TOP-HEAVY as the 2018 rookie pool may seem, some of the lesser-known neophytes did catch PBA coaches by surprise during the two-day 2018 PBA Gatorade Draft Combine.
Save for Bobby Ray Parks, 46 of the 47 entrants willingly gave it their all in the mini-tournament in a last-ditch effort to turn the coaches and scouts' heads in the buildup for the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft on Sunday.
"Halos lahat, maganda ang pinapakita. It will be a hard decision at kailangan mo talagang pag-aralan kung sino ang kukunin mo," said Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia, whose team owns two picks in the first and second rounds of the annual proceedings.
The top talents are already a given.
Guys like Parks, CJ Perez, Robert Bolick, Paul Desiderio, Abu Tratter, Bong Quinto, J-Jay Alejandro, and Michael Calisaan have already put themselves in the coaches' wish list owing to their positive showing in the collegiate leagues.
But the list isn't limited to those guys only, with a few catching the eye of the coaches in attendance.
"Ang daming surprises. Si CJ Isit at si JP Calvo, pati si Matt Salem, maganda ang ginagawa. They've played well," said Garcia.
NLEX assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga also took note of a few aspirants.
"There were a couple of players, maybe (Kris) Porter, (Jorey) Napoles, and the other guys. Medyo umangat din sila for possible second round picks. Mapapaisip talaga kami," he said.
The Road Warriors own two first-rounders, thanks to the trade with Phoenix on Thursday, as well as a second-round pick.
TNT coach Bong Ravena also willingly shared his notes, mentioning, "So far, I have here Kent Lao, a winger who is 6-foot-4. Si (MJ) Ayaay din, yung mga ganun. Hopefully, maabutan namin."
The KaTropa have already sent their selections elsewhere, but don't discount the team making moves come draft day.
Another team which no longer has picks in the first two rounds is San Miguel, but it didn't stop coach Leo Austria from scouting for possible diamonds in the rough.
"Meron tayong mga tinitignan for possibly the third round, kagaya ni Kyles Lao, maganda nilalaro niya since yesterday. Then si (Clark) Derige, maganda rin ang nilalaro. Sa guards naman, si Dan Alberto, makikita mo na matured na sila," he said.
Unfortunately, Austria would be the first to admit that cracking the lineup for these players would be tough, especially with the stacked rosters all 12 PBA ballclubs have.
"Problema lang nila is 'yung mga team na mapupuntahan nila is almost complete na rin eh. Pero for those guys, makikita mo naman na kulang lang sa exposure pero may nakikita naman tayong potential talent," he said.
There's no question that a lot of guys did make the most of the Combine, and Meralco coach Norman Black was happy to see some of those.
"You normally see guys that you haven't probably seen before and you have a chance to see guys who are mostly under the radar. It just gave me a second and third chance to reinforce what I saw in practice," he said.
Unlike the other four mentors, though, Black is keeping his notes to himself, hoping to get all the players he want come Sunday.
"You don't want to show your cards as much as possible," he said. "Besides, we have the number five pick in the draft and a lot of those depends on who gets picked ahead of us."