MANILA, Philippines -- After opting to put off their PBA careers and focus on 3x3 basketball last year, big men Troy Rike and Santi Santillan have finally decided to enter the Rookie Draft this year.
The pair had a decorated career in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3, winning championships including last year's Presidents Cup together with Alvin Pasaol and Joshua Munzon. Both are ranked in the Top 10 and are members of the national team pool as well.
However, they both agree that now is the time for them to make the jump to the PBA, even though they have greatly enjoyed their time playing for the trailblazing 3x3 league.
"I think there was a lot of unfinished business with 3x3. We had a lot that we wanted to do, a lot we wanted to achieve and kinda take that next step towards 3x3 getting us to the Olympics," Rike said of their decision to stay in the Chooks 3x3 league last year, on "Power and Play."
"But I think just after talking with my family and really thinking about it, I just felt it was time for me to enter the PBA Draft," added the former National University center.
Santillan, who played for De La Salle University in the UAAP, said declaring for the PBA Rookie Draft was the first step towards making his dreams come true.
"Ako kasi dati nangarap lang akong mag-PBA, kaya ito na siguro 'yung time para ipakita ko kung ano 'yung mga skills na gagawin ko sa PBA," he said.
Both Santillan and Rike believe that they greatly benefited from the year that they spent in the Chooks 3x3 league. Not only did they get to improve their skill sets and gain experience, they also got to represent the Philippines in overseas tournaments.
Just last November, they got to play in the FIBA 3x3 Doha Masters after ruling the President's Cup.
"It just really allowed me to work on my skills, that's just the biggest thing. 'Cause 3x3 is all about versatility," Rike noted. "So having to guard guards was a big thing for me, dribble a little bit more than I was used to."
Rike admitted that his stint in 3x3 forced him out of his comfort zone, which he saw as a huge boost to his development as a player.
"I think specifically, 3x3 allowed me to work on some skills and hopefully get me to a point where I'm ready and be able to make an impact in the PBA," he added.
During his two-year stint with the Green Archers, Santillan showcased his athleticism as well as his shooting touch, proving he has range up to the three-point line.
Still, playing in 3x3 was a huge boost to Santilllan, especially in terms of developing his versatility as a defender.
"Malaking tulong po sa akin. Same as Troy, naka-guard din ako ng mga mas maliliit sa akin, mas mabilis sa akin, kaya tapos ini-improve ko pa ang mga shooting skills ko, doon din dahil sa 3x3," he said.
Both players are hopeful that their stints in 3x3, on top of what they had already shown at the collegiate level, caught the attention of the PBA teams.
The PBA Rookie Draft is set for March 14, with TerraFirma Dyip making the first pick.