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The Hottest Storylines From the 2023 PBA Draft

2023 PBA Draft
James Francisco

The 2023 PBA Draft saw the largest player pool in the league’s history with 124 aspirants, so it wasn’t a surprise to see several storylines unfold. From a supposed redemption arch to a long-standing issue, here were the most talked about points from the night.

John Amores Getting Drafted

john amores

John Amores – Rappler

We Filipinos are very forgiving people, sometimes to a fault, so few eyebrows were raised when John Amores got drafted 51st overall by Northport Batang Pier. According to a Rappler interview, the infamous cager from Jose Rizal University looks to revise his reputation in the pros as a do-it-all team player. Amores was a central figure in a brawl against St. Benilde in November 2022 and a scuffle with a UP Fighting Maroon earlier in July of the same year. The Benilde brawl made national headlines, to the point that Senator Bong Go slammed the incident, while Vice President Sara Duterte reached out to Amores for “words of encouragement.”

Since being expelled from the JRU Bombers, Amores has had stints in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) and the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL)

Ricci Rivero Getting Drafted

Ricci Rivero

From college phenom to jeers of “Laundry Man”, Ricci Rivero has had an interesting road to the PBA. With a gold medal run with the U16 Philippine National team, championships with De La Salle University and UP, and a league offer from Taiwan, many touted Rivero as a shoo-in for the first round – possibly a top-five pick.

It was a surprise then (or maybe not) that the athletic guard slipped to the second round as the 17th overall pick by Phoenix Super LPG. According to reports, personal controversies had little to do with the drop-off and more with the deluge of overseas prospects, the majority of whom are big men. 

Rivero was also supposedly out of shape during the Draft Combine due to inactivity. Still, the 25-year-old looks for a clean slate with Phoenix.

Yeng Guiao on Farm Teams

Count on the ever-outspoken Yeng Guiao to make hot takes. The Rain or Shine coach didn’t mince words when he rued the practice of super teams trading with farm teams – or in his words, “incubators” – for high-value prospects who are a year or two removed from the Draft.

While Guiao praised the deep draft pool and the parity (San Miguel teams and TNT didn’t have picks until the second and later rounds), the longtime mentor feared the tradition of suspiciously lopsided trades.

“If you’re serious about competing, this is the time for you to pick your talent and develop that talent — if you’re serious. Kung hindi ka serious, magiging incubator ka lang,” said Guiao.

The issue of parity has been a long-standing issue for the PBA. Since 2016, Rain or Shine has been the only team to have won a conference outside of the SMC and MVP group of ballclubs. Time will tell if Guaio’s fears will be disproven.

The influx of Fil-Foreign talent

stephen holt

Stephen Holt – PBA

The PBA seems to be embracing more adjustments to its rulebook in an effort to modernize the game. So far, it’s easing of restrictions on Fil-foreign talent has led to what is considered the deepest draft pool in years. The promising pedigree of Stephen Holt (1st), Christian David (2nd), Keith Datu (4th), and others will hopefully convince the league to be more inclusive of hoopers with varying origins, as the game becomes more global.

The obvious downside is that homegrown talents like Rivero, Letran captain Fran Yu, and Mr. Quadruple-Double Kyt Jimenez will slip down the draft, as 11 out of the first 12 picks were overseas prospects. But if the Philippines wants to keep up with the rest of the world, so should its standards for its marquee talents.

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