Burger King eyes All-Pinoy title with Japeth around

Nelson Beltran, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 03 2009 08:54 AM | Updated as of Aug 03 2009 04:55 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Burger King organization believes it has now the material for its very first championship with a team built around US-trained Japeth Aguilar, its first pick in the 2009 PBA Rookie Draft at the Market! Market! in Taguig yesterday.

The Whoppers, as expected, made Aguilar the year’s top pick, then also drafted Ronnie Matias at No. 8 before working on a trade deal with Coca-Cola to gain the services of flamboyant wingman Ronjay Buenafe.

“We’re excited with what we’ve got. With Japeth with us, we could be a contender,” said BK governor and team manager Lito Alvarez. “Coach Yeng (Guiao) wants him so much. He feels we can really have a good run at the championship with Japeth around.”

“I think this will hasten our chance to win an all-Filipino title. All I want is to win an all-Filipino championship. The team we have now should get the job done for us,” said Guiao. “We’re able to upgrade our team. Pwede sigurong mag-ambisyon to win the all-Filipino championship.”

Rico Maierhofer, also as expected, was made the No. 2 pick by Purefoods in the draft proceedings used by Coca-Cola and Barako Bull to also effect major changes in their respective rosters.

Burger King selected Christopher Ross at No. 3 then dealt the 6-foot-1 Fil-Am guard to Coca-Cola in exchange for the Tigers’ two draft picks next year.

In a separate deal, the Tigers released Buenafe to the Whoppers for Marvin Cruz plus BK’s two draft rights in the second round which Coke used to pick Francis Allera and Ramsey Walsham.

Barako Bull, the worst performing team the previous season, also drafted three players in Ogie Menor (No. 6), Benedict Fernandez (No. 11) and Edwin Asoro (No. 12).

Rain or Shine, Alaska Milk, Barangay Ginebra and Sta. Lucia had two picks each while Purefoods, San Miguel Beer and Talk n Text had one apiece.

Jervy Cruz went to Rain or Shine at No. 4, Michael Burtscher to Alaska at No. 5, Chris Timberlake to Ginebra at No. 7 and James Sena to San Miguel at No. 9 closing out the first round. One pick, belonging to the defunct Shell team, had been cancelled.

The other second round picks were Mark Lester Benitez (No. 11 overall by SLR), Sean Co (No. 16 by Alaska), Charles Waters (No. 17 by SLR), Orlando Daroya (No. 18 by Ginebra) and Kevin White (No. 19 by TnT).

Right after being drafted, Maierhofer was given an initial offer by Purefoods.

Coach Ryan Gregorio said they’re definitely keeping Maierhofer even as they’re planning to fine-tune their lineup.

“We’re overloaded in some spots and lacking in other spots. The operative word for us is balance,” Gregorio explained.

“We have told Topex (Robinson) and Richard Yee to test the free agent market. Rico Maierhofer is here to stay for us,” Gregorio added.

Maierhofer is happy to land at Purefoods, saying team manager Alvin Patrimonio is his idol.

With the dearth of talents from the draft pool, the other teams are likely to resort to trades in an effort to fine-tune their rosters.

Nic Belasco is reportedly now with Talk n Text while Larry Rodriguez has moved over to Coca-Cola.

NOTES: The PBA paid tribute to former President Cory Aquino, giving her a warm applause in the ceremony before the draft. The league also used the occasion to give Powerade Team Pilipinas a formal sendoff for its campaign in the Fiba-Asia championship in Tianjin, China from Aug. 6-16... Kelly Williams joined the Nationals in the stage and he was warmly welcomed by the PBA family and the fans. He’s said to be set to return to practice in the next few days... Six Fil-foreign players were drafted including Charles Waters and Kevin White. Waters is a brother-in-law of Kelly Williams while White is a relative of Jimmy Alapag.