IT’S University of the Philippines’ own little way of paying a debt of gratitude.
Top supporters of the school led by Robina Gokongwei-Pe treated the Blackwater team to a sumptuous dinner on Friday for going out of its way to get former Maroon standouts Paul Desiderio and Diego Dario during the last PBA rookie draft.
Pe and the two former UP players, who played key roles when the Diliman-based unit reached the UAAP men’s basketball finals for the first time in 32, were joined by team owner Dioceldo Sy and assistant coach Patrick Aquino – another alumnus of State U – during the small get-together held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Also around were fellow UP graduates Patrick Gregorio, current Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) secretary-general, and Anna Mae Lamentillo, current assistant of Secretary Mark Villar at the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Another Blackwater rookie, Abu Tratter, and Dr Henry Costa, a longtime friend of Sy, who’s in the country for a brief visit, likewise came over.
The Elite traded prized big man Paul Erram to NLEX for the Nos. 4 and 7 picks, which they used to get the services of Desiderio and Tratter.
Dario meanwhile, was tabbed by the team in the third round of the draft.
All three rookies were signed up by the franchise for the coming 44th season of the league.
“It was more of an appreciation dinner for drafting and signing Desiderio and Dario by Blackwater,” said Sy, a close friend of Pe, president and chief operating officer of Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc. and longtime backer of the Fighting Maroons.
For someone who knew both Desiderio and Dario from their college days, Aquino believes the two rookies, along with Tratter, are all good additions to the Elite’s campaign this season.
“Boss Dio was amazed at what they did with UP last season, so hopefully they’ll bring that too, to Blackwater, plus Abu, who is also a champion player himself,” said Aquino, who has steered the National University Lady Bulldogs to five straight titles in the UAAP.