MANILA, Philippines – All Jorey Napoles wanted was to be selected by a team – any team – in the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft.
Not only did he get selected, he got picked in the first round to the Phoenix Fuel Masters, ahead of more well-established prospects such as Colegio de San Juan de Letran's Bong Quinto and University of Santo Tomas' Jeepy Faundo.
In the process, Napoles became the first player from the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP) to be taken in the PBA Rookie Draft.
"Hindi ko talaga akalain eh," the 6-foot-4 Napoles told reporters after his selection.
"Nagpapasalamat ako sa Diyos, sa mga nagtiwala sa akin. Coaches ko, mga family ko, mga teammates ko. Hindi ako akalain na aabot ako sa ganito," he added.
That he went 12th overall shocked Napoles, considering the circumstances. The forward is the first to acknowledge that he does not come from a well-known basketball program, and instead relied on stints in the PBA D-League and the MPBL to make his name.
"Kasi' di kilala saang galing school. Walang exposure. Walang sponsor," he noted.
But those same hindrances served as his motivation heading into last week's Draft Combine, where he clearly did enough to catch the attention of the Phoenix franchise.
"Madami akong pinagdaanan, sapat na rin 'yun," said Napoles. "Yung sa PBA Draft Combine, binigay ko doon best ko eh. Ayun na eh. One step closer, ibibigay ko na talaga ang best ko, 100 percent."
"Hindi ko in-expect na ganito mangyayari. Sobrang blessed talaga," he added.
He hopes his journey to the PBA will serve as an inspiration to players who do not hail from bigger programs as well.
"Pangarap nila, ituloy lang nila. Manalig sila sa taas. Kumbaga, go lang ng go para sa pangarap. Huwag sila susuko, huwag sila mado-down," said Napoles.
"Kaya kung dumating man ang struggle sa buhay nila, go pa rin ng go sila. 'Yun 'yung naramdaman ko dati. Feeling ko wala na akong chance dati sa basketball kasi di ka UAAP, NCAA," he admitted.
"Sabi ko 'di 'yan, mindset lang 'yan. Gagawin ko lang kung ano best ko."
He will bring this same mindset to the Fuel Masters, where he hopes to earn a roster spot alongside Matthew Wright, Jason Perkins, and new acquisition Alex Mallari.
"Kung ano nakita nila noong Draft Combine, dadagdagan ko pa rin," he vowed.
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