Outside of the marquee players selected in the annual PBA Rookie Draft, one of the much anticipated moments is seeing who among the newcomers will turn out to become as sleepers.
A sleeper is a moniker coined after players selected late in the draft become its biggest steals. And throughout the history of the 46-year-old league, there were players who performed above expectations.
Ato Agustin was the last player to be selected in the second round of the 1989 PBA Rookie Draft, considered as the deepest ever.
At a time when league participants were trimmed down to only six, Agustin was selected as 12th overall pick by the San Miguel Beermen.
Contented to play as reliever to the talent-laden guard rotation of San Miguel that had Samboy Lim, Elmer Reyes, Hector Calma, Ricardo Brown and Franz Pumaren, Agustin spent more time on the bench than on the court, but he became a part of that successful squad, which won the grand slam that same year.
His role would change the next few seasons as injuries to key players allowed Agustin to shine. By 1992, the Atom Bomb emerged as the league’s MVP.
Bal David was a third-round choice of the Sunkist Juicers in the 1995 PBA Rookie Draft, but he went back to the amateur ranks after being left unsigned.
He returned to the big league in 1996 as a free agent and made his mark as one of Ginebra San Miguel’s all-time greatest point guards, becoming a part of the franchise’s championship squad in the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup.
Peter June Simon was another success story.
He was picked 43rd overall by the Sta. Lucia Realtors in 2001, but decided to play for the Davao Eagles in the MBA, where he had more opportunities to shine and was named Discovery Player of the Year.
The following season, he moved to the PBL and won a championship for Dazz Dishwashing Paste. It was in 2004 when Simon got a call from Purefoods to team up with James Yap and Kerby Raymundo, two of the franchise’s biggest stars back then.
While playing for the old Purefoods franchise, Simon won a total of eight championships, including a grand slam run in 2014.
There are a few more names selected late in the draft, but emerged to become stars later on.
Cyrus Baguio, Larry Fonacier and Jeff Chan were each selected in the second round by Yeng Guiao, who was then coach of the old Red Bull franchise of Photokina.
All these players emerged as multiple champions and each of them represented the national team one way or another.
In this year’s PBA Rookie Draft, which saw close to 100 applicants making it to the list, there are quite a few names being considered to become draft sleepers -- Brian Enriquez of Barangay Ginebra, Taylor Browne of Alaska, Franky Johnson of Rain or Shine, Nick Demusis of Phoenix Super LPG, David Murrell of NLEX, and even Andre Paras, as far as the third round.
Anyone among them can rise above the expectations, so when the PBA opens its new season, each of these guys can steal the spotlight from the marquee players.
The PBA’s new season may have been pushed back, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, but exciting times are ahead in the big league once it resumes.
Make way for the future stars of the PBA.