MANILA, NOVEMBER 11, 2003 (BULLETIN) By Dodo Catacutan Jr. - HE IS often referred to as the best shooter to come out since Allan Caidic.

If it’s the University of the East that is under debate, James Yap should hands-down fit the accolade. But if it’s the Philippine Basketball Association we’re talking about, that remains to be seen.

Some league coaches, though, want to know the answer – sooner rather than later, hoping against hope the UE star with the multi-faceted game would be among the players in the draft list when the 10-member ball clubs dip their hands into the rookie pool on Jan. 16.

“Very tempting,” coach Ryan Gregorio of Purefoods, one of two teams with a crack at the No. 1 selection overall, said when asked about the chance to grab Yap from the pool. “I haven’t really thought about (the draft yet), but I’ll consider him for sure.”

Yap hasn’t totally committed himself to turning pro, but this early he should be high on the wish list of coaches in a draft that is set to be dominated by stars from the collegiate ranks in the absence from the pool of the usual horde of Fil-foreigners.

In recent days the 21-year old gunner from Escalante, Negros – site of the infamous massacre – has also shown that he is leaning towards making the jump.

“Baka magpa-draft ako,” he told the Bulletin, before wavering a bit and recanting his statement. “Hindi, mga 70-30 (chance) siguro.”

Two factors are expected to sway Yap into turning pro. One, the limited number of Fil-foreigners in the draft pool, which would significantly up the ante on homegrown players. Second, the departure of coach Boyzie Zamar from the UE bench.

The 6-3 forward, who is 25 percent Chinese, has one year of eligibility left at UE. But he said the sudden departure of Zamar will play a big role when he decides on whether to take one final shot at a UAAP championship or turn professional.

“Wala na kasi si coach,” he said. “Siyempre, malaking factor yon sa magiging decision ko.”

Although a long line of shooters coming out of college have been dubbed ‘the next Caidic’ but never really came close to measuring up to the now-retired ‘Triggerman,’ Yap has shown the most promise from among the annointed successors in recent years.

At 21, Yap has all the skills a coach wants to see from a scorer – he has a deadly jumper with a quick release and lot of range; he moves well without the ball; his size and wide body makes him a potential threat at the post; and he has a lot of moves going to the basket.

If he does make the jump, Alaska coach Tim Cone has no doubt where Yap would end up.

“I like him a lot,” said Cone. “He should go at No. 1 if he comes out.”

Norman Black, a multi-titled coach and now a TV analyst in league games, said Yap no doubt has the talent to be a No. 1 pick. But one thing that could keep the UE star from getting that honor, he said, is if he doesn’t fit into the needs of the team that holds that right.

Black pointed at Shell, which will have two cards in the lottery proceedings to Purefoods’ one. The Turbo Chargers, he said, have an abundance of players in Yap’s position, among them Chris Calaguio, Edwin Bacani, Rainier Sison and Ronald Tubid.

“What Shell really needs is a big man,” said Black. “So unless they trade one of their forwards for a big man, there may be no place for someone like a James Yap in that team.”

Purefoods, which has a 1-out-of-3 chance of getting the top selection, may have a spot open for Yap, but the bigger hole at the Hotdogs’ camp this season is the point guard spot – a concern the team can immediately address by taking in Yap’s teammate at UE, Paul Artadi.

But that doesn’t prevent Gregorio from keeping an eye on Yap.

“I’m watching him closely in the PBL,” said the Purefoods coach. “Definitely, he’ll be in the top three in the draft.”

Aside from Yap and Artadi, other names expected to attract the most attention by the time the deadline for submission of applications come around on Dec. 27 are Ateneo stars Rich Alvarez and Wesley Gonzales and St. Francis’ Ranidel de Ocampo and Irvin Sotto.

Only two Fil-foreigners – Richard Benitez and Joachim Gunter Thoss – made it to the pool when the PBA board enforced an early deadline for the submission of application and supporting documents of foreign-born players.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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