With a bumper crop of rookies led by former mainstays of the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team, the PBA has decided to reinstitute a classic formula for the all-star game: Veterans versus Rookies-Sophomores-Juniors.
The news was confirmed by PBA commissioner Chito Salud.
“We will be starting an online poll which will last until December to get fans’ choices of players,” he said. “RSJ versus Veterans will push through and will replace the common North versus South format.”
Top overall pick JVee Casio, Chris Lutz, Marcio Lassiter, Mac Baracael, Mark Barroca, Dylan Ababou, and Jason Ballesteros were all selected in the first round of this year’s draft after a tour of duty with SMART-Gilas. Other newcomers who have caught the fancy of basketball fans in the Philippine Cup are Paul Lee of Rain or Shine and Allein Maliksi of Barako Bull.
Notable sophomores include last season’s Rookie of the Year Rabeh Al-Hussaini and his Petron teammates Nonoy Baclao and Rey Guevarra, Barangay Ginebra’s John Wilson, Jimbo Aquino, and Rob Labagala, and Shopinas.com stalwarts Elmer Espiritu and RJ Jazul. Possible choices among third-year players include Japeth Aguilar of Talk ‘N Text, Rico Maierhofer of B-MEG, Chris Ross of Meralco, and Jervy Cruz and Ronnie Matias of Rain or Shine.
Aware of the possibility that deserving players may be bumped off the veterans team, Salud also announced an interesting new wrinkle to the weekend’s festivities. The usual Rookies-Sophomores game will be replaced by a legends challenge, which will feature current PBA stars alongside former greats. PBA legends such as Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, Allan Caidic, and Ronnie Magsanoc have already expressed their willingness to play in the game.
The Veterans versus Rookies-Sophomores format was first used in a PBA all-star game in 1989, after a two-year period that saw young stars like Patrimonio, Lastimosa, Jerry Codinera, Benjie Paras, Bong Alvarez, and many others enter the league. In 1990, the Veterans faced off against a team composed of rookies, sophomores and juniors, before the format was shelved in 1991.
The PBA resurrected the Veterans versus Rookies-Sophomores format in 1999, when a rookie crop of talented Filipino-Americans led by Danny Seigle, Asi Taulava, and Eric Menk, on a team that also featured second-year player Danny Ildefonso.