Two Sundays ago, the Philippine Basketball Association held its annual rookie draft that was more than historic for a couple of reasons.
For one, it was perhaps the first PBA rookie draft to have been held purely online, of course because of the still raging pandemic not just here but across the globe. Second, the 65 rookies that were drafted that day out of another record 86 hopefuls who submitted their names in this year’s draft is the most in PBA draft history.
In addition, it was only the second time that the draft reached the eighth round, the first and only other time being in 2015.
Still, this year’s edition of the yearly PBA draft is not without drama, surprises and controversies. In fact, even in the special Gilas draft where four hopefuls were to be selected by the top teams in the drafting order, there was a bit of a hullabaloo when NLEX Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao appears to have been none too pleased with their ‘choice’ of Alab Pilipinas big man Tzaddy Rangel after Terrafirma Dyip and NorthPort Batang Pier selected Jordan Heading and William Navarro with the 1st and 2nd picks, respectively.
Those in the know said Guiao has already set his sights on UP wing Jaydee Tungcab but that his bosses in the MVP group may have made him change his mind for still unknown reasons, apparently. That allowed Talk N’ Text Tropang Giga, the top team under the three-team Pangilinan fold, to snatch Tungcab with the fourth and last pick of the special draft.
Of course, much of the big names that were tipped to be tapped in the first round of the draft were selected one after the other, led by 3×3 specialist Joshua Munzon as the overall No. 1 pick and followed by athletic forward Jamie Malonzo to Northport and former King Lion Calvin Oftana to NLEX. The rest of the first round were mostly either bigs or plays big with Mikey Williams going to TNT, Santi Santillan to the Rain or Shine Elastopainters, Ben Adamos to the Alaska Aces, Larry Muyang to the Phoenix Fuel Masters, James Laput again to Terrafirma, Alvin Pasaol to the Meralco Bolts, Jerrick Ahanmisi to the Magnolia Hotshots, and Troy Rike again to NorthPort. The first and only surprise of the first round is the pick of recent bubble champs the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Gin Kings of the 6’8” Fil-Norwegian Ken Holmqvist, who last played in the country for the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in 2017 yet, or some 4 years ago.
Holmqvist, who was part of the 2015 FEU Tamaraws champion team that reigned supreme in the UAAP that year, may not ring a bell among Pinoy cage habitués and no one can really blame them. He is a virtual unknown when ranged against fellow Tamaraw teammates Mac Belo (who won the MVP in that championship year) and Roger Pogoy, now rising stars in the pro league. Or even pros Russel Escoto, Raymar Jose and Mike Tolomia, who are all slowly making their names in the PBA. Still, Ginebra coach Tim Cone gambled on him, he being known to grab the best available big man in the draft as long-term ‘projects.’
It’s up to him to prove his decision to select Holmvqist won’t be for naught.
And picking first in the second round of the draft after sending NCAA champion Jerrick Balanza to NorthPort, the crowd darling selected little-known Brian Enriquez of William Woods University as the 13th overall pick of the 2021 draft.
Enriquez, who is a 6’3” deadshot from distance, was originally set to play for a year with the University of Santo Tomas following the controversial transfer of resident star Rhenz Abando to Letran but the cancellation of the UAAP season due to COVID-19 forced him to enter his name in the draft instead.
Enriquez can very well play the point and would be a nightmare for shorter guards. He only needs to learn the craft from the Gin-eral, LA Tenorio, who could be on the last vestiges of his storied PBA career.
The Fil-Am guard, who was on the radar of a couple of teams too on account of his good showing in the pre-draft workouts, can also be Ginebra’s next Mark Caguioa as The Furious is about to sail into the sunset very soon.