Reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player Calvin Oftana is one of the high-profile stars who are expected to be called early in the upcoming PBA Season 46 draft.
Coming off a stellar campaign with the San Beda Red Lions, Oftana's draft stock rose even higher when he debuted for Gilas Pilipinas in the second window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers last November. He is also part of the Gilas Men's pool that have been training for the upcoming final window, initially scheduled next week in Doha but postponed and moved to Clark instead.
San Beda head coach and Gilas assistant Boyet Fernandez believes that Oftana's biggest advantages over the other draftees are his capability to play multiple positions and his training experience with the national team.
Oftana was a do-it-all player who excelled as a power forward in college. Alongside center Donald Tankoua and fellow Mythical team members Evan Nelle and James Canlas, Oftana led the Red Lions to an undefeated run in the elimination round before bowing down to eventual champions Letran Knights in the finals.
According to Fernandez, Oftana can now shift to the small forward or shooting guard position when needed.
"It's really a different Calvin now. With years of exposure in Gilas, Calvin has improved in terms of his skills," said Fernandez. "Before, he can only play the 4 (power forward) position. But right now, he is capable of playing multiple positions. He can bring down the ball, he's constantly making his shots from the outside especially the 3-point area, and his defense improved as well."
Oftana's exposure to the international stage and training under Gilas program director Tab Baldwin helped him level up his skills. He learned to adapt his game to the requirements of the national team.
"I think his experience with Gilas will give him a little bit of advantage to other draftees. It's really an advantage playing for coach Tab," said Fernandez. "With him training with Gilas, his talent really improved. Because he's playing as a wingman in Gilas, he can play the 2, 3, and 4 positions now."
Fernandez compares the improved version of Oftana to JC Intal of the Phoenix Fuel Masters and Troy Rosario of the TNT KaTropa.
"JC can play the 3, he can play the 4, and he can bring down the ball. So that's the first player that I see that's similar to Calvin. Like Troy also," he said. "If coaches look at Calvin, they can also look at how Troy and JC Intal play, and I think Calvin will be fit in situations like that."
Fernandez believes that Oftana's future PBA coach will like how coachable the 25-year-old pride of Negros Oriental is.
"He is very coachable," he said. "The first thing that a coach will like about him is he's a workaholic. He will come to practice early in the morning or earlier than the practice time. He will improve his skills, he will take his shots, he will follow coaches' orders."
"He can still learn especially since he's still young. I think he can improve so much more in the PBA," Fernandez continued. "I'm sure the coaches in the PBA will love him. He can play defense, he can play offense. There's nothing more you can ask for from Calvin, you just have to improve him. I'm sure they won't regret it if they draft Calvin."
The upcoming rookie selection is one of the most loaded PBA drafts in recent memory. Despite the stacked list of PBA hopefuls, Fernandez is confident that Oftana will still stand out and land in the top five overall.
"Calvin has a huge potential and he can give a lot to any team. If they want to play big on the wing position, they can put Calvin on that. If they want a quick 4 man, I think Calvin also fits well on that. It's really up to the coaches of the PBA," said Fernandez.
"If he drops outside of the top five, for sure the sixth or seventh pick will be happy about it. It really depends on what the coaches are looking for, and it's not that I'm biased because he's my player, but I think Calvin is capable of being in the top five."