Casio, Lassiter, Lutz and other Smart Gilas stars joining PBA draft
MANILA—Smart Gilas Pilipinas will have to rebuild around naturalized center Marcus Douthit and Chris Tiu if national players who beat Thursday’s PBA draft deadline get picked by teams in the pro league.
Philippine five mainstays JV Casio and Dylan Ababou beat the 5 p.m. deadline for pro applicants and will join 34 other aspirants for the PBA rookie lottery set Aug. 28 at the Robinson’s Ermita Mall.
Filipinos raised abroad Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz, the national squad’s best wing defenders, also filed their applications to turn pro along with forward Mac Baracael, pivotman Jason Ballesteros and starting point guard Mark Barroca.
Tiu, the Smart Gilas captain, was not in the draft roster released by the PBA Commissioner’s Office, which gave applicants until Aug. 26 to decide if they will back out from the freshman exercise.
The 34-man list of applicants is the fewest in the last 12 years.
Tiu expressed interest to continue donning the national colors after the Smart Gilas program was extended for two more years or until the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship where three continental seats for the Fiba worlds are at stake the following year.
“After much prayer and consultation with family and friends, I have decided not to take part in the PBA draft this year,” said Tiu, who helped Ateneo capture the first of its three consecutive UAAP crowns back in 2008.
“My dream has always been to represent our flag and country by competing in various international tournaments. Should management wish to invite me, it would be my privilege to continue on with the Gilas national team program,” Tiu added.
A reliable source said Tiu would be offered a contract extension by Smart Gilas along with Lassiter, Lutz and Casio.
“I’m just waiting for them (Smart Gilas officials) to talk to us. Right now, there are no offers yet,” said Casio, the steadiest shooter in the team.
The former La Salle guard could be the No. 1 pick, which Powerade owns.
Smart Gilas operations head Butch Antonio said the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas gave its blessings for the players to enter the draft with high hopes the national team could still borrow them from the PBA in future tournaments.
“With our good relations with the PBA, we could probably ask them to lend these players in the future,” said Antonio. “It’s a childhood dream for these guys to be in the PBA.”
Assuming the applicants from Smart Gilas pursue their PBA dreams, Antonio said they would elevate some of the players from the collegiate ranks to fill the void.
Sources said a couple of players from the PBA D-League would be tapped along with seven-footer Greg Slaughter and Kiefer Ravena of Ateneo, FEU’s Aldrech Ramos and Ray Parks of NU to rebuild the team with holdovers Tiu and the 6-foot-10 Douthit.
As for Japeth Aguilar, who has a live contract with Talk N Text, the 6-foot-9 leaper said he would stay with the Philippine team should Smart Gilas retain the services of head coach Rajko Toroman.
Antonio said the contracts of most Smart Gilas players will end next month after the Fiba Asia Championship in Wuhan, China on Sept. 15 to 25, which offers a lone continental ticket to the 2012 London Olympics.
Other PBA hopefuls who joined the draft were former UE stalwart Paul Lee, Ateneo’s Eric Salamat, FEU’s Reil Cervantes, Mark Cagoco of JRU, UST’s Allein Maliksi, Adamson’s John Mark Agustin, Cebu’s Mark Ababon and Ariel Mepana, UE’s James Martinez and Kenneth Acibar, and Magi Sison of UP.