PBA Aspirants Get Baptism of Fire

The 2012 PBA Rookie Draft on Aug. 19 at Midtown Robinsons Place Manila is not for the fainthearted.

An applicant could turn into stone in agony while waiting for his name to be called. Guts would be churning wildly when highly-touted amateurs get passed up in the first round. And imagine what it would be like to be ignored after all other teams have had their fill of one of the PBA’s most talent-laden drafts ever.

That’s the reason the PBA is leaving a window open for those who may have second thoughts about trying their luck against all odds and overwhelming opposition for the hearts and minds of only 10 PBA ballclubs.

“Applicants have until noon Thursday to withdraw their names from the list,” said PBA technical manager Ramil Cruz, who conducted a biometrics and agility tests for the candidates the whole Wednesday morning at the Club 650 gym in Libis, Quezon City.

Fifty-eight applicants, led by potential No. 1 Junmar Fajardo, Calvin Abueva, Clifford Hodge, Chris Tiu and Alex Christopher Mallari, were asked to do their maximum number of pushups, sit-ups and pull-ups. They were also made to undergo 50-meter sprints and vertical leaps.

There were no drills or scrimmages, only tests for strength and athleticism, said Cruz.

With most of the candidates having played in the PBA Developmental League, the PBA deemed it unnecessary to hold scrimmages since PBA coaches and their assistants are already familiar with the capabilities of the incoming rookies, especially those that could be gone in the first two rounds.

“The assumption is nakita na lahat ng mga PBA coaches yung mga bata so more or less alam na nila ang galing ng mga applicants,” Cruz said.

The PBA nevertheless allowed those in the pool to try out with the ballclubs that have shown interest in them.

Fajardo, measuring 80.5 inches from one fingertip to the other, has the longest wingspan. Three players – Christopher Ellis, Clifford Hodge and Charles Keith Jensen – can leap vertically and touch a point 11 feet, four inches high. And though nobody came remotely close to the time of Olympic champion Usain Bolt halfway in the century dash, Ellis did clock the fastest at 5.86 seconds
in the 50-meter sprint.

Six-foot-one Ramon Mabayo could do an incredible 350 situps without passing out compared to Fajardo’s 53, Hodge's 62 and Abueva’s 75. Tiu did a passable 120.

In pushups, 5-foot-6 Emmanuel Monfort hauled himself off the floor 100 times while David Marcelo had 30 and Mallari 68. Thomas Elliot Tan topped the pull-ups with 24 while Sam Atkins had 7 and Ronald Pascual 3.

Included in the draft are three amateur seeking to follow the footsteps of their fathers – Raymond Austria, Paul Gonzalgo and Raphael Reyes. Raymond is the son of former Rookie of the Year Leo Austria, Paul of Ginebra iron man Dante Gonzalgo, and Raphael of former San Miguel starter Elmer Reyes.

The 6-foot-10 Fajardo is a cinch for the Petron Blaze Boosters as their No. 1 pick overall. The Alaska Aces remain undecided reportedly between Abueva and Hodge with the second pick, while the Meralco Bolts, at fourth, could go with Tiu, a Smart Gilas standout.

Petron, which has a second first round pick at third, could spoil Meralco by snaring Tiu although it’s most likely the Boosters will grab whoever the Aces would let go between Abueva, a San Sebastian star nicknamed “The Beast,” and the Fil-Am Hodge.

Barako Bull has the 5th pick; Barangay Ginebra, 6th; Rain or Shine, 7th; Ginebra, 8th; B-Meg, 9th; and Powerade, 10th overall.

Powerade’s pick could go to businessman Mikee Romero’s Sultan 900 Capital Inc., which reportedly bought the Tigers franchise for about P60 millions, once the PBA board approves the sale during a special meeting Friday.

The official list of PBA draft applicants, with players in the guard and forward positions dominating, will be released Thursday afternoon.

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