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Oldest is shortest

The PBA draft would’ve listed 64 rookie hopefuls in this afternoon’s player sweepstakes at Market! Market! but the final cast dwindled to 60 with the disqualification of Fil-foreigners Mark Jeffries and Robert Simpson and the voluntary withdrawal of the Albano brothers Ben and Albert.

What was earlier touted to be a shallow pool has turned out to be deep after all with the league’s 10 teams expected to fill the 21 slots in two rounds of choosing. The cast includes 10 Fil-foreigners, three of whom played in the UAAP – La Salle’s Hyram Bagatsing and UST’s Melchor Gile and Khasim Mirza.

The oldest draft applicant Dennis Rodriguez, 31, also happens to be the shortest at 5-5 1/2. There are 20 in the roster of 60 standing less than six feet and among the probable picks in the “short list” are Ateneo’s Jai Reyes, San Beda College’s Borgie Hermida and Letran’s R. J. Jazul.

Rodriguez claimed to be 5-7 in his application form but was measured 1 1/2 inches less by the PBA. He played point guard for PCU and Lyceum. His peg in basketball history is playing for the Philippines in the 2000 Asian Colleges Basketball Championships. 

The youngest in the draft is 6-1 3/4 Mehyar Rafi-Aval, 21. He was born in Guthenburg, Sweden, to a Filipina mother Magdalen and an Iranian father Massoud. Rafi-Aval suited up for the Harstad Vikings in the Norwegian league this past season. The only other 21-year-old in the pool is Hermida who is four months older than Rafi-Aval. Ateneo’s Rabeh Al-Hussaini turned 22 less than three weeks ago.

The tallest is Al-Hussaini at 6-7. No doubt, he’ll be the first overall pick. Al-Hussaini is a dominant post player who averaged 14.8 points in five games in the recent rookie camp. He erupted for 28 points to lead the Whites to an 80-78 win over the Yellows in the camp’s finals. His father Sayed Ahmed Al-Hussaini was born in Bahrain but holds a Kuwait passport. His mother Charito Tan is Filipina. Carlo Sharma is Al-Hussaini’s half-brother.

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Others standing at least 6-4 are 6-4 3/4 Noy Baclao, 6-4 1/4 Mirza, 6-4 1/4 Mark Canlas, 6-4 Chester Taylor, 6-4 1/4 Sean Anthony and 6-4 1/4 Hans Thiele. For the record, the size measurements were taken by the PBA.

Baclao, 23, is expected to be the second overall pick although he was clearly out of shape in the rookie camp. The Bacolod City power forward played for the West Negros Mustangs before moving to Ateneo where he bagged the finals MVP trophy in 2008. He’s coming off a stint with the Philippine Patriots in the ABL.

Mirza’s father Atiquee is Indian and his mother Mary May is from Palawan. Like Baclao, Mirza played for the Patriots. The sweet-shooting guard saw action in three seasons with UST.

Canlas, 24, was on the Philippine youth squad in 2003 and played four years with UST. The San Fernando, Pampanga, power forward suited up for Kettlecorn, Mail and More, Bacchus, Toyota and Pharex in five PBL seasons then enlisted with Ascof Lagundi in the PBL-Liga merger.

Taylor, 24, had a brief two-month stint with Smart-Gilas. He was on UST’s championship team in 2006. Born in Australia, Taylor attended the Colegio de San Agustin in Makati before enrolling in UST. Anthony, 24, played with Smart-Gilas during an exhibition series in Japan last year. He got his feet wet with Ascof Lagundi in the PBL-Liga merger this past conference. His father James was born in Scotland and holds a Canadian passport.

Thiele, 26, played three years with UE. His father Hans Sr. is German and mother Evie Talde, Filipina. The lanky shot-blocker played for PSBA then transferred to UE.

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Hopefuls with impressive credentials include two-leg PBL-Liga top scorer Narciso Llagas of UE, Asian Streetball Challenge MVP Bam-Bam Gamalinda of San Beda, 2009 NCAA finals MVP Jimbo Aquino of San Sebastian College, PBL-Liga GenSan leg MVP Elmer Espiritu of UE, Kuala Lumpur Dragons ABL import Rudy Lingganay of UE, Smart-Gilas guard Rey Guevarra of Letran, 2007 UAAP Most Improved Player Ford Arao of Ateneo, 2009 NCAA MVP John Wilson of Jose Rizal University and 2007 NCAA Most Improved Player Marvin Hayes of Jose Rizal University.

The order of draft is: First round – Air 21. Air 21 (from Talk ‘N’ Text which acquired the pick from Barako Bull), Air 21 (from Meralco), Talk ‘N’ Text (from Air 21 which acquired the pick from Powerade, formerly Coca-Cola), Rain Or Shine, Air 21 (from Talk ‘N’ Text), Ginebra, Ginebra (from Barako Bull which acquired the pick from San Miguel Beer), B-Meg, Alaska. Second round – Meralco, Ginebra (from Barako Bull), B-Meg (from Air 21), Meralco, Alaska (from Rain Or Shine which acquired it from Powerade), Meralco (from Powerade which acquired it from Rain Or Shine), Barako Bull (from Talk ‘N’ Text), Air 21 (from Ginebra), Powerade (from San Miguel), Air 21 (from B-Meg), Alaska.

Air 21 has six picks in all, including the first three, and will likely trade some before the actual draft because the Express has no room for too many rookies. Ginebra has three slots, two in the first round. Meralco also owns three, all in the second round including the bonus No. 11 ticket as a new franchise. Another team with three picks is Alaska, one in the first round. B-Meg has two choices and Talk ‘N’ Text, Rain Or Shine, Barako Bull and Powerade, one each. Left without a ticket is San Miguel.

My picks are, not necessarily in order, for the first round, Al-Hussaini, Espiritu, Baclao, Guevarra, Canlas, Anthony, Llagas, Vanlandingham, John Smith, Hermida; for the second round, Wilson, Alfredo Gerilla, Reyes, Gamalinda, Mirza, Jazul, Thiele, Aquino, Hayes, Arao, Lingganay.

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