D-Day has come
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 22, 2015 - 10:00am

Today is the day when 64 rookie hopefuls will find out if they made an impact in their showing at the recent PBA Draft Combine or in their performance as varsity cagers to merit a slot in Asia’s first play-for-pay basketball league.

There are only 15 over 6-3 and 21 under six feet among the aspirants, making it a guard-loaded pool but the bigs are quality players with two of them expected to go 1-2 in the stakes. Moala Tautuaa, who is listed 6-7 1/2, won’t be at the Midtown Atrium of the Robinsons Place Manila because he’s with the Gilas pool in Estonia but there’s no doubt he’ll be the No. 1 overall pick by Talk ‘N’ Text.

Tautuaa’s father Moala, Sr. is Tongan and his mother Romanita is Filipina. Because he didn’t get his Filipino passport before turning 16, Tautuaa qualifies to play for Gilas only as an import unlike another Fil-Tongan Asi Taulava. The passport rule was enacted in 2011 as a way to curb abuse of “localizing” foreigners or imports in FIBA competitions. It was a direct consequence of Qatar trying to pass off imports as locals at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championships in Wuhan. The only way Tautuaa will play for Gilas at the FIBA Asia Championships in Changsha on Sept. 23-Oct. 3 is if Andray Blatche is unable to suit up. The passport rule is not retroactive so that it spares players who had previously suited up in FIBA competitions.

The other big tipped to be the No. 2 overall pick is Troy Rosario, listed 6-6. The former National University star played on the Gilas Cadets squad that took the gold medal at the recent Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore. His parents Premicias and Evelyn are from Cagayan Valley. He attended Alinunu Elementary School and the Abulug School of Fisheries for his secondary education, both in Cagayan Valley, before enrolling at NU. The Mahindra Enforcers, formerly Kia, have the No. 2 pick and will go for Rosario unless they trade the slot beforehand. Since PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa ruled that there will be no trades on the floor today, the deal for the No. 2 slot must be consummated and approved by the league before the draft begins.

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Here is the order of the draft in the first round: Talk ‘N’ Text (from Blackwater in the Larry Rodriguez trade), Mahindra, Rain Or Shine (from NLEX), Meralco (from Globalport), Barangay Ginebra (from Barako Bull), NLEX (from Ginebra), Meralco, Purefoods, Blackwater (from Talk ‘N’ Text), NLEX (from San Miguel Beer), Alaska and Rain Or Shine. In the second round, the order is Blackwater, Mahindra, Rain Or Shine (from NLEX), Ginebra (from Globalport via Barako Bull), Rain Or Shine (from Globalport via Barako Bull), Alaska (from Ginebra), Rain Or Shine (from Meralco), Barako Bull (from Purefoods), Alaska (from Talk ‘N’ Text), Barako Bull (from San Miguel Beer), Alaska and Rain Or Shine.

San Miguel and Globalport have no pick in both rounds while Rain Or Shine has six, including two in the first. Meralco and NLEX are armed with two picks, both in the first round. Barako also has two picks but both are in the second round. Alaska has four picks, three in the second round.

The 15 players who are 6-3 and over are 6-5 1/4 John Ray Alabanza of UE, 6-4 1/2 Yutien Andrada of La Salle, 6-4 3/4 Junar Arce of PCU, 6-3 Alfred Batino of CEU, 6-3 Art de la Cruz of San Beda, 6-5 1/8 Bradwyn Guinto of San Sebastian, 6-5 1/2 Roberto Hainga of UST, 6-6 1/2 Marion Magat of NU, 6-5 Michael Miranda of San Sebastian, 6-3 JosanNimes of Mapua, 6-3 Christian Palma of Arellano, 6-6 Rosario, 6-7 1/2 Tautuaa, 6-6 1/4 Norbert Torres of La Salle and 6-3 Leo Villamor of NU.

The shortest players in the pool are Eric Acuna of St. Clare and Mark Cruz of Letran, both standing 5-6 1/2. The youngest is 22-year-old Scottie Thompson of Perpetual while the oldest is 32-year-old Eric Miraflores of UE.

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It’ll be a mad scramble for the top players in the first round. Aside from Tautuaa and Rosario, others who are expected to be named in the opening round are Torres, Chris Newsome of Ateneo, Thompson, De la Cruz, Maverick Ahanmisi, Glenn Khobuntin, Garvo Lanete, Nimes, Baser Amer and Almond Vosotros. Second rounders could be Mike DiGregorio, Ryan Wetherell, Roi Sumang, Aljohn Mariano, Jerramy King, Kevin Racal and Kris Rosales.

Meralco senior vice president and PBA governor Al Panlilio said after Tautuaa and Rosario, the next big names are Newsome, De la Cruz, Amer, Torres and Thompson, not necessarily in that order. If Newcome is available when the Bolts take their turn to pick at No. 4, they’ll go for the 6-1 3/4 former Blue Eagle whose Filipina mother Carmelita Duque was born in the Philippines. Panlilio said the Bolts recently signed up Justin Chua and Bryan Faundo from the free agent ranks. Rabeh Al Hussaini will be making a comeback with Meralco this season.

San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria said he’s wondering what players will be available in the third round. San Miguel has no picks in the first two rounds and will begin to draft in the third. “If we had the first overall pick, we’ll choose Tautuaa of course even if we have JuneMar (Fajardo),” said Austria. “He’s the best player in the draft. Besides, he could complement JuneMar playing the four position. The draft pool is loaded with guards. Our lineup is intact from last season and we’re very happy with our guards Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter. I think after Tautuaa and Rosario, the next three best players are Torres, Newsome and Thompson.”

With no trades allowed on the floor during the draft, expect teams to pick not just for the day but also for the future. There will be teams using their picks to tap players who could be trade bait. The idea is to beef up for the coming season and that will mean a lot of player movements before the opening on Oct. 18.

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