Sports

Road Warriors will hang on to first round picks; Navarro to Gilas Draft


Yeng Guiao

While powerhouse San Miguel Beer completed a blockbuster trade and Meralco added a vital piece last week, NLEX is not about to do any tweaking until after the PBA Rookie Draft on March 14.

“We don’t want to entertain parties just yet,” coach Yeng Guiao said in a story published on the team’s official Facebook page as he reiterated the importance of having the third and fourth overall picks, which could turn the fortunes of his franchise around. “I’m not letting go of our first round picks.”

Guiao said he intends to fortify NLEX’s front line with those picks as the Road Warriors have a relatively small trio of bruisers to man the middle for them in veteran JR Quiñahan, bubble revelation Raul Soyud, and the hard-nosed Mike Miranda.

The Road Warriors own the natural third selection and acquired the fourth from dealing away Poy Erram in a complicated multiteam trade.

NLEX will have no shortage of options in selecting two impact players from the pool, with the likes of NCAA Most Valuable Player Calvin Oftana, Leonard Santillan, Larry Muyang and Ben Adamos likely to be available.

Guiao is lucky, he could even land Jamie Malonzo, the high-leaping forward out of La Salle.

However, nothing yet is cast in stone, according to the fiery mentor, whose wards fell short of making the playoffs during the bubble tournament in Clark Freeport.

“We’ll make a decision after the final list is out. It’s useless to decide now with still plenty of uncertainties,” Guiao said as a number of Fil-foreign players making up the 97-strong list of aspirants would still have to complete their eligibility requirements by March 5.

One thing’s for sure, though. Guiao is bent on competing for another PBA title with the same guys—something he has made crystal-clear after re-signing them to fresh contracts earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has added Ateneo forward Will Navarro to the special Gilas Draft that will be incorporated in the March 14 proceedings.

The local cage body said securing the commitments of talented prospects is the SBP’s foremost concern.

“The SBP strongly believes that the program we have now would give us the opportunity to build the best team possible for the 2023 Fiba Basketball World Cup,” president Al Panlilio said in a statement.

Navarro, a 6-foot-6 high-IQ forward for Tab Baldwin’s Blue Eagles that have dominated the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) for the last three seasons, averaged 7.3 points and 5.6 rebounds during UAAP Season 82.

He was later tapped for the second window of the Fiba Asia Qualifiers in Manama, Bahrain, last November, where he played alongside several collegiate stars.

Navarro joins Jaydee Tungcab, Filipino-Australian Jordan Heading, and Tzaddy Rangel as the prospects the SBP will be picking in the special proceedings set March 14.

Tungcab has been a cadet ever since the first window of the Asia Cup qualifiers. Heading, meanwhile, was a former Batang Gilas member. He went on to play for Alab Pilipinas alongside Rangel in the Asean Basketball League.

The national federation instituted a special draft back in 2019 in the hope of becoming less dependent and disruptive of the PBA and its season while it prepares for the upcoming World Cup that the Philippines will cohost. INQ


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