What does Season 48 PBA Rookie Draft mean for Philippine basketball?

All 12 first-round selections in Sunday's Season 48 PBA Rookie Draft were Filipino-foreigners as per the league's classification, including Converge FiberXers' 10th overall pick BJ Andrade -- who was born in Hong Kong. PBA Images

The Season 48 PBA Rookie Draft had the most number of names called in the PBA's 48-year history with 79.

This, after this year's rookie selection process also had the most number of applicants ever in Asia's first pay-for-play league at 128.

Without a doubt, the pipeline from the amateurs to the pros is flowing better than ever -- despite international leagues emerging as alternatives.

Alongside that, what lessons were gleaned from the 2023 draft?

Filipino-foreigners ruled this draft

All 12 selections in the first round were Filipino-foreigners -- that includes former Ateneo Blue Eagles captain BJ Andrade, who was born in Hong Kong.

The PBA defines a Filipino local as somebody born in the Philippines so, in that light, Kemark Carino was actually the first non-Filipino-foreigner picked with the first choice in the second round.

Taking out that definition and considering the former Blue Eagle as a true-blue Filipino local, the first round still had 11 names who mostly made their names overseas. Of those, just six played in either the UAAP or NCAA, with top two overall picks Stephen Holt and Christian David actually about to make their Philippine basketball debut.

That means that top-tier talent still abounds abroad -- and they want to play in the PBA.

Where the top-tier talent at?

Record numbers applied and got drafted but in the lead-up, for the most part, there was actually no clear-cut first overall pick.

Holt was the frontrunner, yes, but he's far from the surefire prospect that former top choices Stanley Pringle, Christian Standhardinger, and CJ Perez were. Don't get us wrong, the 6-foot-4 guard has all the potential to be a superstar, but he's far from a known commodity like Justine Baltazar, the supposed best choice within Philippine shores.

Zavier Lucero and Schonny Winston, both UAAP stars, were also considered to be top-five -- or even top-three -- picks before injury and personal issues respectively dragged them down from their rise. Safe to say, this year's rookie selection process was great in terms of quantity, but quite lacked quality right at the top.

Nothing new for Terrafirma and Blackwater -- and... TNT?!

Since their entry into the league in 2015, Terrafirma Dyip(formerly known as Kia then Mahindra then Columbian) and Blackwater Bossing have held the No. 1 overall picks, with former having five and the latter having three.

Six of the last eight second selections have also gone through the hands of Terrafirma and Blackwater. With Holt now with the Dyip and David set to play for the Bossing, change has clearly not come in 2023.

And quite literally, change will not come to powerhouse TNT Tropang Giga as it passed on drafting a new player from its very first turn on the microphone in the third round. That tells the Tropang Giga's current roster that they are quite comfortable and confident with them.

UAAP outnumbered NCAA at the front of the order

The UAAP counted six players drafted, while Arellano Chiefs' Cade Flores was the lone representative from the NCAA in the first round.

The UAAP's last season was one of its most competitive in recent memory, while the three-peat NCAA champion Letran Knights had none of its five prospects selected in the top 20.

Historically, however, NCAA talent has fared better in the pros compared to UAAP products. That means that Knights Louie Sangalang and Fran Yu as well as JRU Heavy Bombers' JL Delos Santos -- all not first-rounders -- may very well turn out to be steals.

Get hyped for next year's possible class

Pencil in Baltazar, currently showcasing his wares for Pampanga in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, for next year's draft.

Another modern big in College of St. Benilde's Will Gozum is also already wrapping up his collegiate career in the NCAA. Over in the UAAP, primetime playmakers are about to play their last seasons in Adamson Soaring Falcons' Jerom Lastimosa, La Salle Green Archers' Evan Nelle, UP Fighting Maroons' JD Cagulangan, and FEU Tamarawas' L-Jay Gonzales.

Add to that Filipino imports such as Dwight Ramos, Thirdy Ravena, and Justin Gutang who may very well decide to come home. And of course, there will always be Filipino-foreigners out to be pleasant surprises. Hoping for top-tier talent in the 2023 draft? Well, the 2024 rookie selection process is already sounding stacked!