MANILA, Philippines – Come PBA Draft day on Sunday, October 29 at the Robinsons Place Manila, people’s eyes are sure to focus on potential top picks Christian Standhardinger, Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng, Raymar Jose and Jason Perkins.
But during the Draft Combine last October 23 to 24, other rookie aspirants made their cases for belonging in the big leagues as well. Here are some of the 5 sleepers in this year’s draft class.
1. Emil Renz Palma
(University of the East, 24 years old, 6-foot-1)
On the open floor, Palma is virtually unstoppable. During one scrimmage in the Draft Combine, the spitfire guard dashed coast-to-coast, went past all 5 defenders with his nifty dribble moves and finished with finesse at the rim. He can also knock down the long ball and can be a pesky defender with his long limbs. But Palma needs to improve on his playmaking skills to complement his explosiveness so once he attracts the defense, he can either kick it out or drop it off to a free teammate
2. JK Casiño
(Centro Escolar University, 24 years old, 5-foot-10)
Casiño may be one of the smallest in this year’s draft class but he compensates for his lack in height with sound playmaking. The former Café France point guard is a savvy floor general who can set up his teammates for good looks at the rim. Casiño is a threat on the pick and roll since he can either pass the ball to his teammate or shoot the three ball with efficiency. Teams looking for a point guard who can facilitate and shoot can pick him up in the later rounds of the draft.
3. John Ervin Grospe
(Jose Rizal University, 23 years old, 6-foot-4)
Grospe is one of the best shooters in the forward position among all PBA hopefuls. He thrives as a pick and pop guy with his solid midrange jumper and can also post up smaller defenders and hit the fadeaway shot. However, his lanky frame can be a disadvantage as shown in the Combine as much burlier guys overpowered him down the block. But if he can develop a consistent 3-point shot, Grospe can be an asset as a stretch forward.
4. Gab Dagangon
(Perpetual Help University, 25 years old, 6-foot-2)
After a so-so performance in the first day of the Combine, the Altas stalwart turned heads in the second day as he led his squad to third place in the mini-basketball tournament with a team-high 20 points. Dagangon is an all-around scorer with a myriad of moves in his offensive arsenal. He can shoot from long range and can attack the basket with his athleticism but he has the tendency of falling in love with the 3-point shot instead of getting better looks at the rim.
5. Jon Jon Gabriel
(Colegio de San Lorenzo, 24 years old, 6-foot-6)
With his tattoos and scrawny physique, Gabriel resembles a little bit of Raymond Almazan. Among the 44 candidates in this year’s draft, the long-limbed Tarlaceño is probably be the best shot blocker aside from consensus top pick Standhardinger. Gabriel has a decent jumper from 10 to 15 feet and can run the break as well. The major question about Gabriel’s play is if he can match up with heavier and stronger forwards and centers in the league.
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.