February 28, 2024

Potential steals? Unknowns emerge as top performers in PBA Draft Combine

Potential steals? Unknowns emerge as top performers in PBA Draft Combine

The PBA on Tuesday held its PBA Draft Combine at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong to give teams a firsthand look at this year’s rookie hopefuls. And, in a mild surprise, relative unknowns stood out in the different drills and tests, potentially giving coaches something to think about as the draft approaches.  

In particular, teams looking for a big man in this class will be disappointed, as there is a noticeable lack of bigs. The tallest, in fact, at least based on the official combine measurements, is 6-foot-7 Clifford Hopia, who played for TNT in the PBA 3x3. Next is Fil-Japanese Tsutomu Tateishi, who stands 6-foot-6. Other than Hopia and Tateishi, everyone else stands 6-foot-4 and below, with Kyt Jimenez, who is among the notable names of this class, measured at just a shade under 5-foot-8.

On the other side of the spectrum are this class’ smallest players—Ryan Costelo and Rapahel Mallari at 5-foot-4 and Raymond Binuya, Dickson Ty, and Jaybie Mantilla at 5-foot-5.

What this class lacks in bigs, it appears to make up in solid, if not spectacular, athletes, like MPBL player Larry Arpia, Fil-Am Shean Jackson, and D-League standout Rhinwil Yambing. Arpia, Jackson, and Yambing were the combine’s highest jumpers, clearing a max vertical of 43 inches, 42 inches, and 38 inches, respectively. Curiously, former UP Fighting Maroon guard Ricci Rivero (31.5 inches) was only middle of the pack in this category despite being considered as one of the country’s more athletic wings.

Rivero, though, proved his elite agility at the lane agility drill, which he finished at just 11.71 seconds—second only to NBL player Alwin Margallo’s 11.53 ticks. Arellano’s Archie Concepcion and UE’s Jan Sobrevaga were the only other rookie hopefuls who finished the drill in under 12 seconds, with the former clocking in at 11.78 and the latter finishing at 11.91.

One applicant who surely raised his stock is Yambing, who showed he has straight-line speed to go along his 38-inch vertical leap. The 6-foot-3 Yambing, in fact, was one of only three players who finished the 3/4 court sprint at under three seconds, doing it in just 2.94 seconds—0.17 ticks behind Kenneth Villapando’s (MPBL) 2.81 seconds and just ahead of Mantilla’s (MPBL) 2.96.

Rounding out the combine’s top performers for day 1 were Kim Aurin (PBA 3x3), Jose Cullar (NCAA), John Gob (MPBL), and Enoch Valdez (FilBasket), who all scored a perfect 100% in the reaction test. 

The 2023 PBA Draft will take place on September 17 at Market! Market! in Taguig.