers may tell you otherwise, but Navarro is without question one of the smartest big men available in the pool.

    Coach Tab Baldwin has repeatedly gushed over the impact the Athens-raised forward did for Ateneo, one which in his eyes greatly benefited the Blue Eagles in their three-peat run in UAAP Season 82 that goes beyond his averages of 7.3 points on 44-percent shooting, alongside 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 21 minutes of play.

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    But more than his intellect, Navarro's an intriguing pick for any team as the lanky big man can stretch the floor and has a great nose for the ball.

    That's why it shouldn't come as a surprise now that Navarro has earned a national team call-up in the last two windows, with a real possibility of him being included in the special Gilas round.

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    Ben Adamos (TIP/ San Beda/ Perpetual)

    Age: 25
    Height: 6-7

    Defense wins championships, and luckily for Adamos, that has been his bread and butter.

    His stellar defensive awareness and shotblocking skills were big reasons why coaches loved to have him, whether it was at TIP, San Beda, or Perpetual.

    His final year with the Altas in NCAA Season 95 saw him average 11.6 points on 45-percent shooting, on top of 8.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and 1.1 assists in 29.2 minutes. He kept that intensity in the MPBL as he nabbed 8.8 points on 50-percent clip, along with 7.2 boards, 1.4 dimes, and 0.8 rejections in 22.5 minutes for the Bacolod Master Sardines.

    Adamos has staked his claim as one of the top defensive menaces in the amateur ranks, and he's certainly a steal for any team who takes him in this draft.

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    Taylor Statham (California Baptist/ Cal State San Bernardino)

    Age: 28
    Height: 6-6

    Statham's a stretch four in every sense of the word, one who can knock that outside shot while being fearless in giving the hurt down low.

    The banger has showed high promise since his days for NCAA Division II school Cal State San Bernardino, averaging 9.3 points on 41-percent shooting, to go with 5.4 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 27.6 minutes for the Coyotes back in the 2014-15 season.

    Statham further developed his killer inside-outside game in his travails in Canada, China, Thailand, and Indonesia, and even made his mark in the 3x3 game where he represented the country in the Fiba 3x3 World Tour.

    Getting him in the draft is surely a solid choice for any team, although Statham will have to keep his head in check if he wants to thrive in the PBA, one which haunted him numerous times in the halfcourt game.

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    Troy Rike (Wake Forest/ NU)

    Age: 25
    Height: 6-8

    Rike heads to the draft banking on his intellect and finesse, one which has served him well since his days in Wake Forest.

    The former Gilas cadet may not provide the traditional numbers expected from big men - only notching 6.3 points on 44-percent shooting, to go with 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 20.3 minutes back in his lone year for National University last UAAP Season 81, but you can bet that the Fil-Am will always make the right plays.

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    He showed that in his brief run with AMA Online Education in the PBA D-League and Mighty Sports, before becoming the country's No. 5-ranked 3x3 player.

    Rike, however, will have to work on his toughness if he wants to make his mark in the PBA.

    James Laput (Young Harris College/ La Salle)

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    Age: 24
    Height: 6-10

    Coming in as the tallest among the prospects, Laput is almost certain to earn a look from the coaches.

    But his past travails might not really show much, with the Fil-Aussie center showing little as he only played 14 games for NCAA Division II school Young Harris College and was limited to just 2.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in the seven games he played in La Salle as his UAAP Season 82 campaign was cut short by a freak accident.

    That doesn't deter Laput, though, as he comes in with a massive chip on his shoulder and began his road to redemption in the 3x3 circuit.

    Teams, though, won't really have a problem investing on a guy like Laput, a credible project thanks to his physical gifts and a low-risk gamble for teams in the hunt for a promising big man.

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    Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser (Central Arizona College/ UC Riverside)

    Age: 26
    Height: 6-7

    Brandon won't really have much difficulty differing his game to that of his older Matt.

    Although both Ganuelas-Rossers lean on their athleticism, Brandon's a heftier and bigger cookie - someone who can hold his own down low against larger competition while also having that sweet stroke from the outside.

    There are still ways to go when it comes to Ganuelas-Rosser, even if he gradually improved in his two years with San Miguel Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL). He tallied 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in his rookie year in the 2018-19 season, before averaging 4.9 points and 2.5 boards in the truncated 2019-20 season.

    Still, there's a lot of potential in Brandon, one any team should be willing to bet on moving forward.

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    Nick Demusis (Miles College/ Whittier College)

    Age: 29
    Height: 6-4

    Demusis was quick to blow everyone away with his leaping ability when he made his debut in the MPBL.

    But looking past the highlights, the Fil-Am banger only garnered 8.3 points on 47-percent shooting, alongside 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 17.4 minutes through 19 games, with many believing that he still has a lot to offer thanks to glimpses of his athleticism and toughness.

    Demusis, though, has proven in the past that he's capable of being a solid contributor, nabbing 18.4 points on 49-percent shooting, to go with 6.2 boards, 2.1 assists, and 1.2 steals in his final year for NCAA Division III school Whittier College in the 2014-15 season.

    Comparisons to Rudy Hatfield aside, Demusis is certainly an intriguing pick for any team looking to beef up its frontline.

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    Andre Paras (UP/ San Beda/ AMA)

    Age: 25
    Height: 6-4

    Here's another guy who has a chip on his shoulder.

    Though certainly not as talented as his brother Kobe, Andre is as smart as they come, one who won't deviate from the role he's given and will make the right plays as seen in his performances for AMA in the PBA D-League since 2017.

    Tough as nails, Paras is just like his father Benjie when it comes to being a rebounder. And with his height and heft, he'd sure be a serviceable bruiser for any team who selects him.

    Of course, being a celebrity adds another dimension to his stock, with teams looking at a surefire endorser if they select him in this draft exercise.

    Honorable Mentions: Ken Holmqvist, Tyrus Hill, Tzaddy Rangel.

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    PHOTO: Spin.ph / Thailand Basketball League / MPBL
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