Blackwater head coach Nash Racela revealed that the team really wanted to pick big men with their back-to-back selections in the second round of the PBA Rookie Draft Sunday, but he’s nonetheless satisfied with how it turned out.
The veteran mentor said that the Bossing were actually hoping that a team would miss picking one of the more touted bigs in the first round. They would then take advantage by tapping him with their 14th pick.
But none of that happened, and they eventually picked Rey Mark Acuno, then ex-La Salle shooter Joshua Torralba at no. 15.
“We were hoping that we could get two bigs doon sa 14 and 15 namin,” he told Tiebreaker Times. “Part of the hope was that ‘yung mga naunang bigs would slip out of the top 13 kasi parang it was consensus top 13 naman eh.
“So kumbaga, umaasa lang kami na may magkamali na isang team. And if that happened then we would get one of those bigs na nasa top 13, and then we will have Acuno as the second big man,” Racela added.
“Ganun talaga ‘yung plan namin — we were trying to get two bigs. But again, it really depended on what happened in the first round.”
Some may have felt surprised with the Bossing’s decision to draft Acuno, but Racela revealed that they have known the former Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) player since way back.
The former Far Eastern University chief mentor said that he actually tried to lure him to play for the Tamaraws when he was still with Southwestern University. Acuno ultimately transferred to University of the East.
Racela once again tried to recruit the 6-foot-7 forward to play for Iloilo United in the MPBL, but he went on to play for Manila Frontrow.
“Si Acuno, we’ve seen him with Southwestern. I remember trying to recruit him for FEU back then, but he eventually played for UE,” he recalled. “Nung nasa MPBL, we tried to recruit him for Iloilo but he decided to play for Manila.
“Kaya nga niloko namin siya eh. ‘Ikaw a,’ sabi namin, ‘ayaw mo sa’min,'” the UAAP champion coach joked.
Racela is also happy with their no. 15 pick in Torralba, whom he sees in the mold of veteran two-way guard Ryan Reyes — someone he worked with during his years-long stint with TNT.
“I see him as probably another Ryan Reyes,” he said.
“In the mold of Ryan Reyes — tough defender, tough player that could also shoot, score.”
Racela also praised the kind of character the 6-foot-2 swingman possesses, which he believes will help in what he and the coaches are trying to build in their relatively young team reeling from the departure of Mac Belo.
“Alam mo naman the kind of character we want to build with our team — ‘yung may toughness and ‘yung hustle. And si Josh, we see him as somebody who could bring that to the table,” he said.
“‘Yun ‘yung nakita namin sa kanya previously when I coached against him when he was still playing for La Salle. Ganun kaaga, so that was 2015. Nakita na namin ‘yun. Plus the five years of experience, he must be tougher now.”
Blackwater may not have met its goal of using their second-round picks to get big men, but it still finished the draft with two bigs on hand. It also managed to pick Andre Paras in the third round.
The son of the PBA’s only Rookie MVP Benjie Paras, the 25-year-old has made a name for himself as a tenacious rebounder during his stints in the PBA D-League for AMA and in the MPBL as well.
“We were hoping that with our 27th pick, somebody big becomes available. Kaya nung nakita namin mukhang aabot si Andre, we grabbed the opportunity,” said the former Gilas Pilipinas assistant coach.
“We were actually able to see him. We invited him over in one of our workouts, so talagang may idea naman kami kay Andre, kung anong kaya niyang ibigay sa amin.”
Aside from the three, the Bossing also picked former University of the Philippines playmaker Jun Manzo, and FEU products Kimlee Bayquin and Jeson Delfinado, who are familiar with Racela.
“Maybe the picks that we made surprised a lot of people. Pero from our end, ‘yung management namin, hindi naman sila nagulat dahil it was a well-coordinated move.”