PBA awaits rookies from NCAA Finals
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - October 19, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Five drafted rookies are set to join the PBA after the NCAA Finals between San Beda College and Arellano University as the freshman class is expected to swell to over 30 in the pro league’s 40th anniversary season.

Last year, 25 of 44 drafted rookies saw action in at least a PBA game. Mark Bringas was the last player picked in the seventh round but still managed to suit up for Meralco in one game in the Commissioner’s Cup and six in the Governors Cup.

So far this season, there are 26 rookies in 11 of 12 teams. Only Purefoods did not sign up a rookie. Of the 26 freshmen, eight were not in this year’s draft list, namely Kia’s Eder Saldua (undrafted, 2008), Joshua Webb (3rd round, 2013), Paul Sanga (undrafted, 2013) and Alvin Padilla (5th round, 2013), Blackwater’s Bacon Austria (3rd round, 2012) and J. P. Erram (2nd round, 2013) and N-LEX’s Byron Villarias (5th round, 2013) and Jeckster Apinan (undrafted, 2013).

The five drafted rookies playing in the NCAA Finals are San Beda’s Anthony Semerad (1st round, Globalport), David Semerad (1st round, Barako Bull) and Kyle Pascual (2nd round, Kia) and Arellano’s Prince Caperal (2nd round, Globalport) and Nard Pinto (2nd round, Globalport). At the moment, Globalport’s lineup lists 13 players, including rookies Roider Cabrera of Adamson and Paolo Taha of St. Benilde. The roster will move up to 15 if coach Pido Jarencio enlists Anthony Semerad, Caperal and Pinto. The PBA limit for contracted players is 15 with 14 to play and one in the injured/reserve list. Practice players are unrestricted free agents and may be offered contracts by any team.

Kia has the most rookies with six, including playing coach Manny Pacquiao and Kenneth Ighalo. Saldua, 31, was a surprise recruit from the 2008 draft where he was not picked. The Davao City wingman played for the University of Mindanao and FEU before moving to the PBL and Liga Pilipinas. Another surprise recruit was Austria, a 25-year-old former Ateneo guard whose father Leo is the San Miguel Beer coach.

The undrafted rookies this year are Saldua, Sanga, Apinan and Cabrera. Sanga, 27, went to La Salle Antipolo for elementary and high school then played four years for FEU. Apinan, 27, is from Capiz and played with the Jose Rizal University varsity as a power forward. Cabrera, 23, flunked tryouts at N-Lex but found a job at Globalport. Other undrafted players in rosters are Barangay Ginebra’s Josh Urbiztondo (2009), Barako Bull’s Chico Lanete (2006), Kia’s Hans Thiele (2010), Chad Alonzo (2006), Rudy Lingganay (2010) and Bogart Raymundo (2008), Rain Or Shine’s Jonathan Uyloan (2009) and Purefoods’ Jerwin Gaco (2003).

Four rookies, who were drafted last year, are making their debut this season, namely Padilla, Webb, Villarias and J. P. Erram. Padilla, 26, was a combo guard for four years with the UP varsity and is a pure shooter. Webb, 24, is a wingman from La Salle. He is a third generation PBA player as his grandfather Freddie and uncle Jason, brother of his father Fritz, are former pros. Freddie Webb played in 1976-78 and his son Jason in 1997-2001 and 2003. The Webbs are the first family to bring three generations to the PBA.

Villarias, 26, is from Bacolod City and was a shooting guard at Jose Rizal University. He played for N-Lex in the PBA D-League so coach Boyet Fernandez is familiar with his style. Erram, 25, is a 6-6 center who played four years for Ateneo. He was picked in the second round last year but wasn’t signed up. Blackwater coach Leo Isaac is giving Erram a chance to play with former Ateneo teammates Juami Tiongson and Austria.

Two drafted rookies on the cusp of breaking into the league are Raul Soyud of UP and Brian Heruela of the University of Cebu. Soyud was the 31st overall pick by Blackwater this year but made his way to N-Lex where he was initially in the injured/reserve list before dropping out with the entry of Perpetual Help rookies Harold Arboleda and Jong Baloria. Heruela played on two CESAFI title squads with JuneMar Fajardo and was the 26th overall pick by Blackwater this year. Heruela was in the injured/reserve list until Larry Rodriguez joined the Elite from Rain Or Shine via Talk ‘N’ Text. Isaac made room for Rodriguez by relegating Gilbert Bulawan to the injured/reserve list and striking out Heruela.

Pacquiao, 35, is the oldest rookie in this year’s class. Argentina’s Pablo Prigioni was also 35 when he made his NBA debut with the New York Knicks in 2012-13, the oldest rookie in the league in 40 years. The oldest PBA first overall draft pick ever is Globalport’s Stanley Pringle who was chosen this year at 27. Pacquiao is expected to play for Kia against Blackwater in the first game of today’s PBA season inaugural doubleheader at the Philippine Arena. Once he checks in, Pacquiao will go down in PBA history as the oldest rookie ever to play in the league.

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