JAKARTA—Ace guard Chris Banchero needs to wait a little longer before he can bring his celebrated act to the pro league.
Even if the Filipino-Italian talent has been projected as a first-round draft pick, a league rule prevents Banchero from jumping straight to the PBA after playing a pivotal role in San Miguel Beer’s championship romp in the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
“I can’t apply for the draft yet, I have to play in the D-League first,” said the 23-year-old Banchero. “But it’s OK. I’m young and I want to stay focused on becoming a better player.”
A PBA rule requires foreign players with Filipino roots aged 25 and below to play at least two conferences in its developmental tournament, the D-League, before joining the Rookie Draft.
Coach Leo Austria, who steered the Beermen to their first ABL crown, also has another business to finish before his rumored PBA comeback with one of the San Miguel teams.
“There’s nothing official, I have to focus on Adamson first in the UAAP,” said Austria, whose contract with the Falcons will expire at the end of the collegiate season in October.
The 6-foot-1 Banchero, who flashed his explosive form with the Beermen, captured the ABL Finals Most Valuable Player and even finished a close second to teammate Asi Taulava in the race for the season MVP.
“I love the ABL and I love representing the Philippines, but I also can’t wait to play in the PBA,” said Banchero, who grew up in the United States but traces his roots in Ilocos. “The PBA is the place to be especially in the Philippines.”
Banchero—an All-American Player of the Year winner when he starred for Seattle Pacific University in NCAA Division II a couple of years ago—also doesn’t mind if he gets a call up from the national squad.
“I would love to represent the country,” said Banchero.