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Casio-Lee a lot like Alvarez-Yap

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CONFIRMING the worst-kept secret in basketball circles the past few weeks, the Powerade Tigers named JV Casio as the top overall pick in the Philippine Basketball Association Rookie Draft at the Robinsons Place-Manila last Sunday.

The second overall pick was Paul Lee, who was selected by Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.

This PBA Draft reminds of the 2004 Draft, with Rich Alvarez being picked first by the Shell Turbo Chargers and James Yap selected by Purefoods second. At the time, I argued that Yap was the better pick, because while Alvarez was arguably the better player at that stage in their careers, Yap had the tools to become a PBA All-Star.

Two years later, Yap led his team to a PBA championship and gained a Most Valuable Player award in the process. Today, Yap has multiple PBA titles under his belt and is considered to be the best in his position at shooting guard. Alvarez is what could be mercifully called a PBA journeyman.

Just like Casio, Alvarez was the safe pick at the time. After all, he won a University Athletic Association of the Philippines title with the Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles and a Most Valuable Player award in the bargain.

Yap and the University of the East Red Warriors never won squat in the UAAP.

But then Yap seemed to be built to become a basketball star. His hand, from tip of little finger to tip of thumb measured as long as Michael Jordan’s hand, plus he didn’t do anything but eat, sleep and play basketball.

Yap is of Chinese progeny, but he is so dark because back in Escalante, Negros, where he grew up, he woke up in the morning to play basketball and never went home until it was too dark to play anymore.

But there are differences. For one, three picks later, the Tigers paired Casio with a familiar wingman in Marcio Lassiter, his teammate in Smart Gilas-Pilipinas. It’s a safe bet that both will be playing extensive minutes for the Tigers, so Casio probably won’t wind up spending his first PBA game on the bench like Alvarez who was benched by Shell coach John Moran.

Going back to my comparisons, Casio is already as good as he’s going to get. The cocky Lee (the guy on the Appeton Weight Gain TV commercial) has an unlimited potential to get even better and pass Casio.

Lee is also an impressive physical specimen, huge at 6’0” for his position but still quick, sneaky and supremely confident in his abilities.

And most important, just like James Yap before him, Lee seems willing to work hard to become the best that he can be.

As for the rest of the Draft: the Petron Blaze Boosters pulled off a big trade that netted them the third pick, which they used on Chris Lutz, and also brought back Dondon Hontiveros to the franchise.

Petron shipped Mick Pennisi and Sunday Salvacion to the former Air21 Express, now known as Barako Bull, along with future picks in exchange for Hontiveros, Carlo Sharma and the right to exchange first round picks.

Barako Bull used the Petron pick to select Allein Maliksi as the eighth pick of the draft.

Smart Gilas mainstays Mark Barroca went to new franchise Shopinas Clickers; Mac Baracael to the Alaska Aces; Jason Ballesteros to the Meralco Bolts; Reil Cervantes was the other first-rounder, heading over to Barangay Ginebra at number 9. Dylan Ababou went tenth to Barako Bull.

The order of drafting in the second round went: 1) Magi Sison, Shopinas; 2) Pamboy Raymundo, Talk ‘N Text; 3) Eric Salamat, 4) Julius Pasculado, and 5) Ariel Mepana, Alaska; 6) Brian Ilad, B-MEG; 7) Gilbert Bulawan, Meralco; James Martinez, Barangay Ginebra; 9) Ken Acibar, Barako Bull; 10) Paul John Sorongon, Barako Bull; and 11) John Marc Agustin, Powerade.

The rest of the draft went: Third round – Mark Cagoco, Shopinas; and Filemon Fernandez, Petron Blaze. Fourth round – Gerald Lapuz, Petron Blaze.
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