MANILA — The Rain or Shine ElastoPainters hit the jackpot during Sunday night’s 2023 PBA Rookie Draft.
The E-Painters were able to draft former UE Red Warrior Luis Villegas as the third overall pick, and Filipino-American and former Wilcon Depot big man Keith Datu as the fourth overall pick, which is why head coach Yeng Guiao is elated to finally have the twin towers in their squad.
“Masaya kami dun sa picks namin, [and] I think this batch is a good batch to stock up on big men. Kailangan na namin magisip ng future namin with Beau, Jewel, and Borboran. Our bigs are getting a little older, so we need a new generation of big men,” he said, referring to ROS’ go-to bangers in Belga, Ponferada, and Mark Borboran.
Guiao added more rookies in Adrian Nocum, Sherwin Concepcion, JC Cullar, and Larry Arpia, and the coach is confident that they will learn from the leaders and veterans of the team.
“Itong mga nakuha namin, we’re hoping na they can take over, and at the same time, mago-overlap pa sila nila Beau so it’s a good time to mentor these young guys and transfer some knowledge and experience para mapabili din yung adjustments nila,” Guiao said.
But he understands that it will all take time, especially with their top pick Villegas who is currently recovering from an ACL injury..
“Mataas yung confidence level naming makakabalik siya. We’ve seen enough of him in the UAAP and a little bit in the 3x3, so that’s enough for us to build confidence in what he can do,” he said of the versatile big man who tallied 13.1 points, 8.1 rebounds in his one year in Recto.
“He’s also a high-character guy. Mabait yung bata. He’s a big man, but he can play wing, he’s a modern big. Pwedeng maglaro sa labas, pwedeng maglaro sa loob. Same way with Keith Datu.”
On the other hand, Datu, who made waves during Wilcon’s run in the PBA 3x3, is raring to get all the lessons he can get especially from Belga.
“I’m very grateful. I feel very blessed to be in this position. Extremely excited, and I hope to give my best to the team,” the 6-foot-7 center said.
“I’m excited to learn from Beau, and I know that we will build chemistry. Hopefully, [we’ll] grow and learn, and I’m excited to see what happens this season.”
Being drafted as the fourth overall pick also made Datu appreciative of the opportunity that he got with the Guiao-mentored team.
“I just trusted in God all the way. Wherever God wants me to be, then there’s where I’m gonna be. I didn’t put any expectations on myself, I just trusted the process, trusted God, and did my part and did my best off the court and on the court.”
For now, the whole team will have until November 5 to prepare for the incoming PBA season to start and test their retooled roster, but Guiao is also preaching for patience as he figures out how he will utilize his rejuvenated team,
“It will take time. Hindi naman instant yan.”