MANILA, January 16, 2004  (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - The day of reckoning has come. This afternoon, 46 rookie hopefuls will know their fate in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) draft at the Glorietta in Makati.

Some 20 players are tipped to find spots on rosters, meaning the draft will be solid for at least two rounds. Nobody knows for sure who will be the first overall pick and the word is six are in contention.

But more than the mystery of the first selection, the big question is whether Shell will exercise its choice or trade for a marquee big man to fill its vacuum in the middle.

For the record, the last three first round picks were Willie Miller (Red Bull), Yancy de Ocampo (FedEx) and Mike Cortez (Alaska). Curiously, Miller and de Ocampo will be Talk ‘N’ Text teammates starting this season.

To make sure PBA scouts and coaches know whom they’re tapping, league officials measured and weighed each candidate.

The tallest in the pool is 6-7 Joachim Thoss. Chris Quimpo and Francis Arabit are the shortest at 5-5. Four players tipped the scales at 215 pounds. The heaviest of the batch are Willy Wilson, Thoss, Manny Ramos and Jessie Lumantas. The lightest is 140-pound Warren Ybanes.

Only four players are 6-5 and above–6-5 Carlo Sharma, 6-5 Ervin Sotto, 6-5 1/2 Ramos and Thoss. Ranidel de Ocampo was measured at 6-4. Standing less than six feet are Arabit, Quimpo, 5-9 Paul Artadi, 5-9 1/2 Arnold Booker, 5-8 Joselito Celiz, 5-9 Ronald Cuan, 5-11 1/2 Eric de la Cuesta, 5-11 1/2 Arvin Garcia, 5-8 Lou Gatumbato, 5-9 1/2 Manuel Huelar, 5-8 Lyndon Lagat, 5-11 1/2 Denver Lopez, 5-8 Nino Marquez, 5-8 Mario Reyes, 5-8 1/2 Kim Valenzuela and 5-6 1/2 Ybanes.

As expected, Thoss’ 82-inch wingspan is the widest. Only two others checked in with at least an 80-inch spread, Jean Marc Pingris at 80 and Sotto at 81. The narrowest wingspan is Quimpo’s 67 1/2 inches.

Of the 46 applicants, 19 weighed at least 200 pounds.

The youngest hopeful is James Yap who turns 22 on Feb. 15. The oldest is Julius Binuya who turns 30 on Jan. 24. Two others are 29 years old like Binuya–Arabit and Huelar.

There are 33 Philippine Basketball League (PBL) and eight Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) veterans in the pool. University of the East (UE) and San Sebastian College (SSC) produced the most draft applicants with four each. From UE are Yap, Artadi, Jay-Arr Estrada and Booker. From SSC are Joel Lagare, Sharma (also of La Salle), Alvin Pua and Nurjan Alfad. La Salle, Ateneo and St. Francis of Assisi contributed three apiece.

The foreign-born rookies are Thoss (New Guinea), Rich Alvarez (Japan), Ramos (Fremont), Wilson (Los Angeles) and Nick Fasano (Guam). Those who studied in the US were Valenzuela (San Francisco State), Ramos (James Logan High), Lopez (Fullerton State), Hawkins (Cosumnes River College), Garcia (Mt. San Antonio College), Fasano (Mesa Junior College) and Wilson (John Francis Polytechnic High). Others who went to overseas schools were Richard Michael (University of Sydney), Thoss (James Cook University), Lagat (Devry Institute of Technology) and Alvarez (Kinnick High).

Last Sunday’s rookie camp was a revelation as the applicants were made to sprint, pump iron, shoot from different distances and jump vertically.

Wesley Gonzales was the deadliest three-point shooter, hitting 60 percent. Connecting only once in 10 trey attempts were Lagat, Estrada and Michael. From quartercourt, the sharpest shooter was Cuan who buried 8-of-10. The worst was Michael who hit 1-of-10. Perfect from the foul line, knocking down 5-of-5, were Artadi, Booker, Lopez, Marquez, Quimpo and Ybanes. Also perfect from the stripe, sinking 3-of-3, were Gary David, Estrada, Gonzalez, Yap, Alvarez, Francis Mercado and Thoss. Failing to hit a single free throw were Michael, Pua and Nelbert Omolon.

In benchpressing, Wilson emerged the strongest with 40 repetitions. Others with at least 30 reps were Alfad at 36, Valenzuela at 35, Michael at 33, Omolon at 31 and Estrada, Bernzon Franco, Hawkins and Pingris at 30 each.

Gonzales topped the agility test by clocking 17 seconds around the box. Artadi was timed in at 18.

Pingris was the highest jumper, measuring 12 feet on his vertical leap using one step. Omolon was next at 11 feet and eight inches. The lowest jump was registered by Quimpo at nine feet and six inches.

The players who jumped to at least 11 feet using one step were Lopez, Booker, Tristan Codamon, Estrada, Fasano, Garcia, Nino Gelig, Gonzales, Guerrero, Omolon, Rhagnee Sinco, Wilson, Yap, Thoss, Sotto, Sharma, Pua, Steve Marucot, Hawkins, John Flores, de Ocampo, Binuya, Alvarez and Alfad.

Likely to be the first five picked in the draft are Pingris, Yap, Alvarez, Omolon and de Ocampo. Other candidates expected to be chosen in the first round are Sotto, Lopez, David, Gonzales and Thoss.

The PBA’s 10 teams will open booths at the Glorietta to accommodate fans seeking player autographs starting at 3 p.m. The draft will begin at 4 p.m.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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