MANILA, Philippines -- After parting ways with veteran forward Vic Manuel, the Alaska Aces are looking ahead to the PBA Rookie Draft, where they are confident of landing a "marquee player."
Alaska sent Manuel to Phoenix Super LPG last month while also switching draft picks with the Fuel Masters. The Aces now own the sixth overall pick, moving one place up the ladder. The Fuel Masters will pick at seventh.
Head coach Jeff Cariaso said this move into the Top 6 was crucial for them.
"Most people looked at it as, you know, it's not much. It's not like you're jumping to the No. 2 spot," Cariaso acknowledged.
"(But) we've identified as a coaching staff that there are six solid players, six solid marquee players, who we feel can play right away and contribute right away," he explained.
"So to be in that top six and get any one of the six will be best for us. So that's why we did it."
The Aces have already worked with some players that they are considering for the No. 6 pick, including De La Salle University's Santi Santillan and University of Perpetual Help's Ben Adamos.
"We really like those two. So you know, we're hoping that they'll be available when we draft," said Cariaso.
The coach also noted that if other teams pass on NCAA Most Valuable Player Calvin Oftana of San Beda University and Fil-Am swingman Mikey Williams, then "one of those guys is gonna fall into our laps."
Having a marquee player who can make an immediate impact will be crucial for Alaska, as they are also looking to make up for the absence of center Sonny Thoss who is headed towards retirement. Their hope is that whoever is selected will quickly mesh with their core, anchored by Jeron Teng and Abu Tratter.
Alaska also received Phoenix Super LPG's first round pick next year, and Cariaso said this is another opportunity for them to add one more impact player.
"Being able to have their first round next year, knowing that there are a lot of young players who still haven't entered the draft, gives us again another high possibility of getting another high draft pick next year," he said. "We felt like this trade was best for us."
The PBA Rookie Draft is scheduled for March 14 in a virtual ceremony.
Other than Adamos and Santillan, Alaska is also looking to invite Fil-Aussie big man James Laput and Colegio de San Juan de Letran center Larry Muyang to their small group practice sessions. They are considering point guards as well, including San Sebastian College's RK Ilagan and La Salle's Aljun Melecio.