Perez vs. Parks: Who should be the first overall pick in the PBA Draft?

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Columbian Dyip is about to face another tough conundrum.

Tabbed to pick first in the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft after finishing with the worst win-loss record in the league’s 43rd season, the team has the complete pool of aspirants to choose from in the December 16 affair.

One of the first rookie prospects to express interest in joining this year’s draft was Jaymar “CJ” Perez, an athletic, do-it-all forward from the Lyceum of the Philippines. After collegiate stints with San Sebastian and Ateneo De Manila, Perez finally settled in with the Muralla-based squad in his last two years in the NCAA.

Dubbed as the “Baby Beast” due to the similarities of his playing style with former NCAA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Calvin Abueva, Perez gamely led the Lyceum Pirates to two finals appearances – losing in both occasions to the San Beda Red Lions.

Despite leaving the collegiate level without a single championship, Perez did enough to gain the attention of basketball observers for his on-court hustle and energy and willingness to battle in the paint. The pride of Bautista, Pangasinan claimed the Season 93 MVP plum, but unfortunately failed to bag a second one in 2018. A disputed suspension levied by league officials, stemming from his filing of application to the PBA Draft, made Perez ineligible for the Season 94 MVP race despite a lead.

Right after Perez’s declaration, Columbian – through head coach Johnedel Cardel – made it known to the public of their keenness to sign up the Lyceum star.

But with a week to go before D-Day, that pronouncement might go on a 180-degree turn with the emergence of another viable option for the top overall pick.

That other option? None other than Bobby Ray Parks Jr. – a multiple-time MVP in the amateur level.

Last November 29, Parks finally ended the five-year wait and heeded the call of basketball fans of possibly joining the country’s premier professional basketball league. After ending his colorful UAAP career in 2013 with the National University Bulldogs, the clamor for Parks to join the PBA fell on deaf ears as the 6-foot-4 swingman opted to try his luck in other leagues abroad. The two-time UAAP MVP ventured into the NBA Developmental League and suited up for the Texas Legends, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks.

With his NBA dream unfulfilled, Parks flew back home to continue his basketball career in the Philippines, albeit not in the PBA. In November 2016, Parks officially joined the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) squad Alab Pilipinas. In his second ABL season with the San Miguel-backed ball club, Parks led the charge for Alab Pilipinas in claiming the 2017-18 championship via a 3-2 series win over Mono Vampire of Thailand.

To date, the son of seven-time PBA Best Import Bobby Parks Sr. has won two MVP awards in the ABL, as well as a Finals MVP citation.

Between these two talents, who should Columbian go with?

Perez, with his explosiveness and tenacity, is a perfect fit not just for Columbian, but for any PBA team that acquires his services. A 6-foot-2 that has the work ethic of a blue-collar power forward – one who soars for rebounds and putbacks – is a gem of a find. He’s also a dominating presence on both sides of the court, as shown by his stellar per-game averages in his final year (18.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 3.3 steals, 46.6 percent shooting from the field, 28.6 percent on threes).

But considering the franchise’s topsy-turvy first four years in the PBA, Columbian might take a hard pass on Perez. The reversal of their fate may lie on taking in Parks as their top rookie pick in the upcoming draft.

Ditching Perez and drafting Parks might be the bullet worth biting for Columbian, known in the past as Kia and Mahindra. Similar to the numerous changes in their team name, this 2014 expansion team has yet to solidify its identity in the professional ranks. Yes, there are those draft day “dealings” but in the basketball court, this ball club is in disarray especially during those tough losses.

Taking in Parks in their fold gives Columbian a tested leader who earned his stripes in both local and international leagues. In his previous stint with Alab Pilipinas, Parks was the “glue guy” who kept the local players in-sync with their talented world imports Justin Brownlee and Renaldo Balkman. In addition, Parks would end up usually as the third leading scorer behind their two foreign reinforcements.

In his few games with the Mandaluyong El Tigre in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, Parks carried majority of the scoring load (19.1 points per game on 39 percent shooting from the field, including 32 percent on threes) and flashed an all-around package (8.0 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 1.7 steals in 10 contests) before rejoining the Jimmy Alapag-mentored Alab Pilipinas squad.

Offensive firepower (on a consistent basis) and leadership (forged from years in different levels of competition) from a proven talent may very well be what Columbian needs.

Props to CJ, but Ray-Ray may end up as the one wearing that Columbian cap and jacket on the 16th.

(Photos from: Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, PBA Images)

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