THE creation of the controversial special draft for Gilas cadets has certainly left this year’s regular rookie draft as one of the shallowest in years.
But despite common belief, there are still enough quality players that teams and their coaches can choose from in the annual proceedings on Sunday at Robinsons Place Manila.
While D-League standouts Jonathan Grey, Gelo Alolino, Chris Javier, and Rashawn McCarthy are all expected to go high, there are some unheralded players who can hold a candle to their more touted counterparts.
We give you our list of sleepers who can wake the fans’ attentions up.
The 6-foot-5 slotman is one of those “best players you’ve never heard of.”
Playing outside the UAAP and NCAA got him little exposure in college, but the former St. Clare stalwart finally introduced himself with his solid play in the D-League where he racked up double-doubles on a consistent basis.
The 26-year-old pride of Basud, Camarines Norte also stood out in the Draft Combine, topping the lane agility test on Day One, before anchoring his team in its mini-tournament conquest on the second day.
Don’t be surprised if Blackwater makes him one of its picks as Elite coach Leo Isaac raved and compared him to a young version of Vic Manuel.
After getting cut in his penultimate year with Mapua due to commitment issues, the 6-foot-4 forward from Dumaguete has made the most in his return, putting up solid numbers in his final season to help the Cardinals in their Final Four run.
Content in taking perimeter shots in his early college days, Eriobu has learned to use his size to his advantage and is now willing to mix it up down low – best typifying it by scoring the putback and converting the three-point play that forced overtime of the finals of the Combine’s mini tournament where his team eventually won, 55-51.
Although there are questions whether he can match up with PBA bigs, the Dumaguete-raised forward has a PBA-ready body as a small forward.
The former Ateneo Eaglet and national youth team standout disappeared from the local scene for five years after honing his skills in the US as he became the first Filipino to get into a US college varsity team straight from high school in the Philippines.
But the son of veteran coach Joel finally returned last year and flaunted his progress as a prototype shooting guard.
Banal capped his impressive play in the Draft Combine by draining back-to-back three-pointers that gave his team enough separation to win the finale in the mini tournament.
He has made enough noise to attract interest from Blackwater, which intends to make him the top pick overall of the regular draft.
Hardly getting playing time in a crowded National University backcourt, the 6-foot playmaker from Davao gained significant minutes in the D-League with Tanduay and was instrumental in the Rhum Masters’ run to the finals in the last conference.
The 24-year-old point guard also made a good impression in the Draft Combine with his sound decision making and scoring to lead his unheralded team to the finals of the mini tournament.
He has altar-boy looks and shies away from the spotlight, but don’t be fooled: the 6-foot National University standout is among the toughest players in the draft that take pride in their defense, earning a reputation as the “Kiefer-stopper” in college after limiting the Ateneo superstar Ravena in their individual matchups.
The 24-year-old Bacolod native has also developed a decent offensive game and running the point that makes him a serviceable two-way player.
Hardly a top offensive option at Arellano in college, the 6-foot-1 shooting guard blossomed into a big-time scorer in the amateur ranks.
While others have turned to the D-League to get exposure, Hernandez chose another route, playing in the Filsports Basketball Association and Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League, where he gained less exposure, but dominated both upstart leagues, being named MVP in one conference in the FBA.
Teams that need instant offense can acquire the 26-year-old San Luis, Pampanga native’s services.
He’s another one who hardly gained exposure in college playing outside the Big City. The Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College standout started to get on the map only in the amateurs, playing for Caida, under coach Caloy Garcia, in the D-League and PCBL, where he was named MVP in its maiden conference.
But the 24-year-old Ilonggo cager is usually under the radar probably because he’s not a flashy scorer, but what he lacks in height, the stocky 5-foot-10 guard makes up for with his tenacity on defense.