By WAYLON GALVEZ
Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao expressed his excitement on social media following the selection of Filipino-American basketball player Jalen Green as the No. 2 overall pick of the Houston Rockets in the 2021 NBA Rookie Draft Thursday (Friday, July 30 in Manila).
“Congratulations to Jalen Green on getting drafted #2 overall,” said Pacquiao in an Instagram caption as he posted a photo with Green, the 19-year-old baller from Merced, California.
“Looking forward to watching your journey to becoming a superstar,” added Pacquiao, who recently met Green weeks after his arrival in the US to promote his fight against Errol Spence Jr.
The 42-year-old Pacquiao, a Philippine senator and reigning WBC welterweight champion, is set to face the unbeaten IBF titlist Spence on Aug. 21 – August 22 in the Philippine – at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As for Green, he is set to join the Rockets that already have young talents like Christian Wood and Kenyon Martin Jr., as well as veteran guard John Wall under coach Stephen Silas.
Green, whose mother Bree Puruganan hails from Ilocos Norte, has recently acknowledged his roots here in the Philippines and representing the Filipinos as a basketball player.
“I know for myself how big that is and how much I’m representing the Philippines,” Green said.
The 6-foot-6 Green first visited the country in 2018 as part of the Fil-Am Sports USA team in a NBTC tournament. He returned the following year with the same squad as they played top high school teams, including the Ateneo Blue Eaglets with then star player in 7-footer Kai Sotto.
As a senior at Prolific Prep in Napa, California, Green led the team to a 31-3 record and the Grind Session World title while averaging 31.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.
Instead of playing college ball, Green took a different route towards the NBA as he opted to turn pro when he signed with the new Ignite team of the NBA G-League team, which gathered the top NBA draft prospects that included Jonathan Kuminga, the No. 7 pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Rookie Draft.
Green led Ignite by averaging 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in their initial season (15 games), and had a season-best of 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting, with seven assists, five rebounds and three steals in a quarterfinal setback to the Raptors 905.
Meantime, Cade Cunningham, a 19-year-old guard who played at Oklahoma State University last season, was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the first pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals a game in college after helping spark a US victory in the 2019 Under-19 Basketball World Cup.
The Cleveland Cavaliers used the third overall selection on Evan Mobley, a 7-foot power forward who averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists a game at the University of Southern California last season.
Toronto selected Florida State forward Scottie Barnes fourth and Orlando took guard Jalen Suggs fifth overall.
Australian guard Josh Giddey, 18, went sixth overall to Oklahoma City, followed by Jonathan Kuminga (Golden State), German 19-year-old forward Franz Wagner (Orlando), Canadian guard Joshua Primo (San Antonio), Canadian-born Dominincan guard Chris Duarte (Indiana) and Turkish 19-year-old center Alperen Sengun (Oklahoma).