BY WAYLON GALVEZ
Manila, Philippines – Sixteen years after he was tabbed with the No. 1 overall pick in the Rookie Draft, Danny Ildefonso was again plucked first as newcomer Blackwater Sports named the two-time PBA MVP No. 1 overall in the Expansion Draft yesterday at Microtel’s Tito Chef in Libis, Quezon City.
Seen now as a player who can provide veteran leadership and impart his knowledge to young players, Blackwater will be leaning on the 6-foot-6 Ildefonso as their top player when they start their maiden campaign in the PBA in October, the league’s 40th season.
“We got a two-time MVP,” said Blackwater chief Dioceldo Sy. “He’s the most senior in the team and we look to him as the extended arm of the coach. We hope he can be a leader of the team, give more tips to the young players.
Sy was accompanied by head coach Leo Isaac.
Kia, which made Reil Cervantes as the second overall pick, arrived with Columbia Auto Cars president Ginea Domingo and team manager Eric Pineda in lieu of coach Manny Pacquiao who had to attend to his ailing wife Jinkee in a hospital in General Santos City.
But even without the eight-division boxing champion present , Pacquiao grabbed the spotlight as Pineda submitted Pacquiao’s application for the PBA Rookie Draft scheduled Aug. 24 at Robinson’s Place in Ermita, Manila.
“The documents are already with the commissioner. Yes he is (joining the rookie draft),” said Pineda. “We thought about that (that other teams might pick him), but we spoke with the commissioner. He’ll handle it his way.”
PBA commissioner Chito Salud did not elaborate how he plans to ask other teams about the case of the 36-year-old Pacquiao, but welcomed the addition of the fighting pride of the Philippines who is also a congressman in the province of Sarangani.
“We welcome the involvement of Cong. Manny with Kia Motors as a coach when it was first announced. And again, we welcome the draft application of Cong. Manny. We wish him luck,” said Salud.
Ildefonso, picked No. 1 overall by San Miguel Beer back in 1998 in the Rookie Draft, played his first 15 seasons with the Beermen and won back-to-back MVP honors in 2000 and 2001.
Last season, he signed with Meralco and played two conferences with the Bolts before he was left unprotected for the expansion draft. His career averages are 11.22 points and 6.21 rebounds per game.
Kia assistant coach Glenn Capacio represented Pacquiao and said he was in constant communication with the team’s head coach, saying: “Before mag-draft, he was on the telephone. We got 90 percent of the players that we want.”
Salud first offered an option for the two teams to submit if they have a wish list of players, but since both parties have none, the regular drafting process went on with Blackwater winning the coin flip over Kia.
Both teams expressed satisfaction with the picks they made, and their respective teams will be reinforced by players from the Rookie Draft with Kia owning the 11th overall pick while Blackwater will have the 12th pick in the first round after the 10 original members, including fellow newcomer NLEX, which now owns the Air21 franchise.
In the second round, Blackwater will select first followed by Kia, but in the third round, the two expansion teams will have the remaining alternate picks as approved by the PBA Board of Governors.
Meanwhile, the other players selected in the expansion draft are Alex Nuyles, JR Cawaling, Eddie Laure, Bryan Faundo, JP Erram, Paul Artadi, Gilbert Bulawan, Bam Gamalinda, Chris Timberlake, Norman Gonzales and Rob Celis for Blackwater, and Mike Burtsher, Hans Thiele, Alvin Padilla, Jai Reyes, Paul Sanga, Angel Raymundo, Eder Saldua, Nick Belasco, LA Revilla, Joshua Webb and Richard Alonzo for Kia Motors.