In 2005, former NCAA MVP Leo Najorda applied for the draft. Najorda is a knowledgeable player from the San Sebastian Stags but people can’t see him carrying his power forward position in the pros. Drafted ninth by Red Bull, Najorda went on to be an average player with a tremendous upside.

But at the start of the 2005-06 Season, Najorda was not put in the main lineup and had to wait for a couple of weeks to have significant playing time for the Bulls.

The reason?

Najorda had to finish his NCAA season.

Unlike in the UAAP (with the exception of Don Allado during the 1999 Draft), NCAA players can apply for the PBA Draft even if they are still playing out the remainder of their NCAA eligibility. Agree or disagree, the NCAA fares less than the UAAP. In terms of talent, the UAAP has the edge because they get more TV exposure. Studio 23, the channel that holds the broadcast rights of the two collegiate leagues, gave UAAP the weekends to maximize their ads and revenues. This is why most NCAA Juniors are easily enticed to play for UAAP squads when they go to college. Except for a handful of NCAA players led by San Beda, Letran, and San Sebastian... and unless you’re an NCAA addict, identifying the best players in the NCAA sounds really, really mind-numbing.

Anyway, Najorda was in Red Bull’s lineup but because he arrived after his obligations with the Stags, he had to double his efforts to battle for his minutes.

But mind you, Najorda was lucky.

Fact is, there are some players that never had the chance to shine because they were finishing up their respective NCAA careers.

And the worst part? They were the best players.

Following 2005, there were a lot of NCAA players that tried their luck in the PBA Draft. Most of the players were picked but their problem was whether or not they would stick.

This was certainly not a problem for Gabby Espinas. The forward from the Philippine Christian University was drafted fifth by the San Miguel Beermen in the 2006 PBA Draft. The former NCAA Rookie MVP was a sought after star and given the minutes, he can explode. Unfortunately, Leimar Navarro returned to PCU empty-handed because he was left undrafted. Also, the core of the Letran Knights that won the 2005 NCAA title tried their luck but only three of their players were picked. Aaron Aban was selected seventh by Alaska, Mark Andaya was picked eighth by Talk N Text, and Boyet Bautista ended up ninth for Purefoods. Players like Erick Rodriguez, Jonathan Aldave, and JP Alcaraz were left undrafted. Andaya, Rodriguez, and Aldave have all graduated come 2006 and it was Boyet Bautista who was running the show for the Knights. Aban is a second stringer for the grand slam-seeking TNT while Andaya and Rodriguez have been journeymen for several squads. Aldave and Bautista played in the PBA for one season.

In 2007, San Beda’s Yousif Aljamal became eighth player selected by the Air21 Express in the 2007 PBA Draft. He was then traded to Talk N Text where the only time he played well was when he was playing outside Manny Pangilinan’s squads.

In 2008, Aljamal’s teammate Pong Escobal, fresh from a NCAA title, followed suit in Talk N Text as the draft’s eleventh pick. Alaska also took Mapua’s Kelvin dela Pena as the fifteenth pick. Escobal was a third-string guard for the Texters while KDP, a former NCAA MVP, rarely played during his stint with Alaska.   

In 2009, Ogie Menor joined his Bedan schoolmates in the PBA by getting picked seventh by the Barako Bull Energy Boosters (from Sta. Lucia). Joining him in the first round was JRU’s James Sena, who was drafted tenth by the San Miguel Beermen. Menor has had an up and down trial of a PBA career. Sena, dubbed as one of the most dependable big men in the draft, never reached the pro level because as JRU was finishing its NCAA season, San Miguel was busy bolstering its already-powerful lineup. When Sena came to the squad, the roster spots have already been filled. Mapua’s Sean Co was drafted by Alaska as their 16th pick but never played a game for the Aces while Letran’s Dino Daa was left undrafted.

Which leads us to last year’s draft. In what was considered as a talent-laden draft, Borgie Hermida, fresh from a triple-double game for the flawless San Beda Red Lions, was picked seventeenth by Barako Energy Coffee Masters. Meanwhile, JRU’s rough and tumble kid Marvin Hayes was the last player selected by the Alaska Aces. Both players were still playing for their respective schools despite being pro-bound. So instead of concentrating on their teams, they have to wait until JRU got eliminated in the Final Four and San Beda win the championship. When it’s all said and done, Hermida was finally signed by Barako. Hayes unfortunately was left out by the Aces. Before the PBA season ended, we saw both players playing in the D-League.

Just correct me if I failed to point out on a bunch of facts. However, my point is this – Garvo Lanete, Dave Marcelo, Ronald Pascual, and Calvin Abueva are all planning to join the PBA Draft. With the way they are leading their squads, they will probably face each other in the finals. Ever since NCAA expanded their teams to ten, the end of their season finishes at around October. At this point the teams are busy preparing for the start of their season.

Unless they are key players for the teams that picked them (probably in the Top 5), expect them to struggle to find a spot for their respective squads.

And the scary part of this ordeal is that they could find their selves in the free agent pool.

Game over.


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