By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
JANUARY 27 marks the deadline for aspirants to submit their application for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) rookie draft, which now boasts of a fortified pool after a number of quality players added their names to the list.
From collegiate and amateur/pro-am standouts to all-around Fil-foreigners, this year’s roster of rookie hopefuls is viewed by many as one of the deeper in years in the local pro league.
Among the players who made themselves available for the draft recently are Larry Muyang, Will Navarro, James Laput, Jamie Malonzo, David Murrell, Jun Manzo, and Jaydee Tungcab.
Mr. Muyang is a champion collegiate player out of Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
The Pampanga native is one of the more successful players to come out of the Knights’ program, having won the rookie of the year award in Season 94 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) then a year later helping Letran win the NCAA title.
It is this same success the 6’5” bruiser wants to achieve in the pro ranks where he hopes he could be of help to teams wanting to shore up their front court.
Mr. Muyang, 25, also played for the Pampanga Delta in the National Basketball League and Pampanga Giant Lanterns and the San Juan Knight-Go For Gold in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.
In applying for the draft, one of the motivations for Mr. Muyang is to begin providing a good life for his family.
Mr. Navarro, meanwhile, is coming off a successful collegiate career with University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) champions Ateneo Blue Eagles.
While he still has one year of eligibility to play in the UAAP, he decided to try his luck in the draft to also help his family.
In Ateneo, Mr. Navarro worked his way up before finding a steady place in the rotation of the Blue Eagles where he excelled.
His development and work did not go unnoticed, with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas including him in the Gilas cadet pool of players.
He saw action in the second window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in November in Manama, Bahrain, and is now in the running for a roster spot in the upcoming ACQ window in February here.
Mr. Navarro is currently at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, where Gilas is holding a training “bubble” in preparation for next month’s competition.
Messrs. Laput and Malonzo, for their part, were a couple of one-and-done players for the De La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP and showcased their wares in the PBA D-League.
Big man Laput unfortunately was not able to show what he is capable of in the UAAP because of an injury he suffered in practice, limiting him to just seven games for La Salle.
He recently played in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup and did well for the Big Boss Cement-Porac.
“I just want to be with a team that sorely needs a big man. Maybe a team like Meralco or Magnolia. I think it would be fun to be able to play with those teams and learn from the veterans, and at the same time do what I need to do to help the team,” Mr. Laput was quoted as saying by the official PBA website of his draft aspirations.
Mr. Malonzo is highly touted entering the draft and considered a top three prospect, if not the number one selection.
In his lone season for La Salle, he averaged 15.77 points, 9.92 rebounds, 1.62 assists, and 1.08 steals per game, earning him a spot in the UAAP Season 82 Mythical Team.
Messrs. Manzo, Murrell, and Tungcab, meanwhile, were key players in the impressive showing of the University of the Philippines in the UAAP in the last couple of years.
They played their respective roles for the Fighting Maroons effectively, with Mr. Manzo the top floor general, Mr. Murrell a defensive presence, and Mr. Tungcab a do-it-all wing player.
Other players in the draft pool include top 3×3 players Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, Santi Santillan and Troy Rike, Fil-foreigners Franky Johnson, Taylor Statham and Mickey Williams, and collegiate standouts Andrei Caracut and Ben Adamos.
The PBA Rookie Draft happens on March 14, but to adapt to the prevailing conditions with the coronavirus pandemic, it will be done virtually.
It is still being determined if just like last time around there will be a special draft for Gilas as the PBA is still awaiting word from the SBP.
Also, in place of a traditional draft combine, where the aspirants have their skills tested, the PBA may ask the aspirants to submit videos of themselves doing skills tests and drills for the teams to pore over as they make the decision on which players to take.
Set to pick first for the third straight season are Terrafirma Dyip, who finished last in the lone tournament in the coronavirus pandemic-hit PBA season in 2020.