Jamie Malonzo talks about being the potential top pick in the PBA rookie draft

Jamie Malonzo is projected to be a top two pick in the upcoming PBA rookie draft. Ernie Sarmiento

The upcoming PBA rookie draft is slated to be one of the most loaded in recent history. With the PBA relaxing its PBA D-League requirements coupled with the collegiate leagues halting their competitions, a lot of great talents decided this was the perfect time to turn pro.

Jamie Malonzo was one of the few who really knew it was the next step for him. The one-and-done product of the De La Salle Green Archers entered the PBA D-League Draft and played a game for Marinerong Pilipino before it was shut down due to the pandemic.

Undaunted, Malonzo flew back to the United States as he knew their more relaxed rules on the lockdown would enable him to work on his game.

"I'm just working out in the gym because lot of things are open here in Las Vegas," said Malonzo, a few days after officially declaring for the upcoming draft. "Getting into the gym hasn't been hard so I'm just preparing myself physically and mentally for the PBA."

The consensus for the draft is that Malonzo will be picked alongside Joshua Munzon at the very top. Although there are lots of opinions on who'd go first, many agree that these two athletic youngsters will go 1 and 2.

"Josh is my actual friend but being able to compete against him will be fun. A lot of people say it'll be and him at the top of the draft and that's exciting," he said. "There's always pressure to be better. With the pandemic, we have so much time to work on our game, to work on our weaknesses to get us ready for the PBA Draft. Seeing that I could go 1 or 2 with Josh just propels me to go harder."

Malonzo is also keeping an eye on some of his college teammates who've also applied for the draft.

"I watched a lot Santi (Leonard Santillan) playing five-on-five and 3x3. It's actually nice to see a lot of guys from DLSU entering the draft as well," as he counts Andrei Caracut and Jamie Laput who also hope to carve out their spot in the pros.

While some of the rookie hopefuls who are in the Philippines were limited by the lockdown and only got to work on their game after the government relaxed its rules, Malonzo had a running start in the United States.

"Being able to handle the rock and bring it down the court is something I've spent a lot of time on," he said. "I've been working on my court vision because I want to get my teammates involved. I want to be able to do it all coming into the PBA. I'm working on my weaknesses. I'm working on my outside shot. I've been shooting from the NBA three-point line so I hope it translates to long threes when I'm in the PBA."

Aside from the physical aspect, Malonzo knows he also has to prepare for the mental game. Luckily for him, he's had quite the list of mentors.

"I look up to a lot of players in the PBA and I've talked to a few of them. They give me a lot of wisdom because they've been in the league for a while now. There are a couple of players I could see myself playing like. Great guys like Gabe Norwood," Malonzo shared.

He also got a close look at what NBA-level leadership was like when he played alongside Andray Blatche and Renaldo Balkman for Mighty Sports Philippines in Dubai last year.

"I learned lot from guys like Renaldo Balkman and Andray Blatche. I was just a sponge when I was with Mighty Sports. Those two showed a lot of leadership and showed what it took to bring a team to the championship in just a short amount of time," Malonzo said.

"One of the biggest things I'm focusing on is to help lead a team. I'm going into a situation where I will probably have to be a leader and a factor off the bat. I want to make a big splash. I want my presence to be known. I want to show my I'm a high draft pick in the draft by being a factor all season."