Throughout the history of the Philippine Basketball Association, there were quite a few top overall rookie picks who turned out to be a bust.
Sonny Cabatu was a two-time Most Valuable Player in the defunct Philippine Amateur Basketball League when he was picked up by Shell Azodrin as its top overall selection when the PBA started to institute the annual Rookie Draft in 1985.
But his role in the PBA can be defined more as a bruiser — a tough guy who can also provide comic relief — for teams he played for through the years.
During the time when big men were a rare commodity, Alaska selected 6-foot-7 Alex Araneta, who used to be part of Ateneo de Manila University’s twin tower with Danny Francisco, as the top overall pick in 1991.
Araneta did provide the size needed by Alaska and was more than happy to become a role player in a team that immediately won a title.
Then, there’s Noy Baclao, picked up by Air21 as the best in the lot in the 2010 Rookie Draft, but ended up as a journeyman throughout his PBA career.
But among the top picks in PBA history, the player who had the least average in scoring during his first season was the late Jack Tanuan, who averaged 2.60 points and 2.24 rebounds per game while seeing action for the star-studded Purefoods team in 1988.
That’s quite understandable considering that Tanuan had to fight for minutes with Mon Fernandez in his first two conferences and, later on, Abet Guidaben in the third conference as well as a young Jerry Codinera, who was one of the four players that Purefoods elevated directly from the amateur ranks when it acquired the old Tanduay franchise.
The top picks are usually those who were under the microscope as much was expected from them.
So far, Stephen Holt, the highly-touted top overall pick of Terrafirma in this year’s Rookie Draft, has certainly been living up to the hype.
He was perceived to make a big splash right from the get-go, similar to what Mikey Williams of TNT Tropang Giga and Stanley Pringle of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel had done when they burst into the league in 2021 and 2015, respectively.
Holt boasts a great credential.
He was a former player of the Canton Charge in the National Basketball Association G League in the 2014-2015 before bringing his act to various leagues in Europe.
In his first four games with the Dyip, he averaged 13 points, grabbed 7.3 rebounds, dished out 5.3 steals and picked up 1.3 steals.
Although he may be struggling offensively as he was shooting below 40 percent from the field, you could tell that this guy is a stat-stuffer and he made everybody on the team look good.
But Holt is a guard trapped in a big man’s body and his versatility would allow him to defend even the power forwards in the PBA. He had shown his defensive prowess several times and the coaching staff credited him for doing such a wonderful job.
The Dyip split their first four games, but Holt has the making of a player who can certainly take over and, at his age of 31, he can be considered as a veteran newcomer who has been to many cage wars.
It‘s only a matter of time before we get to see Holt taking charge.