Teams were spoiled for choice, with a record 124 applicants in the PBA Draft. Here are some storylines that are worth your attention.
The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) reached new highs on Sunday, September 17 at the 2023 PBA Rookie Draft. This season, a record number of 124 applicants were approved to enter the draft, and out of this number, 79 were selected — another record for the most players drafted.
Indeed, the 12 teams had a lot of promising players to choose from as they gear up for the upcoming season of the PBA. With 79 picks, the fresh talent coming into the league will certainly be refreshing, and there will be a lot to watch out for. Here are seven players from the PBA Season 48 Draft with storylines worth following.
The top 2 picks: Holt & David
Of course, we have to start with the top picks.
Terrafirma Dyip, with the first overall pick of the PBA Season 84 Rookie Draft, chose Stephen Holt. Holt is a former NBA G League player who also happens to be among the oldest applicants for the draft at 31 years old. With his experience playing in the NBA Summer League, in Europe, and Australia’s National Basketball League, his experience definitely placed him among the favorites in the vast pool of talent. It was also reported that he turned down other offers to play in Europe in order to fulfill his dream of playing in the PBA.
The second pick of the draft was Christian David, drafted by Blackwater Bossing. David is another player who boasts international playing experience, having competed in NCAA Division 1 basketball in the United States. The Filipino-Canadian also previously signed with the Seoul Samsung Thunders in Korea before entering the PBA. However, the towering 6-foot-6 guard has faced his share of major injuries, having struggled with one ACL injury on each knee, which drew limitations to his career as a college student. Now, in the PBA, his career will be hinged upon his ability to shine on the court while also staying fit to play.
Drafted despite injuries: Villegas & Lucero
The top three picks of the PBA Season 48 Draft rounded out with Rain or Shine’s pick, Luis Villegas. Villegas played just one season in the UAAP, representing the University of the East, where he averaged 13 points, eight rebounds, and three assists per game, and was included in the UAAP Mythical Selection. This was enough to create a lasting impression, and fans will be excited to see if his momentum continues.
Zavier Lucero was also a UAAP standout and was the fifth overall pick, drafted by NorthPort. Playing for the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in the past two UAAP seasons, he was one of the team’s most influential players in reaching the school’s first championship in 36 years.
While both are highly promising players who have proven themselves in the local scene, both players suffered from ACL injuries that will likely keep them from the upcoming season. Villegas was injured last April, while Lucero suffered from an injury during Game 2 of the UAAP Finals last season.
Despite their injuries, both of these players have been deemed worth first-round picks, and they will be slated for big comebacks once they both recover and are able to play once again.
Internet Sensation: Kyt Jimenez
Now, let’s move on to the latter stages of the draft. One of the biggest stories of the 2023 PBA Draft is Kyt Jimenez, who was selected by San Miguel Beer in the ninth round.
Jimenez is arguably among the most popular names of those who entered the PBA Season 48 Draft. After all, he is a social media star who has 148,000 followers on Facebook and 181,000 subscribers on YouTube and he has become well-known for posting videos of him playing. Although his rise to internet fame began when he started posting content with the Mavs Phenomenal team, he also competed in the UAAP and in the NCAA.
Following this, he wound up in the MPBL, where he helped the Sarangani Marlins win a historic quadruple-double in 2022. Now, he hopes to level up his game now that he has a spot in the PBA, and thousands of fans will be watching to see if his skills match his hype.
Filipino-American Shean Jackson grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, but managed to catch the attention of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, who recruited him to join the team to play in the upcoming UAAP Season 86. As a highly athletic player, he could have been a useful cog in Tab Baldwin’s squad in their bid to make it back to the finals. However, Jackson ended up applying for the PBA Draft and was chosen by Meralco in the sixth round.
Now that he has made the surprising jump to go straight into the PBA, his upcoming performances will be indicative of just what Ateneo might have had.
Ricci Rivero is one of the biggest names in Philippine basketball. As a two-time UAAP champion, he was a standout player for both the DLSU Green Archers and the UP Fighting Maroons, and many predicted that his talent would take him far. But, his basketball career since graduating has been somewhat tumultuous. After signing with the Taouyuan Pilots in Taiwan’s P.League, he was quickly released by the team due to an injury and was unable to play.
Despite his long break from the basketball scene, he has been in recovery and has been working on getting back to the court. Now, Phoenix has selected him as the 17th overall pick, and he may finally get his chance to prove himself professionally. Will his be a comeback to remember?
Indeed, with a deep pool of talented candidates, there is also a deep pool of storylines among all the drafted (and undrafted) players. Which ones are you going to watch out for?
Banner images from Christian David on Instagram, Kyt Jimenez on Facebook, Stephen Holt on Instagram, and UAAP Media.