THE PBA rookie class of 1995 was one of the deepest in league history, with University of Santo Tomas big man Dennis Espino leading a talent-laden pool that included seven-footer EJ Feihl, Jeff Cariaso, Chris Jackson and future MVP Kenneth Duremdes.
But we're certain it isn't deep enough to leave a gem of a guard like Bal David undrafted until late in the third round, right?
Intrigued, we asked the former UST spitfire about the circumstances surrounding his ambigious entry in the PBA when he and former Barangay Ginebra coach Rino Salazar guested in a SPIN Sidelines episode.
David let out a hearty laugh, saying, "alam ko may issue 'yan."
But David was nonetheless game enough to explain that he still had one year of eligibility left at UST in 1995 but was convinced to enter the draft along with former Stag teammate Paul Du by coach Joe Lipa, who planned to bring them to Formula Shell.
"Ako di pa ko dapat, kaya lang nanghinayang ako sa opportunity eh. Saka kailangan eh," said David. "Doon din naman [ako papunta], so nag-try na ako magpa-draft."
David, however, was the first to admit he wasn't ready for the PBA at that point in his career, saying, "Alam ko naman na medyo raw pa ako nung time na yon. Kumbaga, hilaw pa talaga, bata pa masyado."
But the problem was, Lipa, a former national coach, was no longer Shell coach by the time the draft rolled along, replaced by Chito Narvasa.
David ended being selected with the last pick of the third round, at 22nd overall, by Sunkist - picked behind such players as Ferdinand Pastor, Silver Villafuerte, Roderick Bughao, Jun Paguinto, Bryan Punzalan, Adriano Papa, Jr. and Dudut Jaworski.
Ginebra had enough draft picks to get him, but didn't. The Kings instead took Feihl at No. 2 overall, traded the No. 6 pick to Alaska (which turned out to be Cariaso) for Bong Solomon, playing coach Jaworski's son Dudut in the second round, and a guy named Lou Regidor in the third round - five spots before David was picked by the RFM franchise.
Shell used its draft picks on Elmer Lago (second round), Carlito Espiritu (third) and Eduardo Carvajal (fourth round).
Sunkist, which got Duremdes at No. 3, never bothered to give David a qualifying offer, likely because it had a deep backcourt at that time made up of Ricric Marata, Al Solis, Boybits Victoria, and Rudy Distrito.
Unsigned, David went back to the PBL and became part of the Stag team under Alfrancis Chua that completed a league grand slam. He was signed as a free agent in October 1995 by Jaworski and Salazar, reuniting with Stag teammate Marlou Aquino who was Ginebra's No. 1 pick overall in 1996.
"Pinag-usapan namin ni Sonny 'yon, kasi kailangan namin ng guwardiya," said Salazar, explaining that Ginebra then had a shallow backcourt led by Pido Jarencio.
David actually didn't have an auspicious start at Ginebra, recalling that he ended up doing rigorous twice-a-day practices with the Kings beginning in October 1995 while Stag's grand slam team was vacationing in the US.
"So ako, nagpapakahirap mag ensayo non, 'yung Stag nasa America," he recalled laughing.
But the lean but big-hearted guard ended up having a memorable nine-year PBA career all spent with the league's most popular team, where he won two championships, a Mythical Second Team selection, an All-Star Game MVP, and a place in the hearts of not only Ginebra diehards but most PBA fans.
By the time he retired in 2005 at age 31, David had also etched his name in PBA history as one of its best clutch players.