The Petron Blaze Boosters, a squad full of star talent, is about to get even more talented as it secured the rights to the first overall pick in the upcoming PBA rookie draft.
In the draft lottery held at halftime of Game One of the Governors’ Cup finals, the Air 21 Express won the right to the top pick over the Alaska Aces.
But even prior to the season, Air 21 had already traded the rights to the pick to the Boosters. The franchise, then known as Barako Bull, traded the pick in exchange for Petron’s first-rounders in 2013 and 2015.
Express coach Franz Pumaren knew that this year’s draft pick didn’t belong to his squad.
“Before Sheila Lina got the franchise wala na ‘yun,” he said. “May prior trade na kasi sila.”
The trade happened during the period when questions arose over whether the company behind the Barako Bull team still had sufficient funds to keep running a PBA squad. That period saw the team trade away its key players one by one, before filing for a leave of absence in the 2011 Governors’ Cup.
The franchise returned to the PBA for the 2011-12 season with a new owner and a new name, the Shopinas.com Clickers, before taking on the Air 21 brand.
The deal, meanwhile, gives Petron two of the top three picks in the upcoming draft. The Boosters earlier acquired the rights to the third overall selection originally belonging to Barako Bull.
Among the marquee names who have expressed their intent to join the draft are Filipino-American standouts Cliff Hodge, Chris Ellis, Alex Mallari, and Keith Jensen as well as homegrown players Calvin Abueva and Vic Manuel.
But with Petron securing the top pick, 6-foot-10 center Junmar Fajardo is expected to throw his hat into the mix. The former University of Cebu standout spent the past season playing in the ABL for the San Miguel Beermen squad, which is owned by the same company, San Miguel Corporation, that bankrolls the Boosters.
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