By Mariana Lopa
The Philippines’ first professional women’s basketball league, the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), held its virtual draft last February 13. WNBL hopefuls submitted draft applications, which were later screened based on “years of experience, character references, and social media”, per the league’s official statements. Moreover, they were directed to participate in a mandatory Draft Combine, which was later downgraded to an optional exercise.
Four pioneer teams participated in the Draft, namely, the Paranaque Lady Aces, Pacific Water Queens, Glutagence Glow Boosters, and Stan Quezon Lady Spartan. Each team went into the draft with a certain number of protected players who could no longer be selected by other teams. There appears to have been no hard-and-fast rule governing player protection, as each team entered the draft with varying numbers of protected players.
At the end of 12 rounds, each team had a roster of fifteen players, while several other draft-hopefuls remain as Free Agents who can be signed by teams that still have roster spots.
Parañaque Lady Aces
Protected Players: Allana Lim, Claire Castro, April Siat, Kris Tolentino, Marydyn Tingcang, Carmina Reyes, Jamie Alcoy
Draft Picks (in the order selected): 10 – Angeli Gloriani, 13 – Joy Galicia, 16 – Jhenn Angeles, 23 – Vanessa Santos, 26 – Tanya De La Merced, 28 – Jenina Solis, 32 – Sthefanie Ventura, 36 – Jaira Baarde
The Paranaque Lady Aces did their homework and took advantage of the WNBL format for building a roster.
On its list of protected players, The Lady Aces locked in national-team veterans Allana Lim, Claire Castro, and April Siat whose size, skill sets, and collective experience in both local and international play make for a solid core for any team. Added to their list of protected players are Kris Tolentino, Marydyn Tingcang, Carmina Reyes, and Jamie Alcoy.
Through the draft, the Lady Aces surrounded its core of protected players with their former teammates on Discovery Perlas Pilipinas. Angeli Gloriani is a DLSU Legend who will surely be a leader and steadying presence on the Court. Joy Galicia is a scrappy forward, while Jhenn Angeles is a young but steady guard. Both women played for UST.
In building the team in this way, the Lady Aces did not need to look deeply into the results of the Draft Combine as most of its players did not actually participate; instead, the Lady Aces are relying on the players’ resumes and experience of playing together on the former national team. Whether it is by a happy coincidence or otherwise, six out of the 10 former Discovery Perlas Pilipinas members who applied for the Draft are now Lady Aces.
To complete its 15-man line-up, the Lady Aces added shooting guard Vanessa Santos, CSB’s Tanya De La Merced and Jenina Solis, CEU’s Sthefanie Ventura, and San Beda Alabang’s Jaira Baarde.
Pacific Water Queens
Protected Players: Adeline Tuayon Sebastian, Girly Romano Villaflores, Jollina Go, Pamela Andree Payac, Angel Arellado, Valerie Mamaril
Draft Picks (in the order selected): 6 – Snow Penaranda, 9 – Cara Buendia, 14 – Elaisa Adriano, 18 – Chrislyn Mier, 20 – Cristine Cortizano, 25 – Monique Del Carmen, 29 – Nefriteri Taller, 34 – Janella Alba, 37 – Jinky Ballasta
The Pacific Water Queens’ line-up is filled with young former-UAAP stalwarts led by ADMU’s combo guards Jollina Go and Pamela Andree Payac, both of whom are quick and streaky volume scorers. Added to their list of protected players are Girly Romano Villaflores, FEU’s Angel Arellado and Valerie Mamaril. Finally, they also have the veteran presence of Adeline Tuayon Sebastian.
With its first pick (6th overall), The Queens selected potential franchise player, DLSU’s Snow Penaranda, whose size and ability to play both facing and with her back to the basket make her one of the toughest bigs to guard. Alongside Penaranda in the post will be ADMU banger Cara Buendia and AdU big woman Nefriteri Taller.
In the most surprising, if not curious, moment of the draft, Monique Del Carmen, the reigning UAAP Finals MVP who went undefeated during her entire stay with the National University, fell to the Queens as the 25th pick. Del Carmen’s sudden drop in the draft board caught those who follow the women’s game by surprise as she was initially projected to be a top-pick. There appears to be no logical explanation for her slipping to the 25th pick as Del Carmen is reported to be healthy and in-shape.
The rest of the line-up is made up of former RTU Guard and now-referee Janella Alba, and former UAAP players, UE’s Cristine Cortizano, FEU’s Elaisa Adriano, and ADU’s Jinky Ballasta.
Glutagence Glow Boosters
Protected Players: Nicole De Los Reyes, Micah Joy Figuracion, Julie Pearl Gula
Draft Picks (in the order selected): 1 – Fille Cainglet, 2 – Camille Claro, 3 – Khate Castillo, 7 – Camille Sambile, 11 – April Lualhati, 12 – Nicole Cancio, 19 – Carol Sangalang, 22 – Raiza Palmera Dy, 24 – Nicky Garcia, 31 – Samantha Tan, 33 – Ayra Hufanda, 39 – Camille Ramos
The Glutagence Glow Boosters failed to take advantage of the protected players list, as they only protected three players, Nicole De Los Reyes, Micah Joy Figuracion, and Julie Pearl Gula. CEU’s Figuracion is an athletic player who can play both guard or forward for the Glow Boosters, while Julie Pearl Gula is a guard with experience as a member of team Global Port in the PBA 3X3 2016 Governor’s Cup. It is highly unusual that the Glow Boosters did not use any of its additional protected slots to add more impactful players who could have beefed up its line-up.
The Glow Boosters somewhat made up for its relative failure to capitalize on the ability to protect star players through the draft. With its first three picks, the Glow Boosters selected interchangeable guards in Fille Cainglet and DLSU’s “Splash Sisters”, Camille Claro and Khate Castillo. While Cainglet had a well-decorated career with the UP Lady Maroons in the early 2000s, it came as a surprise that the now-professional full-time doctor was selected ahead of her teammates Sambile, Claro, and Castillo, and Del Carmen who fell to the Queens. All of those women were expected to be selected earlier due to their relative youth, accolades, and international experience.
The Glow Boosters also drafted a set of veterans in former UAAP MVP and national team player Camille Sambile, who was inexplicably still on the board as the 7th pick, April Lualhati who last played competitive basketball in the Philippines in 2006 as part of then-WNCAA Champion Lyceum Lady Pirates, and UAAP Season 74 MVP and now mother of three, Raiza Palmera Dy.
Completing the line-up are ADMU’s Nicole Cancio, DLSU’s Camille Ramos, UST and Discovery Perlas Pilipinas’ Carol Sangalang, Samantha Tan, and UP’s Ayra Hufanda, all of whom are expected to make valuable contributions to the team.
Stan Quezon Lady Spartans
Protected Players: Phaula Nadres, Wami Taroja, Chrislyn Mier, Evita Naynes, Chicky Faroan
Draft Picks (in the order selected): 4 – Dianne Ventura, 5 – Kat Araja, 8 – Jo Nathalie Razalo, 15 – Angelica De Austria, 17 – Karla Manuel, 21 – Nikka Tupaz, 27 – Jade Valenzuela, 30 – Anna Marika Iida, 35 – Veronica Lio, 38 – Rozanne Ramos
The Stan Quezon Lady Spartans only protected five players, team captain and Councilor Phaula Nadres, Chrislyn Mier, LPU Batangas’ Evita Naynes, RTU’s big woman Chicky Faroan. They also protected AdU’s Wami Taroja, who is expected to lead the team as a young and versatile player who can play several positions. Similar to the Glow Boosters, the Lady Spartans failed to maximize its slots of protected players (which is presumably a maximum of seven players based on the list submitted by the Lady Aces). Had it maximized its protected players’ list, the Lady Spartans could have locked-in four additional franchise-changing players such as Claro, Castillo, Sambile, and/or Penaranda. The question remains as to whether The Lady Spartans did not lock-in a maxium number by choice or by some league-imposed rule.
Unfortunately, the Lady Spartans also failed to make the picks necessary to strengthen its line-up through the draft. The Lady Spartans’ top draftees Dianne Ventura of UE and Kat Araja of AdU have much to prove as they were selected over the proven winner in Del Carmen, the veteran Gloriani, and several other players with significant international experience. If the Lady Spartans were looking to build their team around a veteran point guard, they should have looked no further than the undrafted Marichu Bacaro, a former UAAP MVP who continues to play in commercial leagues and prove that she can still compete with younger opponents.
The Lady Spartans also selected and Jo Nathalie Razalo, Angelica De Austria, UST and Discovery Perlas Pilipinas’ Karla Manuel, Nikka Tupaz, EAC’s Jade Valenzuela, veteran stretch-4 Anna Marika Iida, La Consolacion College’s Veronica Lio, and UE’s Rozanne Ramos, all of whom fail to move the needle especially against the stacked competition.