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Clean sweep

There were 43 rookie hopefuls picked in the PBA draft before a huge audience that packed the corridors of four floors at the Robinsons Place Manila last Sunday. The initial list named 44 applicants but Jermiah de la Peña, 28, was a no-show. If De la Peña came, he would’ve been chosen, too.

PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa said it was the consensus of the teams to give every applicant a chance to live his dream. He made sure every hopeful was picked and no one was embarrassed in front of family and friends. It’s the first time in at least 18 years that every player in the draft was chosen.

The valedictorian in the draft was Phoenix with six picks, two in the first round, two in the second and one each in the third and fourth. The Fuel Masters, now coached by Louie Alas, tapped Jason Perkins, Sidney Onwubere (who came with his Nigerian father Vincent and Filipina mother Lisa), Jayson Grimaldo, Wilson Baltazar, Dan Sara and John Casino. Blackwater and Star shared salutatorian honors with five picks apiece.

The Elite named Toto Jose, Renz Palma, Biboy Enguio, Kyle Neypes and Jhon Sumido while Star chose Lervin Flores, Joseph Gabayni, Julian Sargent, Gwynne Capacio and Thomas Torres. Before the end of the day, Star and Globalport came to terms on a trade with the Hotshots sending the signing rights of Flores, Gabayni and Sargent to the Batang Pier for the same rights of No. 6 pick Robbie Herndon. The deal is subject to approval by Narvasa. It won’t be acted on until the PBA reopens office on Thursday after a three-day break. GlobalPort PBA Governor Erick Arejola confirmed the proposed trade. He also said newly-reinstated head coach Pido Jarencio will be joined by Rensy Bajar and Joe Ward in his staff.

For the record, a team has five working days to tender an offer to a drafted player. If no offer is made, the player becomes a free agent automatically. Because of the PBA break, the deadline for a team to make an offer will be on Wednesday, Nov. 8. 

Teams with four picks were San Miguel Beer, NLEX, GlobalPort and TNT. Meralco chose only Jebb Bulawan in the third round as the Bolts had no slots in the first and second rounds. First to pass was Alaska in the third round after picking Jeron Teng in the first and Davon Potts in the second.

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Ginebra’s first round pick was Jett Manuel, a licensed civil engineer. At the draft combine, Manuel was third in lane agility with a run of 11.62 seconds behind Ravena’s 10.72 and Zach Nicholls’ 11.56 and third in max vertical leap with 38.5 behind Ravena’s 39.5 and Sargent’s 39. “In the scrimmages, I hit some tough shots and shot a high percentage from the three,” he said. “I showed I can play full-court defense. I know I’m ready for the physicality in the PBA. My PBA dream is to contribute to a winning team. I want to win a lot of games and in the process, a championship.”

Manuel said calling him the new Jeff Chan is a fair description. “We’re both shooters and chinky-eyed,” he chuckled. “What I’d like to be known more for is my defense. I know to stay in the league, you’ve got to play defense. You can’t just be an offensive player.  Offense comes naturally. You’ve got to work hard on defense. To reach the PBA is a big accomplishment. I’m looking forward to the competition, the opportunity to play against the heroes whom I look up to.”

Manuel said he’ll bring lessons from the UAAP to the PBA. “What I learned in the UAAP is the concept of discipline and that you can’t win games by yourself,” the former UP star said. “It’s not like in high school where you can sometimes do things on your own.  In the PBA, the competition is at the highest level and the only way to win is to play as a team.”

Manuel said he owes a lot to his previous coaches. “I’m grateful to coaches Lito Vergara, Aboy Castro who recruited me from Xavier for UP, Ricky Dandan, Boyet Fernandez, Bo Perasol and Chot Reyes,” he said. “Playing for coach Chot in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup was a big part of my growth. At Xavier, I played with Jeron and Jeric Teng and Gab Banal and at UP, one of my teammates was Woody Co. I learned a lot playing with them. I also honed my skills with Mike Cortez and our mutual coach Joe Ward. I don’t really cheer for any PBA team but in the NBA, I’m a Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant fan.”

Manuel said his parents Pong and Lia were at Robinsons Place for the draft with his two younger brothers. “We’re very family-oriented,” said Manuel. “My whole family came out to support me in my big leap to the pros.”

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