MANILA, Philippines – AMA Online Education shocked plenty when they selected little-known Owen Graham with the top pick in the 2017 PBA D-League Rookie Draft, instead of going with proven players such as Far Eastern University's Arvin Tolentino or University of the East's Alvin Pasaol.
Yet for AMA coach Mark Herrera, selecting the 25-year-old Graham was a no-brainer.
After all, Herrera is already familiar with the game of the Fil-Canadian player, who stands at 6-foot-4 but is versatile enough to play from shooting guard to center.
"He played for me for almost one year na," said Herrera on Tuesday at the PBA Café, after making the surprising pick. "He's a school-based player, he stands 6-foot-4, and Fil-Canadian siya."
"He can play the 2, 3, 4, 5 spots," he added. "Ang advantage lang sa kanya, kabisado ko na 'yung bata, at saka alam na natin 'yung kakayahan niya going to the D-League."
Herrera's selection of Graham is a complete turnaround from the 2016 D-League Draft, when he took former De La Salle University superstar Jeron Teng with the No. 1 pick. Back then, Herrera had no need to inform reporters of what he expected from Teng; virtually every basketball fan knew what the former King Archer brought to the table.
But as Graham is a lesser-known talent, Herrera found himself explaining to reporters what the Fil-Canadian is capable of.
"Hardworking siya sa defense, plus he can score," said the coach. "Hindi siya 'yung depensa lang."
"Para siyang Arwind Santos," Herrera revealed.
Comparing a No. 1 pick in the D-League Draft to a former PBA Most Valuable Player may raise eyebrows, but that's how much Herrera trusts Graham.
"Nakikita namin sa practice na go hard siya eh," Herrera explained. "Hindi siya nagre-relax. Parang sina Jeron at Andre (Paras) na 'pag practice, pukpok talaga eh. Andoon 'yung level niya."
"Parehas sila ni Andre Paras na workhorse, sa offense at sa defense. Talagang maasahan mo 'yung bata," he added.
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