Ateneo Blue Eagles Dominate 2013 PBA

By Joseph W Buduan

All six Ateneo Blue Eagles who applied for the 2013 PBA Draft were taken in, a sweet sweep for members of the historic 5-Peat UAAP Title teams.

Robinson’s Place Manila, 3 November 2013 – When your parents tell you to do well in college to build a better future for yourself, you need to listen to them.

All six of the Ateneo Blue Eagles who applied for the 2013 PBA Rookie Draft held here tonight were selected and get a chance to strut their wares in the pros. Here is where they each went:

  • Greg Slaughter – Barangay Ginebra (First round, Number 1 overall)
  • Ryan Buenafe – Alaska (First round, Number 8 overall)
  • Justin Chua – San Mig Coffee (First round, Number 10 overall)
  • Nico Salva – Global Port (Second round, Number 11 overall)
  • JP Erram – Talk N Text (Second round, Number 15 overall)
  • Oping Sumalinog – Talk N Text (Fourth round, Number 36 overall)

Greg Slaughter will be doing this in the PBA from now on (Image by Max Ferrer)

They were among the fortunate 44 players picked by PBA teams.

“It’s still surreal, I still can’t believe I am with Ginebra,” said the 7-foot Filipino-American right after he was drafted. Familiar chants of “Ginebra, Ginebra!” came from the crowd. “My focus right now is to help the team win a championship,” Slaughter added. He was all smiles as he waved to the predominantly pro-Ginebra crowd and gamely posed for pictures with fans after the drafting was done.

Team manager Al Chua was elated and excited with Slaughter as well as their other Round 1 pick (Number 4 overall) James Forrester, the 6-foot-2 Filipino-Canadian off-guard out of Arellano University. “When I was coaching this team we lacked size, but now we got a lot bigger after this draft. And although we are bigger now, we can also run,” Chua said.

This will turn out to be an Ateneo homecoming of sorts. Slaughter will be joining not only the most popular ballclub in the pros, but he will also be reunited with the diminutive Eman Monfort, his pointguard during the 2011 championship, the fourth of the five straight UAAP titles strung up by the Ateneo. Monfort joined the team recently in a trade that sent Rob Labagala to Barako Bull. Other Ateneans on the club are superstar pointguard LA Tenorio, and recent Gilas national team revelation Japeth Aguilar. “Mga bata pa din sila, so we veterans have to provide them guidance,” Tenorio remarked in one interview. “Ibang-iba ang PBA sa UAAP. It is a much tougher league. Hopefully we can jell together quickly as a team,” he added.

Alaska raised a lot of eyebrows taking Buenafe as high as they did. A lot of pundits and other long-time observers thought at best the 6-foot-2 Ateneo swingman would be a second round pick. “We really needed a good wingman. We had a lot of choices at that point, but at the end of the day we saw what Ryan can bring,” explained Alaska head coach Luigi Trillo. “He has a high basketball IQ and he’s a winner; wherever he’s gone he’s won,” added Trillo.

Buenafe won three straight championships in the NCAA junior division with San Sebastian, then four championships in five years with the Ateneo in the UAAP. While no one denies his talent, he does bring some baggage with him, not the least of which is his physical conditioning. Buenafe once ballooned to over 260 pounds in his third year in the Ateneo. He even missed the PBA Draft Combine just a few days before the draft, leading to speculation that he was avoiding it to prevent teams from seeing the poor shape he was in. He and a few other applicants who missed that combine were nearly disqualified from this draft by the PBA.

“I didn’t expect na ako ang first choice nila sa draft,” said the soft-spoken Buneafe. “I will prove to them na hindi sila nagakamali sa akin,” he vowed. Buenafe was a star throughout his amateur career, and will now get a chance to shine anew in the pros.

Chua for his part was a career backup for the most part as a Blue Eagle, and thus another first round surprise. He got his chance to shine in the 2010 season when the star big man tandem of Nonoy Baclao and Rabeh Al-Hussaini were done, and Slaughter was still serving his residency after transferring.

San Mig Coffee head coach Tim Cone was impressed with the versatility of the wide-bodied 6-foot-5 Chua after a workout with his Mixers. “His ability to make jumpshots is a huge weapon,” Cone said after the draft. “He can defend the big men and pull them out,” he added.

Chua also did very well by leading the Blackwater Elite to the last PBA D League title, besting Slaughter in the Finals and ending the dynasty of the mighty NLEX Road Warriors. “I’m happy to get this opportunity. Siempre hard work pa din kailangan. I’m constantly doing weights and working on my shooting,” Chua said in one interview.

Falling into the second round was a bit unexpected for Salva. He emerged as a leader for the Ateneo starting in his junior year. He is a proven scorer and a versatile forward who can also take a stab at playing off-guard. Perhaps his main drawback was playing power forward a lot at only 6-foot-3, not exactly PBA specifications for the position. While Salva possesses good quickness and has a very good jumpshot, he will need to develop a quicker trigger firing off his own dribble to become a fulltime perimeter player in the PBA.

Because the basketball gods have a sense of humor, he will be teammates with reigning UAAP MVP and FEU superstar Terrence Romeo. About a month and a half ago, he and Romeo got into a word war on social networking site Twitter. Salva, not exactly the most selfless of players in his UAAP career, essentially called out Romeo for hogging the ball at crucial stretches of games to the detriment of his team. Romeo of course did not take kindly to the unsolicited advice. Both players put on a hug on the draft stage to the loud cheers of fans. “I can’t wait to play with him (Romeo) and the rest of Global Port,” said Salva.

Erram and Sumalinog were both essentially role players who saw limited minutes throughout their respective UAAP careers with the Ateneo. It is most fortunate that they were taken in by Talk N Text. They should feel right at home with Norman Black, their college coach, handling the team, as well as their former team manager, Paolo Trillo, also running things at the TNT front office. “We know what Poy and Oping are capable of, and hopefully they will be able to play a role for us here just like they did in Ateneo,” Trillo said in one interview.
With all six finding early draft homes, the Ateneo was officially the best-represented school and team in this draft.