The UAAP has consistently injected the PBA with exciting talents from their ranks and the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft is slated to add even more skilled players making the jump from the amateurs to the pros.
The draft for the PBA's 46th Season will be unlike any other in the league's rich history as it will happen during a pandemic. The draft pool became one of the deepest in recent history with the UAAP not holding its competitions for this season, leading some of the seniors to pass up on their final year of eligibility and try their luck in the PBA.
Many stars from the UAAP hit the ground running when they entered the PBA, winning the coveted Rookie of the Year award.
Rico Maierhofer, Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Paul Lee, Greg Slaughter, Chris Newsome, Roger Pogoy, and Jason Perkins were named the best rookies of their batch in their debut seasons while Aaron Black also made a name for himself by bagging the Outstanding Rookie citation last season.
In the past 10 years, only three ROY winners did not come from UAAP schools in Calvin Abueva, Stanley Pringle, and CJ Perez.
With PBA teams looking to load up on size, a select group of UAAP products are poised to land in the first round to play with teams that will give them opportunities to contribute from Day 1.
Here are our top five UAAP prospects who we think will be selected first for the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft. There are a lot of talented guards such as Andrei Caracut, Aljun Melecio, and Jerick Ahanmisi but the UAAP's wings and bigs should take some of the draft's top spots.
1. Jamie Malonzo
There's a reason why many pundits have said that Joshua Munzon and Jamie Malonzo are locks to be the top two picks of the draft. Even if he only played a single season with the La Salle Green Archers, Malonzo has already shown why he can be a great PBA player. The 6-foot-6 wingman is one of the most athletic players of this batch and he plays well on both ends of the floor.
Malonzo's athleticism compliments his great defensive instincts as he's fast enough to defend guards and strong enough to defend forwards. Everyone knows he's a strong finisher around the rim but he also has a decent mid-range game. Malonzo has been working hard on his jumpers in Las Vegas where he has been training while also working to be a better playmaker for his squad.
2. Alvin Pasaol
Alvin Pasaol's PBA peg should be Nelson Asaytono. Yes, these are very high standards as The Bull is one of the most talented scorers the league has ever seen but Pasaol needs to target being a player of that mold.
Pasaol makes up for his lack of ceiling with girth and smarts. He's a fiery competitor who will surely help his team in a variety of ways. The first order of business for Pasaol should be figuring out the shape he needs to be in for him to be an effective PBA player. Yes, the extra weight helped him bully smaller defenders in the amateurs but will this be the case the in the PBA as well? Or will it help him if he drops a few pounds and maybe add some speed?
Pasaol has the tools and the intelligence to make a dent in the PBA as soon as he debuts with his team. If he becomes a better outside shooter, then it would not be a stretch to say that the former UE Red Warrior will have a long and successful PBA career.
3. Leonard Santillan
Leonard "Santi" Santillan knows who he is as a player. That is the best thing going for 6-foot-4 former Green Archer. He's an above-average rebounder for his size and he has a small but effective list of offensive weapons. Santillan's liking for the one-hander in the paint has allowed him to shoot over taller defenders and it is a weapon that will serve him well in the PBA.
Santillan can drain three-point shots from time to time but this will be something he'll need to improve on. For teams that need a dependable big man who will grab rebounders and be available for drop passes around the rim, he'll be a good pick because teams know exactly what they can get from him.
4. William Navarro
William Navarro was a surprise entrant for the draft as he had another year of eligibility for the defending champions of the UAAP. However, the cancellation of the season and Navarro's wishes to help his family financially made him decide that this is the right time to make the jump.
As a product of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, Navarro is already a proven winner under coach Tab Baldwin. This is why it's not surprising that he already got to play for Gilas Pilipinas Men on the international stage. Navarro is a multi-skilled forward who can be an important part of any team's rotation. At 6-foot-6, he might have to bulk up a little bit but he has good size for the pro game. Navarro has a sweet touch from the outside and is a versatile team player.
5. Troy Rike
One of the tallest players of the upcoming draft at 6'8", Troy Rike is an easy pick for any team that wants to add ceiling. Although he may not have shown his best during his short stint with the NU Bulldogs, Rike still possesses something that PBA teams covet: size.
Depending on the names that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas will request to be for their special draft, Rike should be out of the board midway through the first round. With a team like the Magnolia Hotshots hoping to add a big man to their guard-heavy rotation, their choice at the sixth spot could be Rike. He won't wow anyone on offense but he could be a solid defender and rebounder.