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The Most Accomplished Late-Round Draft Picks In PBA History

These men were as underrated as they were talented
by Jay P. Mercado | Oct 29, 2017
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There's no emotion that can describe what PBA freshmen go through during the rookie draft. The ordeal can somehow be compared to an initiation—the applicants seated together in one section of the mall while waiting for their names to be called by the Commissioner. Once called, a huge sigh of relief. Not called? You just hope that you’ll get to sign a contract somehow.

This Sunday, more than 40 hopefuls will go through this “rite of passage.” The bigger names are expected to be called earlier and have better chances of earning a contract. Others will be drafted much lower. FHM takes a look at those players who were fortunate to have been drafted but have rewarded their teams for their trust and faith in them. We rank them from 10 to 1.

First, the honorable mentions:

Topex Robinson (fifth round, Tanduay, 2001)
Chico Lanete (undrafted in 2006)
Leo Austria (fourth round, Shell, 1985, Rookie of the Year)
LA Revilla (third round, Barangay Ginebra, 2013)

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10. Bal David, 1995 third round, 21st overall; Sunkist

One of the biggest stories of good karma happened to one UST guard named Bal David, a clutch player in the UAAP. David was drafted 21st overall by Sunkist, but couldn’t crack a team that was loaded with point guards like Al Solis, Rudy Distrito, Boybits Victoria, Teroy Albarillo and Ric Ric Marata. He went back to the PBL and formed a Mutt and Jeff teamup with Marlou Aquino for Stag Pale Pilsen, giving the Lucio Tan franchise multiple titles. In 1996, David was taken in by Robert Jaworski, Sr. at Ginebra, where his career took off. Given the freedom by Jaworski to weave his magic inside the court, David’s derring-do ways endeared him to the multitude of Ginebra fans, making him perhaps one of the Top 5 most popular players in franchise history.

9. Ronald Tubid, 2003 second round, 16th overall; Shell

A draft pool as deep as Batch 2003 was the best reason Ronald Tubid was selected 16th overall by Shell that year. Players named Cortez, Alapag, Adducul, Laure, Cablay, Mamaril, and the ageless Hugnatan had better name recall. But Tubid, who became popular after portraying the Filipino saint Pedro Calungsod, displayed his resilience and versatility, moving from one team to another before settling with Ginebra San Miguel and now the San Miguel Beermen as a knockdown clutch three-point shooter as well as a pesky defender. The 10 players who were drafted ahead of him have already retired, a testament to newly minted Kia Picanto acquisition's relevance and staying power.

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8. Freddie Abuda, 1993 second round, 14th overall; Coney Island

When Freddie Abuda was drafted by Chot Reyes and Coney Island as the 14th overall pick in the second round of the 1993 draft, many asked, “Freddie who?” He was one of those under-the-radar players who came from Cebu and didn’t establish a brand for himself. But since Abuda was relieving big men Jerry Codiñera and Alvin Patrimonio, he remained unheralded. Until Ron Jacobs secured his services to join SMB and, like Racela, gave value to the credo “hard work pays.” One of the best blue-collar players ever, Abuda, later known as “The Scavenger,” played a specific role for Jacobs and essayed this to perfection. The Beermen wouldn’t have been close to competitive without Abuda doing the dirty job at the time.

7. Gerry Esplana, 1990 second round, ninth overall; Presto (Rookie of the Year)

Many were surprised to see Gerry Esplana still available when the second round of drafting began. Presto was almost too pleased to have the chance to steal the wily 6’0 guard from San Beda. Esplana won ROY honors, besting his top-seeded batchmates like Apet Jao, Jun Reyes, Andy De Guzman, and Gido Babilonia. His won championships with Presto and Formula Shell in his illustrious career.

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6. Jeff Chan, 2008 2nd round, 18th overall; Red Bull

Ex-FEU Tamaraw Jeff Chan was a deadshot from beyond the arc during his years in the UAAP. It came as a surprise, therefore, that he was only considered in the second round by Yeng Guiao and Red Bull, the 18th overall in his 2008 batch. But Coach Yeng has always been known to develop talent, and Chan became one of his finest products, particularly when they joined forces once more at Rain or Shine. Chan became RoS’ top gunner, and won the Finals MVP award in the 2012 PBA Governors’ Cup and became a member of the Gilas national team.


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5. Cyrus Baguio, 2003 2nd round, 14th overall; Red Bull

The high-flying UST Growling Tiger fell under the radar in the deep 2003 PBA Draft. Coach Yeng couldn't help but grin after seeing Baguio still available when the Red Bull drafted him as the 14th overall pick. He played a supporting role at first with his team, but became Red Bull’s primary offensive weapon a season or two later. The Skyrus eventually won a Finals MVP Award with Alaska at the 2010 Fiesta Conference under Tim Cone’s stewardship.

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4. PJ Simon, 2001 5th round, 43rd overall; Sta. Lucia

PJ Simon was a household name in his native Davao, having played an exceptional collegiate career. Fans were surprised to see Simon having been forgotten and passed up 42 times before finally being drafted in the fifth round by the Sta. Lucia Realtors. The Realtors didn’t even give him an offer sheet to sign. Simon went to the MBA instead and won Discovery Player of the Year honors. He later played in the PBL for Dazz Dishwashing and became the team’s best offensive option. But when Coach Ryan Gregorio offered him a contract to play for Purefoods in the PBA, his career skyrocketed. His partnership with James Yap led to seven championships. Today, Simon remains one of the pillars of the franchise.

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3. Larry Fonacier, 2005 2nd round, 14th overall; Red Bull

The Baby-Faced Assassin has always been a winner all throughout his basketball career. He has won championships in high school, in college, in the PBL, and later on, in the PBA. But after a near career-ending ACL injury in 2004, many felt Fonacier’s career was over. Coaches was hesistant to pick him up when he joined the draft in 2005, but Yeng Guiao took a risk and got him in the second round as the 14th overall pick. And just like that, Fonacier beat batchmates like Jay Washington, Alex Cabagnot, Mark Cardona, and Niño Canaleta for the ROY honors that season. Fonacier continued to make his presence felt wherever he went—at Magnolia, TNT, Alaska, and now with NLEX, in his reunion with Coach Yeng. Fonacier also made it to the Gilas national team and will be remembered for his outstanding game against Taiwan at the 2013 FIBA-Asia championship.

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2. Olsen Racela – 1993 2nd round, 11th overall; Coney Island

In a batch that included Jun Limpot, Victor Pablo, and Johnny Abarrientos, Olsen Racela getting selected in the second round wasn’t really a shocker. He wasn’t exactly considered a blue-chip recruit back then. But Racela blossomed into one of the most heralded point guards in the PBA. Credit then-San Miguel Coach Ron Jacobs for transforming the career of one of the most cerebral court generals in league history.

1. Ato Agustin, 1989 2nd round, 12th overall; San Miguel Beer 

Okay, we admit, being the last player to be drafted in the second round of the 1989 rookie draft may be deceiving. First, there were only six teams back then. Second, we’re talking about arguably the best rookie draft pool in league history. But what may be conveniently forgotten was that Ato Agustin wasn’t exactly an unknown commodity at the time—he was one of the biggest stars in the PABL and was often the leading scorer for his teams, including the last one with a star-studded RFM-Swift squad in 1988. Yet, for Agustin to be traded at 12th overall was almost ridiculous. True enough, Agustin didn’t get some floor burn early in his career as he was the Beermen’s third-string point guard in their rotation, behind Hector Calma and Franz Pumaren. But with injuries happening to Samboy Lim and Calma, the Atom Bomb was tapped by Coach Norman Black to showcase his wares. In 1992, Agustin became the lowest drafted player in the PBA history to be named PBA MVP. 

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