While a record-breaking 128 aspiring players submitted their applications before the September 10 deadline for the 2023 PBA Rookie Draft, one notable absentee was Justin Baltazar, widely regarded as a potential top pick.

Terrafirma’s head coach, John Cardel, praised Baltazar’s outstanding attributes, which include his imposing 6-foot-8 frame, exceptional rebounding skills, and scoring ability. These qualities align perfectly with what the Dyip are seeking as they gear up for PBA’s Season 48.

Baltazar recently concluded his impressive collegiate career with La Salle, where he earned three spots on the UAAP Mythical First Team and played a pivotal role in securing a collegiate championship in 2016.

Currently, Baltazar is making waves as a key player for the Pampanga Lanterns in the MPBL.

Only a few days ago, coach Tim Cone issued an apology for “hasty remarks” on social media to Baltazar and his handler in Pampanga Gov. Dennis Pineda after the former Gilas player failed to join the PH team in the recently-concluded FIBA World Cup.

Nevertheless, the talent pool for the 2023 PBA Draft remains exceptionally strong. This year’s crop of rookies includes standout prospects like Ricci Rivero, Zav Lucero, Fran Yu, Dominick Fajardo, Brandon Bates, Luis Villegas, Sherwin Concepcion, John Amores, and James Kwekuteye.

These promising talents join the ranks of earlier applicants, which feature notable names such as Filipino-American shooting guard Stephen Holt, Ken Tuffin, Kenmark Carino, Brent Paraiso, and Schonny Winston.

It’s worth noting that the 128 rookie applicants this year significantly surpass the 97 applicants registered for the PBA Season 46 draft back in 2021. (AI/MNM)