PBA resuscitates rookie combine, wants May draft back in malls
Barring any hitches, the Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA) Draft Combine is returning this summer.
“We’ve set it around May 12 or May 13,” Mauro Bengua Jr., the league’s operations technical officer, told the Inquirer on Friday just before the rubber match between top-seeded Magnolia and perennial Governors’ Cup contender Meralco at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.
It can be recalled that the league scratched the event last year in compliance with the national governments’ restrictions during the pandemic.
As a workaround, the PBA instead allowed teams to invite prospects to join team workouts.
The league has yet to identify a venue pending sponsorship deals, but Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong City is shaping up as the event’s staging site.
Without providing any estimates, PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said he is expecting a bevy of applicants this year.
“We’re now just asking [foreigners with Filipino roots] for their passports this time out. Also, we’ve been in talks with collegiate leagues,” the league chief said.
“They were requesting if we could push the Rookie Draft later than April so we could take in graduates of this season,” he went on. “So we’re bracing for quite the turnout.”
The University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have restarted their seasons after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with both varsity leagues hoping to stay healthy enough for an April finish.
If the UAAP and NCAA succeed in doing so, that would allow graduating seniors, whose careers have been put on hold during the pause in varsity hoops, to immediately apply for the pros.
That, plus the relaxed requirements for Filipinos born and/or raised abroad will ensure a healthy influx of talent for the league, with the number of applicants expected to spike. This will raise the value of draft picks teams currently own.
A total of 97 players applied for last year’s Rookie Draft. Of that number, 86 were eventually cleared with Filipino-Americans Joshua Munzon, Jamie Malonzo and Mikey Williams winding up as the first, second and third picks, respectively.
The deadline for application is set on May 2, with the annual selection slated on May 15.
“We’re also looking at bringing the Rookie Draft back to the malls,” Marcial said, eager to further ride the relaxed restrictions in the capital.
“Hopefully, everything works out,” he added.
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