Filed Under: Basketball, PBA, Air 21 Express, Nonoy Baclao, Rey Guevarra, Rabeh Al Hussaini, Joshua Vanlandingham, Marvin Cruz, Paolo Hubalde, Mark Isip
MANILA, Philippines—Showing their commitment to strengthen the squad weakened by trades last season, the Air21 Expresswasted little time in signing up their top three picks in the 2010 PBA Draft.
The Express signed top pick Nonoy Baclao and No. 2 choice Rabeh Al-Hussaini to maximum three-year deals worth P8.5 million each and third selection Rey Guevarra to a three-year contract worth P6 million Tuesday as they began rebuilding a franchise that won just 10 of its 36 games last season.
Cornerstones of the Ateneo squad that won back-to-back titles in the 2008 and 2009, the 6-foot-5 Baclao and 6-foot-7 Al-Hussaini will receive the rookie maximum of P150,000 on their first year, P225,000 on their sophomore season and P337,000 on the final year of the deal.
Guevarra, a former Letran standout, will get P120,000 on his first year, P150,000 on his sophomore season and P200,000 in the third year.
The three rookies joined the Express in practice at the Reyes Gym yesterday and Express skipper Wynne Arboleda liked what he saw.
“I think they will immediately make an impact in our team,” said Arboleda.
Air21 team manager Allan Gregorio said the Express also plan to sign center Carlo Sharma, who is Al-Hussaini’s half brother, to a one-year extension.
“Basically, we have the players we need to be competitive in the All-Filipino Cup,” said Gregorio.
“We received offers for trades to our rookies but our chair, Bert Lina, is firm on the decision that we are not trading our top three picks. We need a new image. We need to prove Air 21 is here to stay. And make it the most competitive as we can be”
Gregorio sees the entry of Baclao, Al-Hussaini and Guevarra as a “second coming” to the time when the Express still had marquee players Ranidel and Yancy De Ocampo, Arwind Santos and KG Canaleta in 2005.
Baclao was picked ahead of Al-Hussaini, the consensus top pick, lighting the wick of a controversy that stole the spotlight during draft day.
Al-Hussaini called his selection behind Baclao “an insult.”
Meanwhile, Rain or Shine signed up fifth pick Joshua Vanlandingham to the maximum three-year for rookies.
Unable to get a new deal with Powerade, Marvin Cruz was snapped up by Barako Bull, which offered him a one-year deal. Paolo Hubalde and Mark Isip were also given fresh one-year deals by Barako Bull.