By NIKOLE JAVIER
A deep pool of PBA aspirants await their fate in the much-anticipated 2023 Rookie Draft happening on Sunday, Sept. 17 at the Market! Market! in Taguig City.
A record of 128 hopefuls are listed in the Draft for the league’s upcoming 48th season with former Saint Mary’s star and NBA Summer League veteran Stephen Holt being considered as the possible top pick.
However, Holt’s absence in the PBA Draft Combine at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong earlier this week was of concern by the teams and their management looking to have him in the fold, particularly the Terrafirma Dyip which obtained the right for the top pick overall.
The proceedings are to be presided over by PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial as the Draft seems to have everything, including the controversial ones.
Former University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons standout Ricci Rivero, one of the notable players on the list, is seeking to get his professional career on track following a foiled overseas stint in Taiwan.
Interestingly, Rivero’s fellow two-and-through Maroon Zavier Lucero is also hoping for another shot at a promising career as he continues to regain top form after an ACL surgery.
Other UAAP players to watch out are La Salle’s Schonny Winston and UE’s Luis Villegas.
Winston was UAAP Season 85’s MVP leader in the first round of the tournament before sustaining a torn calf that ultimately ended his collegiate career — but has since bounced back from the injury.
Villegas, on the other hand, was a one-and-done Red Warrior and UAAP Season 85 Mythical Five member.
Villegas, who has previously revealed he was open to play anywhere, has decided to join the draft and should definitely be a leading prospect of his own as well as National University Bulldog John Lloyd Clemente, who skipped his final collegiate year to jump to the pro rank.
UAAP champion and former Ateneo Blue Eagle BJ Andrade is also set to continue his success in the pro after finishing his collegiate career with a trophy and is just as appealing a selection as his fellow rookies.
Likewise, NCAA players are also not to be ignored as champions and PBA On Tour players Fran Yu and King Caralipio along with Brent Paraiso of the Letran Knights make themselves an enticing pick for the PBA teams.
Then there are other collegiate standouts and PBA On Tour players like Lorenzo Navarro, Jolo Mendoza, Ralph Cu, Kim Aurin, Dominick Fajardo, Francis Giussani and Damie Cuntapay hoping for a regular spot in the PBA.
This year, Terrafirma also gets to pick the No. 12 draft, Rain or Shine (Nos. 3, 4), Converge (Nos. 9, 10) and NorthPort (Nos. 5, 11) will pick twice in the first round. San Miguel Beer, Ginebra, Magnolia and TNT have traded their first-round draft rights in previous deals. Blackwater (No. 2), Phoenix (No. 6), NLEX (No. 7), Meralco and (No. 8) are the other teams in the draft order in the first round.