Rookie draft gives PBA a semblance of normalcy even as league finds a home for Season 46
Last year’s bubble tournament gave the PBA a chance to continue a tournament shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic. With Sunday’s rookie draft, the league gets a fresh reboot.
A total of 86 players will be up for grabs in the draft, all of them representing a chance returning sports to normalcy starting with the PBA, which hopes to complete a 10-month 46th season amid a health crisis that continues to rage.
“It’s far from normal, but we hope to get there,” PBA commissioner Willie Marcial told the Inquirer on Saturday. “At least with the draft, we’re doing something we used to do before.”
Joshua Munzon, a well-traveled 6-foot-4 guard who has represented the country in 3X3 tournaments, is the consensus top overall pick, but it would be hard to discount the possibility of a surprise considering the moves that several teams have made to secure spots in a supposedly deep draft that was watered down by the failure of several blue-chip talents, born or raised abroad, to secure needed citizenship documents.
“I don’t feel any pressure, because I feel like at this point everybody’s opinions have been gathered,” said Munzon on Friday. “You know I’m just grateful and thankful to be in the position and have people think highly of me.”
La Salle’s Jamie Malonzo and highly-touted 6-2 guard Mikey Williams are among those expected to crowd Munzon as this batch’s top selection.
The PBA hopes to kick off its first conference in April and this early, it got good news that should boost that plan: The league has found a home for the season.
Former Antipolo City Gov. Junjun Ynares told Marcial that the city’s prime arena, Ynares Center, was willing to host the PBA season, which will be played in a bubble-closed circuit hybrid.
“He even offered us swab tests for free so it’s most likely that we will be playing there,” Marcial said.
The commissioner will relay the development to the league’s governors in Sunday’s draft, which will be held online. The commissioner and the governors, however, will be on site at TV5’s offices during the draft.
Other highly regarded prospects are San Beda do-it-all forward Calvin Oftana, La Salle’s Santi Santillan and Letran standout Larry Muyang.
Terrafirma will be picking first in the draft before going on board again with the No. 8 pick, which it acquired from San Miguel along with some bench players for a steep price: Top gun CJ Perez.
The Dyip’s plan was to be able to take in as many talents as it can in the draft, but that plan was put in motion before the disqualification of top standouts due to the lack of citizenship documents. Among those who failed to make the deadline were highly-prized talents like playmaker Jason Brickman, Jeremiah Gray and Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser.
But the two first-round selections still give the Dyip a chance to repair its roster and make up for a poor showing in last year’s bubble.
“Last year was indeed a deluge,” Terrafirma coach Johnedel Cardel told the Inquirer on the eve of the draft, but remained tight-lipped on who they will be selecting.
“I just hope we get to tab someone who really fits the team, someone who could really help our cause,” added Cardel.
NorthPort will select second, followed by NLEX at third.
The draft will still be top heavy though, as evidenced by a late move by TNT to get into the top selections. The Tropang Giga used a three-team deal to grab NLEX’s No. 4 pick.
Rain or Shine, Alaska and Phoenix will go next in that order. After Terrafirma, Meralco selects at No. 9, Magnolia at No. 10 and then NorthPort again at 11 before Ginebra takes a crack at the board with the 12th and final first round pick.
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