DLSU star and potential top-three pick Justine Baltazar pulls out of PBA draft

Despite being touted as a potential top-three pick, Justine Baltazar has withdrawn from the upcoming PBA Season 47 Rookie Draft after being absent from the two-day Rookie Combine. UAAP Media Bureau

The PBA Season 47 Rookie Draft -- already tipped to be one of the weakest in years -- got even leaner after La Salle center Justine Baltazar pulled out on Wednesday.

PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial confirmed the development to ESPN.

Baltazar, touted to be one of the top two or three picks in Sunday's draft, was a no-show at the two-day Rookie Combine at the Gatorade Hoops Center. Before Marcial's announcement, Deputy Commissioner Eric Castro declined to say why Baltazar didn't show up.

"He submitted a letter earlier today stating that he is formally withdrawing his application for the draft this year," Marcial told the media.

According to Marcial, the versatile 6'7" big man has an offer to play in the Japan B.League.

Under a new PBA rule which went into effect last year, Baltazar will have to sit out five years before being allowed to join the draft again. He may join after three years but will have to be drafted through a special lottery.

Baltazar is the latest collegiate star to opt to go to Japan instead of joining the PBA.

Thirdy Ravena blazed the trail in 2020, and was soon followed Kobe Paras, Dwight Ramos, and Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño. Additionally, Bobby Ray Parks turned down a contract extension with TNT to sign with the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins, while Kiefer Ravena got out of his contract with NLEX to play a season with the Shiiga Lakestars.

Baltazar's absence narrowed down Blackwater's choices for the top pick to possibly forward Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser and point guard Sedrick Barefield. Blackwater coach Ariel Vanguardia had earlier told ESPN that the team was choosing among Baltazar, Ganuelas-Rosser and Barefield.

The Rookie Draft is scheduled for Sunday at the Robinsons Place Manila.