PBA Draft

Deep pool: Players to watch in PBA Rookie Draft 2023

Delfin Dioquino

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Deep pool: Players to watch in PBA Rookie Draft 2023

SHIFTY. Ricci Rivero in action during the 2023 PBA Draft Combine.

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Considered one of the deepest in recent memory, this PBA draft pool has everything: explosive guards, talented forwards, and intriguing big men

MANILA, Philippines – A new crop of players will enter the PBA as 124 official applicants hope to hear their names called in the Rookie Draft set on Sunday, September 17, at the Market! Market! in Taguig.

Considered one of the deepest in recent memory, this draft pool has everything: explosive guards, talented forwards, and intriguing big men.

Here are players to watch:

Stephen Holt
  • Position: Guard
  • College: St. Mary’s College
  • Height: 6’4

Holt boasts of impressive credentials that make him worthy of the top pick.

A professional since 2014, the 31-year-old has seen action in leagues all over the world, including the NBA Summer League, NBA G League, and National Basketball League in Australia.

Ken Tuffin
  • Position: Forward
  • College: Far Eastern University
  • Height: 6’4

Tuffin should have done something good to earn a spot in the New Zealand national team pool.

After a four-season stint with the Tamaraws in the UAAP, the sweet-shooting forward spent the last three years in the New Zealand National Basketball League, where he helped the Wellington Saints win a championship in 2021.

Ricci Rivero
  • Position: Guard
  • College: De La Salle University/University of the Philippines
  • Height: 6’1

Outside of his off-court controversies, Rivero remains one of the better players in this batch of draft applicants.

A champion for both the Green Archers and the Fighting Maroons in the UAAP, the crafty guard looks to resume his professional career in the PBA after an aborted stint with the Taoyuan Pilots in the P.League+ in Taiwan.

John Amores
  • Position: Guard
  • College: Jose Rizal University
  • Height: 6’2

Amores hopes PBA teams still give him a chance after a controversial end to his collegiate career that saw him punch several College of St. Benilde players during an NCAA game a year ago.

Physical and pesky on defense, Amores gained experience in the professional ranks by joining the Zamboanga Valientes in the ASEAN Basketball League and Muntinlupa Cagers in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.

Deschon Winston
  • Position: Guard
  • College: Central Michigan University/De La Salle University
  • Height: 6’4

PBA teams in need of scoring punch can count on Winston to provide just that.

Winston delivered two productive seasons with La Salle in the UAAP, enough for him to earn a call-up to Gilas Pilipinas’ pool.

Keith Datu
  • Position: Power forward
  • College: California State University, Chico
  • Height: 6’8

Big men are a precious commodity in the PBA, making Datu a prized prospect.

One of the tallest players among this crop of rookie aspirants, Datu can also spread the floor with his respectable three-point shooting, which he flaunted during his stint with J&T Express in the PBA 3×3.

Fran Yu
  • Position: Guard
  • College: University of the East/Colegio de San Juan de Letran
  • Height: 5’9

Yu enters the draft as a proven winner.

One of the catalysts of the Knights’ three-peat in the NCAA, Yu has also shone as a reliable floor general in his stints with the Pasig Realtors and San Juan Knights in the MPBL and the NorthPort Batang Pier in the PBA On Tour.

Dominick Fajardo
  • Position: Small forward
  • College: Bulacan State University
  • Height: 6’0

Fajardo is simply undersized for his position, but he makes up for the lack in size with effort and tenacity.

The unheralded Fajardo helped the Cavitex Braves win a pair of leg titles in the PBA 3×3 and held his own in the PBA On Tour, where he averaged over 10 points and almost 5 rebounds for the NLEX Road Warriors.

Luis Villegas
  • Position: Center
  • College: University of the East
  • Height: 6’7

Coming off a winless campaign in 2022, the Red Warriors turned their fortunes around last UAAP season largely thanks to Villegas’ addition.

Villegas made the Season 85 Mythical Five, joining the likes of Carl Tamayo, Malick Diouf, Dave Ildefonso, and Forthsky Padrigao.

Zavier Lucero
  • Position: Small forward
  • College: Cal State Maritime Academy/University of the Philippines
  • Height: 6’6

It can be argued that the Fighting Maroons could have won back-to-back UAAP crowns if Lucero did not sustain a knee injury before the rubber match for the Season 85 title against the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

A member of the Season 84 Mythical Five, Lucero provides any team athleticism and versatility on the wing and forward positions. – Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.