THREE picks in the first round of the recent PBA rookie draft, including the top overall selection in Greg Slaughter, is truly a testament to the glowing basketball program Ateneo laid out the past two decades.
Tabbed by Ginebra as head of Batch 2013 in a draft many consider as the deepest ever in league history, the 6-foot-11 Slaughter is the latest in a long line of pro players to come out of the Jesuits-run institution.
Slaughter was joined by fellow Atenean Ryan Buenafe (No. 8 by Alaska) and Justin Chua (No. 10 by San Mig) as the Ateneo products picked in the first round among the record 79 rookie hopefuls.
Apart from the three, two others were chosen in the second round in Nico Salva (No. 11 by Globalport) and John Paul Erram (No. 15 by Talk `N Text), making it five Blue Eagles among the first 15 picks.
In all, all six Ateneo players in the pool were drafted including Chris Sumalinog in the fourth round by the Tropang Texters.
Slaughter, who initially studied at University of the Visayas, was actually the third Ateneo player to be picked No. 1 overall in the draft in the last five years after Japeth Aguilar (2009) and Noy Baclao (2010).
“We’re actually very humbled,” said former team manager Paolo Trillo, who’s now with Talk `N Text taking on the same capacity.
“But definitely, we’re very proud and happy for the players. This is a testament to the hard work and culture of the basketball program at Ateneo.”
All six players were at one time or another part of the five straight UAAP men’s basketball championship teams of Ateneo from 2008-2012, with Chua playing in all five title-winning squads.
Trillo however, stressed it’s not entirely about the programs, but about the players as well.
“Of course, their (players) ultimate dream is to make the PBA. But you also have to credit the hard work they’ve put in for the program to be a success,” said Trillo, who came aboard at Ateneo in 2004 when Norman Black took over the coaching reins from Joel Banal.
Trillo eventually left the Katipunan-based school after Season 76 of the UAAP to take over as Talk `N Text team manager. Epok Quimpo, the former Ateneo player, has since assumed his old role with the Blue Eagles.
Although the younger brother of Alaska coach Luigi Trillo expected Slaughter to be among the top three picks, the selection of Buenafe ahead of Salva, the two-time UAAP Finals MVP, and Chua surprised him a bit.
“Everybody expected Greg to go early, but the selection of Ryan (Buenafe) was intriguing at No. 8,” he said as he watched the proceedings from the Talk `N Text table.
“But of course, in terms of potential, I’ll really put Ryan as a first-round pick, although on how he takes his game to the PBA and be in better shape are entirely different things altogether.”
But it doesn’t matter to Trillo who gets to be picked first over the other. Not lost on him is the fact Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league will have the benefit again of securing under its wings players who are products of Ateneo’s sound basketball program.
“I think Ateneo has the most number of players in the league right now, correct me if I’m wrong.” he said while rattling off the names of LA Tenorio, Enrico Villanueva, Larry Fonacier, Al-Hussaini, Chris Tiu, Eman Monfort, Doug Kramer, JC Intal, Eric Salamat, Rich Alvarez, Paolo Bugia, and Wesley Gonzales.
“As of our last count, at least 16 or 17 na yata sila, good for an entire team na.”