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MANILA, Philippines – A record-breaking 79 players out of 124 eligible applicants heard their names called in the PBA Season 48 Rookie Draft on Sunday, September 17.
The cream of the crop spark intrigue as they add star power to a league looking to turn another page of its storied history.
Regarded as one of the deepest drafts in terms of talent, this rookie pool boasts of some of the most credentialed picks in history.
Look no further than the top five selections:
No. 1: Stephen Holt – Terrafirma Dyip
- Position: Guard
- College: St. Mary’s College
- Height: 6’4
The selection of the 31-year-old Stephen Holt came as no surprise for the few who were familiar to his game. Disregarding his age, the pedigree he possesses is undeniable.
Holt turned professional in 2014 and has played for the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Summer League and Canton Charge in the NBA G League, among other stints in leagues in Europe and Australia.
A member of the Second Team in the National Basketball League in 2016, Holt also won a championship in the Czech Republic league the following year and helped his Romanian club Oradea win bronze in the 2021 FIBA Europe Cup.
He started in 19 of the 48 games he played for Oradea in the 2022-23 season, averaging 7.6 points, 2.4 rebounds. 1.9 assists, and 1 steal.
“It’s definitely one of my goals in my career to play in the PBA. I started out my career trying to pursue my NBA dream. It fell a little bit short, but then I was able to have a long career in Europe and played in some high-level leagues,” Holt said.
Trading away former top picks CJ Perez and Joshua Munzon, Terrafirma gets a chance to boost its backcourt with the addition of Holt as he teams up with rising guard Juami Tiongson.
But more than the offensive side of the game, Holt aims to bring his tenacity to the defensive end, too.
“I’m a two-way player. I’m committed on both ends of the floor, defensively and offensively. I’m known for being a shooter. I’m pretty athletic, can rebound, and get to the basket. I’m definitely gonna try and make an impact on and off the floor,” Holt said.
No. 2: Christian David – Blackwater Bossing
- Position: Guard/Forward
- College: Butler University
- Height: 6’6
Another relatively unfamiliar name in the local scene, Christian David is a promising youngster looking to carve a name for himself in the PBA.
David was a US NCAA Division 1 product and played 96 games across his five years for the Butler Bulldogs. He finished his college career with 1.7 points per game on 10 minutes of action.
He tore his ACL in January 2020 in a game versus the Villanova Wildcats and played only 23 games in the seasons that followed.
The 26-year-old also signed with Seoul Samsung Thunders in the Korean Basketball League in 2022 but never played a game, citing knee injuries.
But his physical tools and potential made up for his scarce numbers and injury concerns.
David is a hybrid guard or forward who can be a versatile threat from all areas of the floor. At his height, he can fill any role he will be assigned to by the Bossing’s new head coach Jeff Cariaso.
No. 3 Luis Villegas – Rain or Shine Elasto Painters
- Position: Forward/Center
- College: University of the East
- Height: 6’7
Luis Villegas was certainly one of the crowd favorites in the draft, getting loud cheers from fans when his name was called to stage.
Villegas, 25, was a key cog of UE’s resurgence in the past UAAP season after he averaged 13.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.9 steals, good enough to be a part of the Mythical Team.
He was a dead shot from three, shooting 35.5% in his lone season with the Red Warriors. Combine that with his hustle, size, and passing ability, Villegas promises elite basketball for Rain or Shine.
However, he will miss the start of the PBA for the Elasto Painters as he is still recovering from an ACL injury he sustained in a practice with TNT’s 3×3 team.
Once healthy, Villegas should be a great offensive asset for head coach Yeng Guiao and the Elasto Painters, who are looking to start their transition from an aging frontcourt.
No. 4: Keith Datu – Rain or Shine Elasto Painters
- Position: Power Forward
- College: Chico State
- Height: 6’8
The Elasto Painters picked two bigs in the draft.
Keith Datu is a skilled prospect who can play in the post, rim run, and shoot the three. He played four years at Chico State in the US NCAA Division 2 and averaged 1.4 points and 1.4 rebounds in 47 games across five years.
The 27-year-old played for J&T Express and the Wilcon Depot in the PBA 3×3, winning two leg titles and a third-place finish in the Grand Finals.
His shooting will be a valuable for Rain or Shine’s offense predicated on spreading the floor and spacing. Datu’s physical tools will also be in great use defensively.
No. 5: Zavier Lucero – NorthPort Batang Pier
- Position: Forward
- College: University of the Philippines
- Height: 6’7
Few prospects have been more beloved than Zavier Lucero.
Lucero, 23, was an integral part of the UP Fighting Maroons’ championship and runner-up runs in the past two UAAP seasons.
A hybrid forward, he averaged 12.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1 block in his first season with the Maroons, becoming a Mythical Team member and one of the MVP frontrunners in Season 84.
In his second and final UAAP season, Lucero posted 11.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.4 steals before he tore his ACL during Game 2 of the Season 85 Finals.
That same injury will keep him out of action until January 2024.
However, that wait looks to be worth it as NorthPort will be getting an athletic forward that resembled the archetype of another Batang Pier in Arwind Santos. – Rob Andrew L. Dongiapon/Rappler.com
Rob Andrew Dongiapon is a Rappler intern.