Williams key to title hopes — SLR
- Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran () - August 21, 2006 - 12:00am
Sta. Lucia Realty board representative Buddy Encarnado gamely predicted a championship is now around the corner for the team after formally getting the signing rights on prized Fil-Am player Kelly Williams yesterday.

Also picking reliable players Mark Isip and Mark Magsumbol in the 2006 PBA Rookie Draft, Encarnado said: "Now, I have a team and we’re looking forward for a competitive campaign this season."

Encarnado ruled out the possibility of Williams going somewhere else as he intends to offer the Detroit, Michigan native a lucrative, long-term deal.

When asked by one writer if they can offer the 6-foot-4 all-round player a three-year contract, Encarnado said: "What’s in my mind actually is better than three years. I’m thinking of five years involving the maximum pay. Nakwenta ko na iyan. It’s P17.9 million. Yan na ang offer para wala ng mahabang usapan."

It’s practically a done deal with Encarnado shaking hands with San Miguel top bossman Henry Cojuangco, SMC basketball operation chief Robert Non and San Miguel coach Chot Reyes after the well-attended draft exercise held at the Market! Market! in Taguig.

"No less than Mr. Cojuangco told me that I should draft Kelly not just for the good of my team but the league. I told the San Miguel people, in return, that I will take good care of him," said Encarnado.

Reyes personally recruited Williams in the US to play for the national team. The 24-year-old former Oakland University-Detroit mainstay later played for Magnolia in the PBL.

Williams, whose mother Andrea Pasco is from Cebu, said he’s happy to make it to the country’s pro league.

"I’m excited to be in the league. It feels great and I just hope to bring the best I can and do to the best of my ability whatever is asked of me on the court," said Williams, who could well become Sta. Lucia’s franchise player in the near future.

Sta. Lucia landed Isip at No. 6 and Magsumbol at No. 13 in the draft exercise sponsored by Extreme Magic Sing, Popoy’s Grill, Ginebra San Miguel, Converse, Master, Magnolia, Gatorade, Brothers Burger and Mr. Softy.

Air21 picked FEU’s Arwind Santos at No. 2, Coca-Cola enlisted Joseph Yeo at No. 3 then San Miguel took in LA Tenorio and Gabby Espinas at Nos. 4 and 5 before Sta. Lucia got Isip.

"Okay lang sa akin kahit No. 2 lang ako. I’m happy to be with Air21. Masarap doon at siguradong magulo kami nila (Ronald) Tubid, (Niño) Canaleta at Ranidel (De Ocampo) na nakasama ko sa national team," said Santos.

"Picking Santos at No. 2 is like picking him at No. 1," said Air21 coach Bo Perasol.

Coca-Cola provided surprise in the draft by picking Yeo over big men Isip or Espinas at No. 3. The team went home with the most number of picks with six in all as the Tigers also drafted JR Rizada at No. 12, Manuel Caceres at No. 14, Chris Pacana at No. 15, Michael Gavino at No. 16 and Ronjay Enrile at No. 17.

The Tigers could be embarking on a massive facelift following the departure of big men Rafi Reavis and Billy Mamaril for Ginebra.

Rounding up the first-round draftees were No. 7 Aaron Aban for Alaska Milk, No. 8 Mark Andaya for Talk n Text, No. 9 Boyet Bautista for Purefoods and No. 10 Abby Santos for Welcoat.

Other players taken in the second round were No. 11 Jireh Ibanes (Welcoat), No. 18 Christian Luanzon (Alaska), No. 19 Magnum Membrere (Red Bull) and No. 20 Olan Omiping (Purefoods).

PBA commissioner Noli Eala noted the annual draft has gone full circle with Junjun Cabatu automatically elevated to the pro league by Welcoat. The draft started in 1995 with Junjun’s father Santiago or Sonny picked No. 1 overall by Shell… Coca-Cola exercised six draft rights, four of which they acquired on trade deals. The Tigers even made a trade deal on the floor, acquiring the Express’ No. 15 pick in exchange for Coke’s second-round pick next year… Williams said he’s still looking for somebody who will represent him in his deals. However, he may not need an agent in his negotiation with Sta. Lucia since the ball club is to offer him the maximum package for five years. He stands to get P150,000 a month this year, P225,000 next year, P337,500 in 2008 and P350,000 in 2009-2010.

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