PBA top draft pick instant millionaire

By Abac Cordero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 19 2012 09:38 AM | Updated as of Aug 19 2012 05:38 PM

MANILA, Philippines - It’s cast in stone.

June Mar Fajardo, at 6-feet-10 and with a wingspan perhaps greater than any other Filipino athlete today, will be this year's top pick in the PBA Rookie Draft.

Unless he doesn't show up at the Midtown Robinsons Place Manila for the 4 p.m. draft, the 22-year-old Fajardo will land with Petron, a team in need of a real big man.

The Boosters will get what they want in Fajardo, who has a wingspan of 85 inches, which is equivalent to 7.083 feet.

He will join the long list of big men who ended up as top picks, including 6'9" Marlou Aquino in 1996, 6'10 1/2" Andy Seigle in 1997 and 6'10" Japeth Aguilar in 2009.

"It's hard to pass up on a 6'10" player. Besides, that's what Petron needs. Kailangan talaga eh," said newly anointed PBA chairman Robert Non on the eve of the draft.

Non is head of the basketball operations for San Miguel Corporation, which owns the Petron, B-Meg and Ginebra franchises in the PBA.

Before the day ends, Non said they will offer Fajardo the maximum salary for rookies. That’s P150,000 a month on the first year, P225,000 on the second and P337,500 on the third.

That's good for P8.5 million for the next three years. Once Fajardo signs the contract, he becomes an instant millionaire.

"That's what top picks normally get. That's what we will give him," said Non.

It will be a dream come true for Fajardo, the player from University of Cebu with a voice as deep as the Pacific Ocean. He leads 56 others hoping to find a new home in the PBA.

Petron also owns the No. 3 pick in the first round after Alaska picks second. Non said their next pick will all depend on the Aces' move.

Alaska might go for Calvin Abueva, who's already too good or too old for the NCAA, or Fil-American Cliff Hodge.

"It depends on the Alaska pick. I heard they're going for Abueva but I won't be surprised if they get someone else. There are others to choose from," said the PBA chairman.

Meralco and Barako Bull pick fourth and fifth, followed by Ginebra, Rain or Shine, Ginebra again, and B-Meg.

Global Port Batang Pier, the newest member of the growing PBA family, gets the 10th pick. The team owned by sports-minded businessman Mikee Romero will make the most of this pick.

League commissioner Chito Salud will declare the draft open.

Originally pegged at a total of 71 rookie applicants, the list has been trimmed to just 57 on Thursday, but remains rich in talent in what many perceives as one of the deepest drafts in recent years.

Among those being prominently mentioned include former Smart Gilas team captain Chris Tiu, Aldrech Ramos, Vic Manuel, Dave Marcelo, Jewel Ponferada, Eman Monfort, Jan Colina, Lester Alvarez, Janus Lozada, Jerick Canada, and Fil-Ams Chris Ellis, Jason Deutchman, Charles Keith Jansen and Alex Mallari.

The order of selection in the second round will have Air21 picking first, followed by B-Meg at 12th and 13th, Global Port (14th), Barako (15th and 16th), Rain or Shine (17th), Barako Bull (18th), Alaska (19th) and Talk `N Text (20th).

Fajardo, whose 85-inch wingspan is far wider than those of legendary swimmers Mark Spitz (72), Ian Thorpe (76) and Michael Phelps (80), is a clinch for the top pick.

Then it becomes anybody's race.