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    Blue-chip prospects that PBA coaches would've loved to see in draft

    Feb 1, 2021

    TO no one's surprise, Justine Baltazar's decision dominated the final day of submission for the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft on Wednesday.

    Rightfully so, since everybody was awaiting the decision of the La Salle center, who has been touted as the best center in the collegiate ranks today.

    Baltazar, after all, would have shot up to the top of the list, with many coaches and scouts believing the 6-foot-8 Mabalacat, Pampanga native would have easily been the No. 1 pick, if he wasn't picked first in the special Gilas pool.

    He wasn't alone.

    Aside from Baltazar, there are a handful of players who opted to skip this year's draft proceedings and hold off their leap to make it to the pro.

    Let's take a look at them.

    Thirdy Ravena

    The most obvious one from the field, Ravena remains in Japan nursing his fractured right index finger after hurting it in San-En NeoPhoenix's first game of the year.


    Many coaches hoped for the 6-foot-3 high-flyer to at least declare for the draft, leaving teams fighting for his rights and hold it until he wraps up his contract overseas.

    There's no question of the caliber of talent Ravena has, and just like in the 2019 festivities, he would have merited a strong consideration to be considered as the top overall selection in this rookie class.

    Alas, PBA teams will have to continue watching the 24-year-old Ravena from afar, waiting for the time he decides to head back home.

    Kobe Paras

    Ever since he came back to the country from the United States, Paras has been a must-see attraction, one which he proved in his first season at University of the Philippines last UAAP Season 82.

    The second-generation star has shown time and again what he can do which made him a no-brainer callup in the second window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers last November in Manama.

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    Although he begged off from participating in the third window, coaches were still on the lookout on whether the 6-foot-6 Paras will join his older brother Andre and enter this year's draft, possibly as a member of the special Gilas round.

    The answer, as we know now, is a resounding no.

    Paras still has two years left in his eligibility with the Fighting Maroons, with a potential stint overseas looming, if we'll believe the word from the grapevine.

    Juan Gomez de Liano

    PBA coaches were also hoping to see the name of Gomez de Liano among the entrants for this year's draft.

    After all, many believed that with him seeing action in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President's Cup last October and the UAAP's stern stance on players suiting up in professional leagues, his days as a UP player were already over.

    Yet the only focus on Juan's cupboard for the meantime is his stint with Gilas Pilipinas, with the 5-foot-11 guard certainly among the shoo-ins among the cadets for the third window of the qualifiers.


    There's also talks of him taking his act internationally, one which we've been closely looking at as early as last year.

    PBA coaches, for the time being, will have to wait a little bit longer for JGdL.

    Javi Gomez de Liano

    Javi was more certain about his plans than his brother as he announced beforehand that he will remain an amateur.

    The 6-foot-5 shooter, who had a breakout performance for Gilas last November, expressed his desire to make one final run with UP as he was vocal in his goals of delivering a UAAP title before he graduates.

    Aside from that, Gomez de Liano wanted to honor his standing contract with the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) while continuing to hone his skills with the national team.

    Had he joined, Gomez de Liano would've been a surefire inclusion in the special Gilas pool together with the likes of draft entrants and fellow pool members Calvin Oftana, William Navarro, and Jaydee Tungcab.

    Ricci Rivero

    Rivero is the last of the UP quartet in this list but was the first to put the issue to rest, declaring early that he'll play out his final season with the Fighting Maroons.

    The shifty 6-foot-1 guard has been more busy with his career in the entertainment scene as he just wrapped up his hosting gig in TV5's Lunch Out Loud.

    Fans hoping to see Ricci team up or play against his older brother Prince, who is with Rain or Shine, will have to wait a little bit longer.


    Ken Tuffin

    Like Ravena in Japan, Tuffin also turned pro albeit elsewhere as he opted to play one more season in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZ NBL).

    The 6-foot-5 Fil-Kiwi gunner earlier announced his decision to forego his final year in Far Eastern University and instead, inked a deal with the Wellington Saints, the winningest franchise in the league, while also teaming up with former La Salle center Taane Samuel.

    The former Gilas cadet is hopeful that his run there would make him a better player as he has already noted his intentions of declaring for the next PBA Rookie Draft.

    Gian Mamuyac

    Mamuyac would have definitely boosted the choices for guards had he declared for this year's draft.

    Insiders shared that the Ateneo guard seriously considered making the jump. But unlike his peer William Navarro, Mamuyac ultimately decided to remain with the Blue Eagles.

    The 6-foot-1 slasher is one of the peskiest defenders in the collegiate ranks today and with one more year left in Ateneo, would definitely be a valuable holdover as it seeks to extend its dynasty to four straight championships in the UAAP.

    Justin Gutang

    Gutang should have gained strong consideration from PBA teams if he declared for this year's draft. The 6-foot-3 high-flyer's athleticism would certainly boost his stock among scouts, as evidenced by his run with Mighty Sports, which would add to what is already a loaded draft field.

    But the Fil-Am forward chose to give St. Benilde one last shot, hopeful that his final NCAA season would also bring the end of the Blazers' near two-decade Final Four drought.


    Shaun Ildefonso

    It would've been easy for Ildefonso to leave National University altogether after the school's roller coaster year that saw his younger brother Dave go back to Ateneo and the promising Bullpups core leave for rival schools.

    Yet here he is, still with the Bulldogs with one last year left in his eligibility.

    The 6-foot-2 forward can definitely build his stock more now that he'll certainly be looked at as one of NU's leaders, although it won't come without hardships as the Jhocson side expects a rebuild under coach Jeff Napa.


      Nevertheless, it can all go upward from here, with Shaun hoping to soon follow the footsteps of his legendary father, two-time PBA MVP Danny Ildefonso.

      In the meantime, Ildefonso's quirky social media work isn't too shabby, we should say.

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