When one talks about the most talented crop of rookies ever in the PBA, no one comes close to the Class of 1989.
That class produced the only Rookie/MVP in the league, two members of a grand slam squad, another MVP and member of 25 Greatest Players of the PBA, and multiple champion players.
Benjie Paras was the only player to win the Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season and would repeat to claiming the highest individual honor 10 years after as he transformed the Shell Turbochargers to a four-time league champion. He was selected as the top overall rookie pick in 1989.
The No. 2 pick in 1989 was Nelson Asaytono, undoubtedly one of the best PBA players never to win the MVP award. He won the Best Player of the Conference twice and became a seven-time league champion coming from three different teams.
Ato Agustin came in as the biggest steal in the 1989 Rookie Draft as he was the last player selected in the second round by the San Miguel Beermen. But he, along with fellow newcomer Bobby Jose, who was picked No. 6 in the first round, would play for the grand slam champion San Miguel Beermen that year.
Agustin would emerge as a star for the Beermen, winning the MVP in 1992, and would win seven championships throughout his playing career in the PBA.
Then, there’s former Philippine squad teammates Bong Alvarez, Dindo Pumaren, Boy Cabahug, Zaldy Realubit, the late Ric Ric Marata, and Romy dela Rosa to name a few. These players also made their marks in the pro league.
Known as “Mr. Excitement”, Alvarez, who was selected third overall in 1989, would help guide Alaska to its first league championship in 1991. He was awarded by the PBA Press Corps as Mr. Quality Minutes and Comeback Player of the Year twice.
Pumaren was selected No. 1 in the second round by Purefoods during the 1989 Draft and since then, became an integral part of the Hotdogs where he emerged as a four-time champion. He would retire as the third all-time leader in assists (4,043) and fifth in the all-time steals list (902).
Cabahug, Marata, Realubit and Dela Rosa had at least won multiple championships playing in different teams in the PBA.
More than three decades later, the Class of ‘89 remains as the yardstick when it comes to discussions in depth and impact.
Following the UAAP’s decision to scrap next season’s basketball tournament, players from this prestigious collegiate league are now contemplating on joining next year’s PBA Draft.
Fans are now speculating whether 6’8” center Justine Baltazar and 6’6” Jamie Malonzo of La Salle, would jump on the opportunity of turning pro next year. The PBA Draft has already lured the country’s top 3 x 3 players like Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, Leonard Santillan and Troy Rike, while agent Charlie Dy also confirmed that his wards from Alab Pilipinas, guards Jason Brickman, Jeremiah Gray and Jordan Heading, former La Salle Green Archer Andrei Caracut, Fil-Am Brandon Rosser, and 6’7” center Tzaddy Rangel, are also joining the Draft.
And if Gilas Pilipinas stalwarts Javi and Juan Gomez de Liano, Kobe Paras, Dwight Ramos and several other players from the national team program would join the special draft, the 2021 Rookie Draft may turn out to be the deepest in years.