PRO-BOUND Chris Tiu has expressed his desire to suit up for a PBA team with a “big fan base” -- a wish that could very well be granted if Barangay Ginebra selects him in Sunday's PBA rookie draft.
The longtime amateur star, one of the last to declare for the draft, said playing for a pro ballclub with popular backing would serve an added motivation as he enters a new chapter in his basketball career.
“I’m thankful to be given an opportunity to soon play in the PBA. A lot of San Miguel teams have expressed interest to get me. But then, I don’t really know saan ako pupunta," Tiu told Spin.ph shortly after the PBA rookie biometrics session at the Club Six Fifty in Libis, Quezon City.
“But it helps if I could play for a team with a big fan base because that could give me an added motivation. Nobody wants to play in an empty gym.”
The former Ateneo star may get his wish if he lands at Ginebra, undoubtedly the league's most popular team which will be picking at No. 6 in the draft proceedings at Robinsons Midtown Mall in Manila.
Tiu’s arrival could further boost the fan following of the Gin Kings, who already have top league attractions like reigning league MVP Mark Caguioa, Jay-jay Helterbrand, Kerby Raymundo, Enrico Villanueva and Mike Cortez.
Even Meralco team consultant Jong Uichico believes Tiu can be a big, big asset to any team marketing- and basketball-wise.
“Chris can be a crowd-drawer, especially to teams who need following. He’s smart, very competitive and a good shooter,” noted Uichico, a decorated PBA coach who currently is part of the Smart-Gilas II coaching staff.
The question, however, is on whether Tiu would still be available for Ginebra at No 6.
Petron, which owns the first and third pick overall, is expected to make 6’10” Cebuano June Mar Fajardo this year’s top draft pick. Tiu is tipped to land anywhere from Nos. 2 to 6 along with NCAA star Calvin Abueva and Fil-American Cliff Hodge.
But at this point, Tiu said he isn’t too consumed with where he’ll be headed. Instead, he has been focusing on improving certain facets of his game to ensure a smooth transition into the pro ranks.
“I do plyometrics then lift weights. I also participate in some alumni games of Xavier and do a lot of shooting as well. But I need to bulk up,” added Tiu.
Tiu, an original member of the Smart-Gilas national squad, is no stranger to PBA play. He was the starting guard for the Smart-Gilas squad that played as guest team in the 2009-2010 Philippine Cup as well as in last year's Commissioner’s Cup.
“I want to play competitively in the PBA. I need to get stronger and bigger. I also need to improve further my one-on-one skill because I noticed that in the PBA, there are a lot more teams relying on one-on-one plays. It’s a far different system (that Smart-Gilas) coach Rajko (Toroman) used,” he added.