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‘He’ll be a great asset to have’

By JEROME LAGUNZAD

Kia coach eyes Fil-German in PBA draft.

Christian Standhardinger’s entry to this year’s pro league rookie draft assures a certified five-star prospect – and a likely franchise player – among teams which intend to turn their fortunes around next season.

The 6-foot-8 Filipino-German bruiser, who suited up for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup and two other major tournaments early this year, looms as the first overall pick in a relatively shallow draft class which includes former La Salle stars Jeron Teng and Jason Perkins.

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As things currently stand, Kia, Blackwater and NLEX appear as the prospective owners of the first three draft picks since the pro league uses the point values accumulated based on the teams’ placing in the three conferences instead of the traditional lottery.

While they finished dead-last among the 12 competing squads in the Philippine Cup and the Commissioner’s Cup, the Road Warriors’ resurgence in the season-ending Governors Cup might cost it the precious top overall pick which could fall into the Picanto’s lap.

If and when it transpires, Kia coach Chris Gavina said he won’t have any second thoughts about drafting Standhardinger, 28, who made heads turns with his impressive showing in the Jones Cup and during the Nationals’ successful title defense in the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“It looks like that we are probably a lock for the number one pick and, barring any changes, we should be having the opportunity to draft such a tremendous player,” Gavina said in a phone interview yesterday.

“Frankly, I am still surprised about him entering this year’s draft. It brought smile to my face since he’s an immediate impact player and somebody who can you build the franchise around,” he added.

With the Picanto yet to break the ice after eight matches in the Governors Cup which prompted him to question his wards’ collective heart and desire recently, Gavina could not help but look ahead, confident that the future remains bright with the possible addition of Standhardinger.

“He is versatile, has great basketball IQ and instincts. He doesn’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look after playing against some of the best players in the region. As you can see, he stood his ground against China and everyone that we went up against (in FIBA Asia Cup.). He’ll be a great asset to have,” he stressed.

While Gavina and Kia are already positioning themselves on selecting Standhardinger, Blackwater coach Leo Isaac admitted the Elite are “very focused” about making it to the playoff round as they currently occupy the seventh spot with an even 4-4 mark.

And tanking – a commonly used term for teams deliberately losing their matches to prop up their chances of landing top picks—is not part of Blackwater’s immediate plans, stressed Isaac.

“Definitely, wala sa plano ‘yun,” stressed the amiable Blackwater mentor in a separate phone interview.

“Basta kami laro lang ng laro para manalo. Basta ang concentration namin is on the ongoing conference at kung hangagang saan man kami makakarating dito. Kung pumasok si Christian, so be it. Kung ano man ang mangyari, ang focus namin sa ngayon is to do well in this conference.”

As promising as the future holds, Gavina knows nothing is cast in stone yet in terms of Kia management’s plans.

“I can’t say it (the No. 1 selection) is assured but I’m hoping it is. But you’ll never know,” he said. “Me as a coach, I’m hoping we get to keep it.”

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