THE waiting game ends for the record 79 rookie aspirants on Sunday when the Philippine Basketball Association holds its highly anticipated annual draft at the Robinson’s Place in Malate, Manila.
Commissioner Chito Salud and new league chairman Ramon Segismundo of Meralco will welcome the biggest pool of rookie hopefuls ever since Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league institutionalized the draft in 1985, led by consensus top pick Greg Slaughter.
From an original number of 85 hopefuls, the final roster has been trimmed to 79 after two applicants withdrew while four others were stricken out of the list for failure to give a valid reason for their absence in the traditional rookie biometrics.
Still, the pool of talent remains one of the deepest and most talented seen in years, with the seven-foot Slaughter tipped to emerge as the year’s top overall pick during the proceedings that start at 4 p.m. and will be carried live over TV5.
Unless a last-minute change of heart takes place, the first three places are more or less settled with Slaughter set to be grabbed by Barangay Ginebra, former NCAA MVP Ian Sangalang to go to San Mig at No. 2 and Letran star Raymond Almazan to be made the No. 3 pick overall by Rain or Shine.
However, the proceedings should get pretty interesting after that with trades expected to be announced right on the draft floor for the picks owned by Barako Bull, which at the moment still owns the fourth to sixth selections overall.
Spin.ph has already reported that Barako Bull has agreed to trade the fourth pick to Ginebra for fit-again Dylan Ababou and the No. 5 selection to Petron for Mark Isip and Magi Sison.
[For full story, see Barako Bull to trade No. 4 pick to Ginebra for Ababou, fifth pick for Petron subs]
Aside from that, there is also a pending trade for Barako Bull's No. 6 pick, which should go to Globalport in exchange for Denok Miranda.
[For full story, see Bull-ish outlook for Miranda as he takes trade in stride]
Up until the eve of the draft, Alaska is also on the lookout for a trade for the eighth pick overall, with a trade offer from Talk 'N Text still on the table.
Those pending trades should dictate how the rest of the selections would go in a draft that coaches estimate would yield promising prospects until early in the third round.
Other than the three big men, among the potential first-round prospects include reigning UAAP MVP Terrence Romeo,one-time UAAP MVP RR Garcia, Jeric Teng, James Forrester, Alex Nuyles, Ryan Buenafe, and Nico Salva.
Globalpoort gets a crack at the pool with the seventh pick, followed by Alaska, Rain or Shine, and finally, San Mig Coffee at 10th to end the first-round selection.
Only Petron, Air21, and defending Philippine Cup champion Talk `N Text have no first round pick.
The decrease in the number of rookie roster stemmed from the last-minute withdrawal of Jeff Viernes and Mar Villahermosa.
Meanwhile, those stricken out of the list include Japs Cuan, Mark Berry, Franz Delgado, and Jumel Chien.
[For more stories, see Spin.ph's special coverage of the rookie draft here]