On Sunday, the third-ever Gilas Pilipinas round will open the festivities of the 2021 PBA Rookie Draft.
Despite having 86 entrants this year, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas only picked up four players to join the Gilas pool in the build-up to the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
William Navarro, Jaydee Tungcab, Jordan Heading, and Tzaddy Rangel are that new quartet. And according to Tiebreaker Times’ sources, Heading will head to Terrafirma, Navarro will go to NorthPort, while Tungcab and Rangel will split between sister teams NLEX and TNT.
They will join Isaac Go (Terrafirma), Rey Suerte (Blackwater), Matt Nieto (NLEX), Allyn Bulanadi (Alaska), and Matt Nieto (Rain or Shine) in the pool. Navarro, Tungcab, Heading, and Rangel are also expected to report for duty as early as Monday, when Gilas holds its month-long camp at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
Unlike the first batch of Gilas draftees, the nine players will be full-time on the national team.
Back in 2016, the SBP and the PBA held a Gilas draft so that the federation could easily pull out players when needed. Back then, Gilas was still reeling from losing in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Gilas 5.0 was solely composed of collegiate stars. Their baptism by fire was the 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge, which saw the squad finish in ninth place among 12 nations.
From there, 12 players were selected for the first-ever Gilas draft, with each team picking one player. Three players declined to join the pool — namely Gelo Alolino, Chris Javier, and Jonathan Grey.
So whatever happened to the 12 selections?
Coming off his dominant final year in Far Eastern University, Blackwater, who owned the first pick, selected Mac Belo.
Belo has been hampered with injuries during his five-year run in the PBA so far, though. Still, he has put up double-digit scoring averages every season.
During that time, Belo received invites to numerous pools of Gilas but has yet to make the final cut.
The 6-foot-4 native of Cotabato was traded earlier this year to Meralco, where he hopes he can finally shine.
After Belo, Jio Jalalon was the consensus second-best player in the class. And of course he had to go to Star, the second-worst team in the league then.
Jalalon has been stellar for the Purefoods-franchise. He was able to carve his own niche in a rotation that already has the likes of Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, and Justin Melton.
Up until 2018, the 5-foot-9 guard had always answered the call of duty as well, playing for Gilas when called upon.
But since the Gilas-Australia brawl of 2018, the SBP has never called his number.
Jalalon remains with the Hotshots.
Back in 2016, little was known about Matthew Wright save for his part with Gilas Youth before. He was also one of the pivotal pieces of Westsports Malaysia’s championship run in the ABL.
With his familiarity with then-Phoenix head coach Ariel Vanguardia, the Fuel Masters picked up the 6-foot-4 Fil-Canadian as the third pick.
Wright was definitely the right pick for Phoenix, since he has grown into the face of the franchise in just five years.
Besides his exploits in the pro league, Wright was always part of Gilas pools. His last appearance was the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
For his length, Mahindra selected Russel Escoto as the fourth pick in the Gilas draft.
He had a solid first three years with the Columbian Autocar-owned franchise before his trade to Northport in 2019.
And just like almost all the top picks of Mahindra/KIA/Columbian/Terrafirma, the 6-foot-6 native of Angeles City went to San Miguel last year.
However, Escoto returned to Terrafirma in the CJ Perez trade early this year.
The FEU product has yet to be invited by Gilas since the 2016 Asia Challenge.
Von Pessumal has grown into one of the deadliest three-point specialists in the league today.
But back in 2016, the 6-foot-2 product of Ateneo had a hard time adjusting to the pro game. Despite playing with a struggling GlobalPort team, he could not find his footing.
Then the first-ever trade between two Gilas draftees happened, as GlobalPort sent Pessumal to San Miguel for Arnold Van Opstal.
In San Miguel, Pessumal has been one of the go-to shock troopers of Leo Austria.
Pessumal has yet to receive a call-up from Gilas since the 2017 Southeast Asian Games.
Looking back, Fonzo Gotladera going sixth in the Gilas draft is a head-scratcher. But back then, it made a lot of sense.
Standing at 6-foot-5 with a soft touch, Gotladera and Yeng Guiao’s NLEX were a match made in heaven.
However, Gotladera struggled to get into Guiao’s rotation.
Since being let go by NLEX in 2018, the former Ateneo Blue Eagle has bounced around the MPBL.
The only time he donned the Gilas colors was back in the 2017 Jones Cup.
Coming off a sensation final year in University of Santo Tomas, Ed Daquioag was beaming with potential. And Meralco, which needed a jolt of energy, selected him as the seventh pick.
His stint with Meralco was short-lived, though. The Bolts swapped him to Rain or Shine for fellow Gilas player Mike Tolomia.
Daquioag was solid for Rain or Shine, averaging 8.1 points during his two seasons there.
However, Daquioag was sent to Blackwater in 2020 where he shares the backcourt with… Tolomia.
Daquioag has yet to make a Gilas appearance since the 2017 Jones Cup.
Up to this day, it is still unfathomable how Roger Pogoy fell to the laps of TNT as the eighth pick of the original Gilas draft.
Already having the license of 3-and-D guy, the 6-foot-2 Cebuano has grown beyond that over the last five years.
Every year, Pogoy — the top rookie of this batch — has become the superstar of TNT. And it showed during the PBA bubble, where he posted norms of 20.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists.
Like his arch-rival Wright, the 28-year-old has always answered the call of duty, playing for Gilas whenever he receives a call. His last international cap was the first window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
Mike Tolomia was selected by Rain or Shine in the Gilas draft.
As mentioned earlier, his career and Daquioag’s will always be intertwined. But unlike Daquioag, the 6-foot guard out of Zamboanga has yet to find his imprint in the league due to injuries.
But based from his outings in the bubble that saw him average 8.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.1 steals, Tolomia, like Daquioag, is starting to find his groove under his former FEU head coach and current Blackwater mentor Nash Racela.
Like Daquioag, Tolomia has yet to be called up by the national team since the 2017 Southeast Asian Games.
Kevin Ferrer was picked by Ginebra as the 10th overall pick in the Gilas draft. And he fit in like a glove.
The 6-foot-5 sniper was able to find his place as one of Tim Cone’s off-the-bench killers right from the get-go.
However, after winning two titles with Ginebra, he was sent to NorthPort, reuniting him with his former head coach Pido Jarencio.
Ferrer was one of the go-to players of NorthPort in the bubble.
But he has yet to join Gilas since the 2017 Southeast Asian Games.
Though he was the first player announced during the 2016 PBA Draft ceremonies, Carl Cruz was the penultimate pick in the Gilas round, going to Alaska.
Cruz had been one of the favorites of then-Gilas head coach Chot Reyes as he reminded him of Ranidel De Ocampo.
The 6-foot-4 gunner had been in all of Gilas’ campaigns in 2017 and was always part of the Gilas pool until the Gilas-Australia brawl.
Cruz though never found his mark in Alaska, which sent him to Blackwater in 2019.
The FEU product though missed the PBA bubble due to personal reasons.
Arnold Van Opstal
Back in 2016, many believed that San Miguel scored a coup in getting 6-foot-9 Arnold Van Opstal as the last pick of the Gilas round.
But there was one red flag on the Lasallian, he had a recurring Achilles’ heel injury.
It hampered his development in the big league that saw him move from San Miguel to NorthPort in 2017.
Van Opstal has yet to return to competitive basketball since 2018.
His only Gilas appearance was back in the 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge Cup.