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Top of the class: Baclao chosen No.1 in PBA Draft

August 29, 2010 7:53pm

Nonoy Baclao, the ultimate role player in this year’s cast of aspirants, upstaged his more illustrious Ateneo teammate Rabeh Al-Hussaini to become the top overall pick in the 2010 Philippine Basketball Association Rookie Draft Sunday at the Market! Market! in Taguig.

Baclao, the 23-year-old, 6-foot-4 forward from Bacolod, was surprisingly selected as this year’s No.1 pick, leaving everyone stunned, including Al-Hussaini.

The 6-foot-7 Al-Hussaini, who felt slighted when his name wasn’t mentioned when Air21’s No.1 pick was called by incoming PBA commissioner Atty. Rudy Salud, was selected No.2.

The Express made a historic moment by completing the top three picks in the Draft and choosing small forward Rey Guevarra at No.3.

In what was easily regarded as a night of surprises, the name of Baclao being called ahead of Al-Husseini left everyone in disbelief.

None among them was more surprised than Baclao himself, who was searching for words when he was interviewed by sportswriters.

“I don’t know what to say," said Baclao. “I didn’t expect to be chosen No.1, because people thought it’s going to be Rabeh. But I’m thankful to be picked No.1."

Asked whether there’s added pressure being the No.1 overall pick or feeling nervous in stepping closer to fulfilling his ultimate dream of playing in the big league, Baclao’s answer was short, but sweet.

“I’m more excited than nervous or pressured," added Baclao.

Al-Hussaini, expected to be named No.1, pouted when he was called at center stage to receive his team jacket and cap given by representatives of Air21 headed by team owners Bert and Sylvia Lina, head coach Yeng Guiao and Rabeh’s half-brother, Carlo Sharma.

The drama bloated even more when Al-Hussaini let it all out in front of mediamen covering the first activity of the league's 36th season.

“I felt I was insulted," said Al-Hussaini. “But it’s okay. There was no communication from Air21 if I will be selected No.2."

Guiao explained that the decision to choose Baclao over Al-Hussaini as No.1 was management’s decision.

“It was management decision, but the main idea here is to give Baclao the much-needed confidence, that’s why we selected him No.1. But I see no problem with it as long as I have those players – Baclao, Al-Hussaini and Rey Guevarra – on my team."

“Guevarra’s inclusion was a late decision made by the management and coaching staff. We were torn between him and another good forward, Elmer Espiritu. The three players are good for a rebuilding team like us," added Guiao.

The fourth pick was surprisingly obtained by Alaska from Talk N Text after both teams agreed to trade the No.4 pick for veteran deadshot Larry Fonacier.

Selected at No.5 by Rain or Shine is Fil-Canadian forward Josh Vanlandingham while the sixth pick was acquired by Powerade from Air21 in exchange for the Tigers’ first-round pick in 2012.

The Tigers, eventually, drafted Sean Anthony, a hardworking forward, who will add youth, athleticism and hustle to a veteran-laden team led by former Most Valuable Player Asi Taulava and Dennis Espino, who are both in their late-30s.

The Tigers and the Express also agreed on a trade that sent veteran shooter Ren-Ren Ritualo to Powerade in exchange for its second round pick in 2011.

Barangay Ginebra, which owns the No. 7 and No.8 picks, added yet more guards in their congested backcourt lineup. The Gin Kings selected high-scoring John Wilson from Jose Rizal University at No.7 and last year’s NCAA Most Valuable Player Jimbo Aquino at No.8.

B-MEG Derby Ace added a bruising frontliner in Pari Llagas while Alaska traded its rights to the last pick in the first round to Meralco for the services of talented combo guard Bonbon Custodio.

In the second round, only Air21 passed up on its last two picks in this year’s draft.

Those who were drafted in the second round were Bam Gamalinda, 11th (Meralco), Rob Labagala, 12th (Ginebra), Val Acuña, 13th (B-Meg Derby Ace), Claiford Arao, 14th (Meralco), RJ Jazul, 15th (Rain or Shine, acquired via a trade with Alaska), Khazim Mirza, 16th (Meralco), John Carlos Hermida, 17th (Barako Bull), Jai Reyes, 19th (Powerade) and Marvin Hayes, 21st (Alaska). - GMANews.TV
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