By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THE ANNUAL Philippine Basketball Association rookie draft happens this weekend with 71 aspirants looking to make the leap to the pro ranks.

Happening on Sunday, Dec. 8, at Robinson’s Place Manila, the 12 PBA teams will select among the top amateur and semi-professional players who have made themselves available in the rookie pool.

Among the candidates for the draft are University Athletic Association of the Philippines champions Isaac Go, Matt and Mark Nieto, Adrian Wong, Vince Tolentino and Aaron Black of the Ateneo Blue Eagles; Val Chauca and Sean Manganti (Adamson), Wendel Comboy, Arvin Tolentino and Barkley Ebona (Far Eastern University), Renzo Subido (University of Santo Tomas) and Rey Suerte (University of the East).

Those coming from the National Collegiate Athletic Association include Jerrick Balanza and Bonbon Batiller of Season 95 champions Letran Knights, AC Soberano and Clint Doliguez (San Beda), Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino (Lyceum), Allyn Bulanadi and Alvin Capobres (San Sebastian), Kent Salado (Arellano), Yankee Haruna (College of Saint Benilde) and Edgar Charcos (Perpetual Help).

From the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, meanwhile, are Mike Ayonayon (San Juan), Chris Bitoon and Aris Dionisio (Manila).

Filipino-foreigners also vying for PBA roster sports are Roosevelt Adams, Jason Riley and Daryl Singontiko.

These players and the rest of the aspirants are parading their wares for team representatives to see in the ongoing draft combine that started yesterday and to end today at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong City.

For the first time in three years, the draft will feature a special selection for the Gilas Pilipinas program.

Messrs. Go, Bulanadi and Suerte, and Matt and Mike Nieto, will be the five players involved in the special draft where they will be part of the preparations of Gilas for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

Selecting in the special Gilas draft are Columbian Dyip, Blackwater Elite, NLEX Road Warriors, Alaska Aces and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.

These teams can draft said players but the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas can pull them out anytime when needed.

After the special draft, the regular drafting begins with Columbian picking first. The Dyip were also the first to pick last year and used it to get CJ Perez.

Blackwater select second followed by the NLEX, Alaska and Rain or Shine (from the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters) for the first five picks.

Rain or Shine once again picks sixth (from the Meralco Bolts) and seventh, followed at eighth by Northport Batang Pier, Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok (ninth), Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings (10th), TNT KaTropa (11th) and San Miguel Beermen (12th).