Marvin Hayes: Early Entry?

When you graduate from the UAAP, you’ll have a year to hone your skills before you jump to the PBA.

In the NCAA, you can apply for the rookie draft while you’re still playing for your college squad.

That’s good, right?


I remember when the Alaska Milkmen drafted Don Allado. They wanted him to suit up for the squad even if he had expressed to play for De La Salle in his final year. This was when the MBA was adamant in acquiring all the big-named college stars available. They had to wait for Allado to finish his UAAP season and in an instant he was wearing Alaska’s red and white. I believe Don was the last notable UAAP player to play for a college and a PBA team in the same season

I also remember the days when the NCAA had a rule where a player needs three playing years before thinking of going to the PBL. In the UAAP, they only need two years. This is why the success rate of UAAP players in the PBA is far greater than the players in the NCAA. Also, UAAP was glossier compared to the NCAA. Candy, Seventeen, and Cosmo had guys like Wesley Gonzales, Rich Alvarez, Mac Cardona, Paul Artadi, Enrico Villanueva, James Yap, and others as hardcourt hunks and poster boys that a typical PBA team would exploit in their ads, events, and other marketing opportunities they can be exposed to.

Reverting back to the topic, NCAA has OK’d applying for the PBA while playing in their school ever since the draft rounds have been lessened to two. San Sebastian’s Leo Najorda was first to test this. He became an integral part for Red Bull. Then San Beda’s Yousif Aljamal followed suit. Pong Escobal, Aljamal’s partner in Beda was next. I don’t know if PCU’s Gabby Espinas went straight to college to but when PCU was banned by the NCAA, Beau Belga jumped to the pros. The latter four names will be the future of the Meralco franchise with Escobal finally getting the break he’s been looking for.

Kerby Raymundo, then a carry-over player when Red Bull elevated to the PBA, was basically a kid when he turned pro. A falsified document made this ex-Letran Knight sit out most of his first year in the pros but has since been one of the most popular power forwards of his generation.

JRU’s Marvin Hayes will try his luck in this year’s draft. At 6’3, he can score but his rebounds and perimeter defending should be the keys to his success. Players like Willie Wilson are founding their niche in the league because they can both defend big and small opponents. He could go as high as a late first round pickup but certainly he will not see the end of the draft “homeless”. Hans Thiele, UE’s former offense-defense powerhouse is also part of the draft but he overstayed… like Ford Arao. In terms of athletic rock-solid slashers, they’ll probably battle each other alongside John Wilson.

However… is Hayes’ entry to the draft too early? He’ll likely flourish in the semi-pro leagues but unless the PBA quickens the pace of their developmental league and until the PBL and the Liga’s Tournament of the Philippines legs get good following, a typical NCAA player that’s not as a popular as Raymundo, Espinas, and Belga, would probably be forgotten in the next year. Khiel Misa can outplay Macky Escalona but Misa will find it hard to climb the PBA because Perpetual Help isn’t as popular as Ateneo (sometimes I think UAAP players are overrated). In the NCAA, the only teams that matter are San Beda, San Sebastian, and Letran. Sometimes, you can put JRU and Mapua in the mix but this all depends on their win-loss slates. PCU’s domination in the early 2000’s led to the entry of Belga, Espinas, Bernzon Franco, and Nelbert Omolon to the PBA.

A wrong move made by fate could probably clinch a player’s downfall.

Take Boyet Bautista for instance. The guy had a lot of promise but when he was taken ninth by Purefoods in the 2006 PBA draft, he was the fourth guard in the roster and he was waived. He would have had a better chance if he was picked by Welcoat at tenth or eleventh. Jireh Ibanes and RJ Rizada are a couple of second rounders that found a home with the teams that drafted them. The Letran guard has since been languishing in the Liga and it seems like his return to the PBA is bleak. Another player was Jay Sagad. The former NCAA MVP when he was playing for the St. Benilde Blazers, he was one of the carryovers when Welcoat join the PBA. While up until now Rain or Shine (Welcoat’s current name) is a big man away from doing damage in the semis scene, Sagad’s confidence was shattered and it proved that he was never that ready to jump to the pros. After a year, he was sacked and I don’t even know if he is still playing in the minor leagues. Leimar Navarro, a PCU Dolphin playing for the team when he and Belga applied, returned to his school empty-handed when he wasn't picked in the 2008 Draft.

And perhaps the most recent casualty in the mix is James Sena. Sena is the youngest player drafted in last year’s draft. He has height and he can deliver outside bombs as well as inside shots. But when people saw him getting picked by San Miguel... we expected him to not have a Top Rookie season. With JRU still playing in the NCAA, his obligations remained to the Bombers and not to the San Miguel training camp. When JRU was eliminated in the Final Four, he went to the Beermen camp and was sacked... with all his dreams of playing in the PBA in jeopardy. He could be the next Danny Ildefonso but he’s barely the next Allan Gamboa because Gamboa managed to play a season in the pros while it can't be said for him at this point.

San Miguel, with their talent, shouldn’t be a part of any draft. Their third team can outperform Barako Bull’s first team. Putting a rookie in a San Miguel uniform is suicide. Now, maybe San Miguel could grab Sena now because they need a project to develop with Dorian Pena and Mick Pennisi slowly moving out of their primes.

Just like in any game show, there is whammy, a bankrupt part of the wheel, and a bawi. Hayes should pray that wouldn’t end up in a SMC territory that’s not BMEG or Ginebra. He should also stay away from Talk N Text.

Let’s face it, while Tim Cone finds little confidence in his new wards, look at the development of his young stars. Draftees Sonny Thoss and Mark Borboran had weak rookie seasons but he managed to transform them into usable performers. LA Tenorio, Cyrus Baguio, Joe Devance, and Larry Fonacier are amongst the young stars that flourished with his system. Sam Eman and Mike Burtscher are amongst the notables Cone wants to groom.

Hopefully Marvin Hayes and the rest of the rookies of the upcoming season will find good teams that would use their talents. When he gets picked up by a team that would need him, we hope he won't be like a deer in front of a very fast truck!

Game over.


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