JERICHO De Guzman is keeping his fingers crossed his days a Barangay Ginebra practice player will soon be over.
The towering former St. Benilde College slotman took the first step in that direction when he ended up being selected by the Kings as their regular pick in Sunday’s PBA rookie draft at the Robinson’s Place in Manila.
The tallest among 53 applicants comprising this year’s rookie batch at 6-foot-11, De Guzman ended up as the team’s other selection in the second round of the proceedings after Jam Jamito.
The 27-year-old player from Concepcion, Tarlac admitted feeling ‘heaven’ when commissioner Chito Narvasa called his name and joined the rest of the Kings on stage where he was fitted the traditional team jerseys and caps given to rookie draftees.
“Sobrang saya, hindi ko ma-explain,” said De Guzman, who was joined by his family during the two-hour long event. "It’s a dream come true para sa akin. Lahat ng pinagpaguran ko nag pay-off.”
Everything was made special of course, by the fact that Ginebra was the team which drafted him, the same ‘family’ with whom he served as practice player during the Kings’ campaign in the Governors Cup, which the franchise eventually ruled.
For five months De Guzman was the team’s practice player during its daily training.
“Blessing talaga sa akin. Ito ang talagang team na gusto kong mapuntahan at winelcome nila ako dito,” he said.
So what did coach Tim Cone tell him on stage?
“Sabi niya lang it’s official. Congratulations,” a beaming De Guzman related.
Under league rules, practice players also had contracts with their respective teams, but not in the form of a Unified Players Contract (UPC) that it usually submitted by ballclubs to the league.
This time, De Guzman hopes he’ll finally be given a real, live contract.
“Sana nga, magka-kontrata na,” he said.