MANILA, January 17, 2004  (MANILA TIMES) By Joel Orellana, Reporter - RICHARD Alvarez of Ateneo, a two-time University Athletic Association of the Philippines Most Valuable Player awardee, emerged as the No. 1 pick of the 2004 Philippine Basketball Association rookie draft after the Shell Turbo Chargers gave him that honor on Friday evening at the Glorietta Activity Center in Makati City.

Alvarez, a 23-year-old power forward who was born in Japan, became the second Blue Eagle to be tapped as the top pick of the league since Alex Araneta was chosen first by Alaska in the 1991 draft.

“It’s a dream come true for me. It’s been a long journey for me,” said Alvarez who was listed as 6-foot-2 +, an inch and a half shorter than his supposed height. “But I would like to thank Ateneo for giving me the opportunity to show my talent in the uaap.”

Shell made another suprise on Friday when it shipped point guard Dale Singson to San Miguel Beer for the Beermen’s No. 7 overall pick. The Turbo Chargers then gave away that pick to Purefoods plus forward Eddie Laure in exchange for Billy Mamaril.

“That was good enough for us,” said Shell team manager Bobby Kanapi. “We look for a player that will complement Mamaril well, and Alvarez fits that role.”

As expected, Purefoods tabbed University of the East hotshot James Yap as the second overall pick, making the Hotdogs a fearsome offensive team with the inclusion of Jun Limpot, Laure and free agent Peter June Simon.

“We are really in a rebuilding stage. And I like our chances now with Laure, Limpot and Yap in the team,” said Purefoods mentor Ryan Gregorio, who also selected Yap’s teammate in UE and Welcoat Paul Artadi at the start of the second round.

Purefoods also selected 6-foot-6 Ervin Sotto as its No. 7 pick.

FedEx, the team with three first round picks, strengthened their frontline as the Express got 6-foot-5 Marc Pingris (No. 3), 6-foot-5 Ranidel de Ocampo (No. 4) and 6-foot-3 Wesley Gonzales (No. 9).

Alaska, the team with the most number of Fil-foreign players, added another one in its fold in the person of Fil-Australian Joachim Thoss, the tallest aspirant at 6-foot-7, as the No. 5 overall pick in the first round.

Red Bull made its own surprise after picking point guard Denver Lopez, the first full-blooded Filipino to play in the US ncaa at Cal State Fullerton, at No. 6, probably honing him as a replacement for Willie Miller who was traded early this month to Talk ‘N Text.

Sta. Lucia Realty went for Nelbert Omolon, regarded as the most hardworking big man in the pool, at the No. 8 overall pick while Coca-Cola picked Gary David to close the first round.

After Artadi, La Salle’s Carlo Sharma was selected next in the second round by Shell, followed by Fil-Am guard Kim Valenzuela (13th overall) by Sta. Lucia, which also got another guard in Ronald Cuan in the second round (18th).

Other second round picks were Niño Gelig (Talk ‘N Text), Willie Wilson (Alaska), Francis Mercado (Red Bull), Christopher Guerrero (Talk ‘N Text) and Manny Ramos (Coke). San Miguel was the first team to pass in the draft also attended by Sen. Robert Jaworski.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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