With the 2022 PBA Draft within the two-week period, I tried to come up with a mock draft.
With that said, I think I am going to wait for a few more days. The PBA extended the draft application deadline, knowing the fact that the draft isn't as deep as one would hope.
Ultimately, having multiple seasons of projects, one-ofs, Asian imports, and Gilas cadets really messed up the influx of rookies.
Instead, I am going to list down the players I know. These past few weeks, I have been following NCAA Season 97. I am a Thomasian by heart and spirit but the other Dominican team, the Letran Knights, is drawing crowds and making the Philippine basketball world take notice.
So I have come up with a Top 10 list of the players that could join the 2022 PBA Draft. This list checks out the players that have shown intent on joining, have played their final year in the NCAA, and are around 25 years of age.
C/F | AGE: 23
If I am Converge, I am going to use a pick to select Justin Arana. Let the FiberXers get a random Fil-Am but for their fourth pick, just have them obtain the services of the King Arellano Chief. Multiple 20+ rebounding games can truly translate in the pros. Also, it feels as if Arana is a version of Troy Rosario and JP Erram. Erram had a so-so UAAP career while Rosario’s NU days were overshadowed by the boss-like career of both Bobby Ray Parks and Emmanuel Mbe. Arana has owned it for the Chiefs and is currently one of Season 97’s top MVP contenders.
I think it’s easier to select Arana over Jeo Ambohot in the first round of the PBA Draft. His draft stock will also rise even if he loses the individual top prize to Ambohot and Rhenz Abando. Arana can enter the PBA as a two-way threat and at worst, a wide-body to guard imports that could grab a couple of boards the way Zaldy Realubit was used during his time with Swift/Sunkist and that’s not a bad thing.
F/C | AGE: 25
Jeo Ambohot is a low-key first-round name for some time now. Yes, he could have made the leap a couple of years ago but with a draft this shallow and with the Letran stock rising, Ambohot certainly lucked out on his last year in the NCAA. I can see a lot of teams checking out the other prospects at the start of the draft but then it would be dumb to snub Ambohot past the second round. As mentioned, the double-double magnet has been instrumental in Letran’s boss-like run in the elimination round. With that said, Letran’s impressive stock of talents is equally messing up his draft stock.
Nonetheless, at almost 26, Ambohot has to turn pro this year, and hopefully, he’ll end to a team that could use him. Ginebra could be a whammy point and Northport may be a bad destination as well (with Greg Slaughter, Sean Anthony, and Jamie Malonzo in their frontline) but I again, sending Ambohot to the second round is simply insane.
SAN SEBASTIAN GOLDEN STAGS
F/C | AGE: 24
In Season 97, Giannis Anteto-Calma turned up monster numbers for himself.
Also, I like his nickname. I bet if he does well in the PBA, that name is going to stick well.
Anyway, there have been talks on whether or not Calma should have joined Calvin Oftana and Ben Adamos when they turned pro last season but looking back, he did the right decision to stay – considering the ginormous talent pool of the Season 46 Draft. Calma has improved his offense (developing a lethal long-distance set shot apart from his post-game) and defense. He also has this awesome smiling taunt that would piss off his opponents. I wish he could be a late first-rounder but he’s a bet to get taken in the second round. He’s not a generational talent but he is still a name that could work for talent-starved teams – as the treatment Barkley Ebona got in his rookie year with Alaska.
F | AGE: 24
St. Benilde’s one-and-done star is their answer to Justin Gutang’s departure. In some ways, the 6’5 guard is like a leveled-down fusion of the PBA’s Fire and Ice combo (this is the name of Gabe Norwood and Solomon Mercado’s tag team during their Rain or Shine days). Apart from his awkward jump shot, Benson is annoying on defense and is a problem to guard. I think Benson could have had a couple of years of conditioning if I am being honest.
But he’s probably going to do well in the PBA – given the right situation. Yes, his ceiling can be as high as Chris Newsome or as low as James Forrester... but he has height. This is in some ways, a problem for Benson because he might have a different game the moment he jumps to the pros. Nonetheless, it’s not crazy to see him in the first round given the events of last season (Ken Holmqvist to Ginebra???) but I am going to peg him as a second-round player in the meantime.
G/F | AGE: 25
If one team requires slashers and shooters, then Kim Aurin could be a fix. The Perpetual star is also in his final year and when the game is on the line, he delivers on the much-needed kabooms. I think he’s the league’s third-best SG/SF after Rhenz Abando and James Kwekuteye and a rung higher than Ralph Robin, Jason Celis, AJ Benson, and Brent Paraiso.
With that said, I wish Scottie Thompson’s insane monster run would trickle down on his school because I don’t know if Aurin is a lock in the second round. Perpetual is a school that produced the likes of Bong Hawkins, Thompson, and Chester Tolomia but they are also rarely featured in the limelight. I guess his climb would have been more awesome if Ben Adamos had a more impactful rookie campaign but as of this moment Aurin is either a third-rounder or a mid-second-round pick depending on the talent that would enter the draft.
G | AGE: 25
The sweet-shooting sniper from the Intramuros college has been instrumental in leading Letran to a championship and multiple Final Four appearances. I bet a PBA team would want his services in their main roster as well as its 3X3 version (hopefully, not).
Again with an overloaded roster, the problem with Allen Mina is his inability to level up his game. He is a good starter but he's not the main man in a time when the likes of Rey Nambatac, Jerrick Balanza, Larry Muyang, and even Jeo Ambohot, Fran Yu, and Rhenz Abando ran the show. He's probably a third-round pick.
SAN BEDA RED LIONS
F | AGE: 25
Son of former San Miguel defensive specialist, Franz Abuda is somewhat no different from his dad. He has amassed a couple of championships with the Red Lions and like Freddie Abuda, he has the knack to scrap and scavenge loose balls.
Abuda can be a good role player in the PBA. However, that's kind of a problem with most second-generation players. Sons of players could either surpass their dads (see Kobe Bryant and brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena) or become fractions of their dads (see the sons of Michael Jordan). Abuda is a starter in San Beda but he never really developed into a go-to guy. Even current Beda role players like Dave Marcelo and Jake Pascual had some sort of offensive moves before they made the club to the pros and every now and then they try to unleash it. Abuda could prolong his stay in Beda but unlike most NCAA teams, San Beda's core is mostly young guys. I can see Abuda as a late second-round pick with the possibility of going to the SMC-affiliated squads.
F/C | AGE: 25
This isn't the first time we have seen a younger brother follow in the footsteps of his significantly older brother. Much like Bradwyn Guinto (hence the "wyn" in their names), Jerwyn Guinto plays the post-up game for the Lyceum Pirates. Unlike Enoch Valdez and Yancy Remulla though, Guinto isn't perceived as a go-to-guy player and I'm thinking that he may end up returning for a final campaign or go full semi-pro in MPBL.
But it's not like Bradwyn Guinto was a top prospect when he was picked in the second round by the Mahindra Enforcers in 2015. Jerwyn could follow the same path. Guinto could be what Jeepy is to brother Bryan. He's a third-rounder for me now.
SAN SEBASTIAN GOLDEN STAGS
G/F | AGE: 24
If a team needs a lights-out combo guard, then Ichie Altamirano is a good possibility, especially in the waning moments of the second round, and possibly, a good steal in the early second round.
I can't say that he is "Carlo Lastimosa levels" of shoot-first basketball but given the license... he's going to take it with gusto. With that said, at 5'11, he needs to learn how to facilitate for his veteran teammates. The thing about his setup is that he can become a converted PG like Paolo Mendoza or falter like most of his play-a-likes.
G/F | AGE: 25
I had trouble placing Gelo Sablan on this list because he is bulky like a PF, can score like an SG, and is an SF by nature. This could be good or bad... depending on which team he's going to end up with.
Historically, NCAA guys have done better in the PBA than their UAAP counterparts but most of them lose their draft stock because they enter the league late. Inasmuch as the project label is scary for most NCAA hopefuls, the 3X3 tournament gives prospective projects a chance to impress within their territory. In some ways, the 3X3 is better than the actual PBA D-League.
And yeah, Sablan is probably going to end up in the third round - with a possibility of moving to the early second round depending on the depth of the draft.
I know there is a chance of guys like Rhenz Abando, James Kwekuteye, Warren Bonifacio, Yancy Remulla, Robi Nayve, Rence Nocum, Pau Hernandez, Will Gozum, King Gurtiza, Ralph Robin, and others moving to the pros but if there's a time to stay for another year in college, this is the right time.
The NCAA has a broadcast partner in GMA that would readily give them exposure. Furthermore, the PBA teams are overloaded with rookies at the moment with the rookies of 2019, 2021, and Gilas cadets still trying to lock in their roster spots. The MPBL is a fallback, yes, but to get the best mainstream attention, then it's better to be in a pro-less, 10-team league and just go to the MPBL, NBL, and other leagues during the NCAA's downtime.