Bereft of the top two consensus picks, the 2015 PBA Rookie Draft yesterday shifted the spotlight on less publicized neophytes coming out of the amateur ranks, with Rain or Shine pulling off a big surprise by selecting former University of Minnesota guard Maverick Ahanmisi at Robinson’s Place in Ermita, Manila.
Talk ‘N Text, drafting first with the rights previously owned by expansion team Blackwater, confirmed what everybody else expected, going with 6-foot-7 Fil-Tongan Moala Tautuaa, who is currently in Estonia with the Gilas Pilipinas team.
The selection of Tautuaa, whose parents went onstage with the Tropang Texters after their son’s name was called out by PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa, put to end speculations on who will emerge the 41st season’s No. 1 pick overall.
Chosen No. 2 by the Mahindra Enforcers (formerly Kia Carnival) was 6-foot-7 National University center Jeth Troy Rosario, who also missed the draft to reinforce the PH team under coach Tab Baldwin as it prepares for the Olympic qualifying FIBA Asia Championship next month.
Rosario’s stay with Mahindra could be short-lived, however, as a sign-and-trade deal involving Talk ‘N Text and a conduit team is reportedly in the works and awaiting the green light from PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa, who called for a brief moratorium on draft day trades to give his office more time to study the terms and conditions embedded in the agreements.
“I expect to be picked between five and nine,” said Ahanmisi, a member of PBA D-League champion Café France. “It was a shock for me, but I’m glad Rain or Shine picked me. I know it’s a run and gun team. I love the team’s style of play. I watch Paul Lee all the time. I’m glad I’m with their team I could learn from him.”
Ahanmisi wasn’t alone at expressing surprise at having to walk up the stage with the No. 3 pick.
“I was overruled by my coaching staff and the two sons of my boss,” said ROS coach Yeng Guiao, laughing. “Di naging madali sa’min. Personally, I was going for a Scottie Thompson or an Art dela Cruz but my coaches have been following college basketball in the States and they prevailed upon me to go with Maverick. I’ve seen him play and I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt.”
With backup guard TY Tang retiring, Guiao said, Ahanmisi could be coming off the bench behind his idol Paul Lee and Gabe Norwood.
Picked fourth overall by Meralco was another Fil-Am, Chris Newsome, who will be reunited with former Ateneo coach Norman Black.
“I’m really excited to play and get to work with Coach Norman,” said Newsome. “He’s been there for me ever since I’m in there in the Philippines. I feel like he’s been the one who had developed me the most.”
The roar of the crowd that lined up the glass balcony of the four-story Orosa Atrium, signaled the turn of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and new coach Tim Cone, who chose Perpetual Help’s Thompson, Guiao’s original choice.
Unlike most of the rookies, Thompson need not be schooled on the intricacies of the triangle offense, having been under veteran Altas coach Aric del Rosario, a long time assistant of Cone with the Alaska Aces.
“Gusto kong mapuntahan yung favorite team ko (Star Hotshots) and favorite coach ko (Tim Cone),” said Thompson. “Yung triangle offense rin ang most of the time na tinatakbo namin sa Perpetual kaya feeling ko madali akong makaka-fit sa system.”
Selected by NLEX with the No. 6 pick was their longtime D-League player Garvo Lanete, while Meralco, with the second of two first round picks, grabbed San Beda’s Baser Amer at No. 7
Rounding out the first round were De La Salle’s Norbert Torres (Star Hotshots, 8th), San Beda’s Art dela Cruz (Blackwater, 9th), NU’s Glenn Khobuntin (NLEX, 10th), Letran’s Kevin Racal (Alaska, 11th) and Mapua’s Josan Nimes (Rain or Shine, 12th).
Six NCAA players made the big jump to the pros in the first round, four came from UAAP, and two Fil-foreigners.
The second and third rounds of the draft were ongoing at presstime, with only ROS passing with the 19th pick overall.
The draft opened with former PBA chairman Patrick Gregorio of Talk ‘N Text getting awarded a plaque of recognition for his visionary work in the 40th season, keying the grandest inaugural ceremony in league history and opening the doors to Asian imports.
The passing of the baton between former PBA commissioner Chito Salud, now the league president and chief executive, and Narvasa, a former PBA coach, followed, with the two men walking onstage and shaking hands while a voice-over extolled their merits.