By WAYLON GALVEZ
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel formally welcomed Greg Slaughter yesterday as the Kings made the 7-foot center the top overall pick in a PBA Rookie Draft marked by the wheeling-and-dealing from several teams at Robinson’s Place in Ermita.
It was a no-surprise move for Ginebra, in need for a legitimate center, as it has invited Slaughter to its practice session well ahead of the annual drafting and the team had revealed its decision to select the 25-year-old former Blue Eagle.
As soon as PBA commissioner Chito Salud announced Slaughter’s name, a throng of Ginebra diehards roared in approval from above the lobby, lending the event a game-like atmosphere.
Slaughter was greeted at the stage by the Ginebra core, including former PBA MVPs Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand, LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, Chris Ellis, Billy Mamaril, and JayR Reyes, recently obtained in a trade with Meralco for Kerby Raymundo.
“It’s still surreal. I still can’t believe it, but I’m happy right now. I couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Slaughter, who was also greeted by Ginebra coach Ato Agustin, team manager Alfrancis Chua and team representative to the PBA Board of Governors Robert Non.
“My focus right now is to help the team win a title. I just want to contribute,” added Slaughter, who started his collegiate career with Ateneo and was part of the original Smart Gilas Pilipinas national pool.
Ginebra missed the semifinals of the Philippine Cup and the Governors’ Cup but made it to the finals of the Commissioner’s Cup where it was swept by Alaska in their best-of-five championship series.
“Two thumbs up!” said Caguioa. “Everything is complete and we now have the pieces to really contend for a title.”
A pair of 6-foot-7 players followed Slaughter as Ian Sangalang of San Sebastian College and Letran’s Raymond Almazan were selected second and third overall, respectively, getting picked by San Mig Coffee and Rain or Shine.
Then the wheeling-and-dealing started as Barako Bull, which owns the No. 4 to No. 6 picks, traded the rights to different teams as earlier reported.
Barako Bull first dealt its fourth pick to Ginebra for Rico Maierhofer and Willy Wilson and the Kings used it to draft Fil-Canadian James Forrester who played for Arellano University in the NCAA.
The fifth pick was dealt by the Energy Cola to the Petron Blaze Boosters for Magi Sison and Mark Isip.
Petron then shipped that No. 5 pick to Globalport for 6-foot-7 Yousef Taha. The Batang Pier then tabbed UAAP MVP Terrence Romeo from Far Eastern University. The Energy Cola also sent their sixth pick to Globalport for veteran guard Denok Miranda, with the Batang Pier adding another Tamaraw, RR Garcia, to its roster.
With the seventh overall pick, Globalport selected Fil-Am Isaac Holstein, a 6-foot-9 center who played for Big Chill in the PBA D-League. Prior to the Draft, the Batang Pier also got in a separate trade Enrico Villanueva from Barako Bull for Willie Miller and Hans Thiele.
Alaska made a big surprise with its No. 8 overall pick by choosing Ateneo’s Ryan Buenafe. Rain or Shine also stunned many when it took Alex Nuyles from Adamson with the No. 9 pick, and Governors’ Cup champion San Mig Coffee grabbed Ateneo’s Justine Chua, the last player to be selected in the first round.
In the second round, Globalport snared Nico Salva, (No. 11), Rain or Shine added Jeric Teng (No. 12), Justine Melton went to San Mig (No. 13), Barako Bull had Jeric Fortuna (No. 14), Talk ’N Text (in a trade with Alaska) got JP Erram (No. 15), Air21 took Erik Camson (No. 16), Robby Celix went to TNT (N0. 17), Alaska tabbed Ping Exciminiano (No. 18), Rain or Shine also got Clifford Rodriguez (No. 19), and Barako Bull selected Carlo Lastimosa (No. 20).
A total of 44 players were selected by the 10 PBA teams after 85 players applied for the Draft with only 79 making the finals list. TNT, Meralco, Air21, Barako Bull and Petron had no picks in the opening round, while the proceedings went to seventh round with Meralco choosing Mark Bringas as the last player to be selected – No. 44 overall.
The 39th PBA Season will start Nov. 17 in three different venues, as the Smart Araneta Coliseum will have the opening ceremony and the game between San Mig Coffee and Ginebra, while Rain or Shine will face Alaska in Davao City, and TNT and Meralco meet in Cebu City.