MANILA, Philippines—Air21 begins rebuilding a roster decimated by trades last season with the Express expected to tab former Ateneo teammates Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Nonoy Baclao as the first two picks in the PBA Draft Sunday at the Market! Market! Place in Taguig City.
The Express actually own four first-round picks, including the third and sixth choices, and Air21 coach Yeng Guiao sees today’s exercise as an opportunity to beef up a squad that won only 10 of its 36 games last season.
The Express have yet to decide on the third pick, which they acquired from new team Meralco for their part in the trade that sent Mac Cardona from Talk ‘N Text to the Bolts.
Guiao has expressed his preference for a big man who can run the floor and the draft pool has two players in that mold—former University of the East star Elmer Espiritu and ex-Letran Knight Rey Guevarra.
“It’s an opportunity to rebuild since we lost so many players last season,” said Guiao.
Air21 also owns the 18th and 20th picks in the second round.
Talk ’N Text, in need of a scoring wingman following Cardona’s departure, will pick fourth, after getting the rights from Air21 in a previous deal with Coca-Cola involving last year’s third pick Chris Ross.
Former NCAA Finals MVP Jimbo Aquino and NCAA MVP John Wilson are among the notable scoring guards in the pool, while the highly rated playmakers include San Beda’s Borgie Hermida, Jai Reyes and Fil-Am Shawn Weinstein.
Rain or Shine will pick fifth, followed by the Express.
Ginebra will select No. 7. The Gin Kings also have the No. 8 while reigning All-Filipino champion B-Meg Derby Ace will pick ninth and 13th. Fiesta Cup champion Alaska will have its turn at No. 10.
As a special concession for the league’s newest team, Meralco will have the 11th pick.
Barako Bull owns the 17th pick while Powerade (formerly Coca-Cola) has the 19th choice. Only San Miguel has no pick in the Draft.
The 6-foot-7 Al-Hussaini and 6-foot-5 Baclao, who powered Ateneo to back-to-back UAAP titles in 2008 and 2009, could become the highest-picked teammates since the Draft started in 1985.
Ex-Far Eastern U standouts Vic Pablo and Johnny Abbarientos went 2-3 in 1992, the same order that former Adamson teammates EJ Feihl and Kenneth Duremdes were also selected in 1995.
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