Ryan Buenafe (in red jacket) poses for a photo at Sunday's 2013 PBA Rookie Draft. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – One of the biggest surprises at the 2013 PBA Rookie Draft was the Alaska Aces taking former Ateneo Blue Eagle Ryan Buenafe with the eighth pick, a selection that drew gasps from the crowd.
Buenafe is a proven winner, having been part of four championship teams with Ateneo. He was unable to lead the Blue Eagles to the Final Four this season, however, and constantly faced criticisms regarding his weight, among other issues.
“Tanggap ko naman na marami pa akong kulang,” Buenafe told ABS-CBNnews.com after the draft last Sunday. “Kailangan ko pa mag lose ng weight, at kailangan ng hard work talaga sa practice.”
Buenafe is eager to prove his worth, however, especially after the Aces took a chance on him.
“Professional na ito, unlike college na kaunti lang ‘yung magaling. Sa PBA siyempre lahat magaling, so kailangan hard work talaga at ma-prove ko sa kanila na hindi sila nagkamali for me,” he said.
Buenafe worked out twice with Alaska before the draft and believes he has established a rapport with the members of the Aces.
“Sobrang saya ng feeling kasi medyo kinakabahan nga ako ng practice. Ine-expect ko na wala ako masyadong mako-contribute, pero maganda ‘yung practice ko at masaya ‘yung practice ko sa kanila,” he said.
“Gusto ko talaga sa Alaska,” he added. “Nakita ko na dito ako siguro makakapaglaro, unlike sa ibang team na parang medyo puno na ang line-up. So sabi ko, sana sa Alaska ako ma-draft. Since nag-training na ako sa kanila, sabi ko fit ako dito at mababait pa ‘yung mga players and coaches.”
Head coach Luigi Trillo described Buenafe as a “high-risk, high reward” pick for the Aces.
“I think he’s gone down because of the way Ateneo played this year, they didn’t make the Final Four,” he said. “But I saw him when he had a (Greg) Slaughter. They were a more complete team, and he really helped the team.”
“Seeing him in practice, he made the other guys around him better. That’s a rarity – someone who can make the right assist, the right decision at the right time,” he added.
Although happy with their pick, Trillo stressed that Buenafe still has a lot of work to do.
“His work ethic has to be another level here,” he said, “and he’s got to lose some weight.”