THE PBA Season 46 Rookie Draft saw the biggest haul in league history with 65 names called, eclipsing the previous high of 54 in the Mo Tautuaa-led class of 2015.
But as much as the batch saw dozens take a big step closer to fulfilling their dreams, Sunday's proceedings meant a painful reality check for the 21 left undrafted who will now take a harder road to the PBA.
Still, it's not the end of the road for them as they are now effectively free agents and can talk to and, if luck smiles, sign with any of the 12 PBA teams.
Leading the undrafted list were Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) standouts like Ron Lastimosa of Pasay, whose uncle Jojo currently serves as an assistant coach of Yeng Guiao at NLEX.
Lakan Cup finalists Richard Albo of Davao Occidental and San Juan's Art Aquino and Cedric Pelayo also were not called in the virtual program.
Other MPBL players who failed to get noticed were Donald Gumaru (Navotas), Ralph Deles (Marikina), Jorem Morada (Sarangani), Genmar Bragais (Batangas), Bong Nunez (Cebu), Jonathan Boholano (Mandaluyong), Wowie Kadir (Sarangani), and Bryan Daguplo (Imus).
Early entrant Shem Kenneth Magallanes, Suluanon big man Abubakar Dadjilul, Cebuano singer Christian Cayobit, Fil-Am guard Dallas Serrano, Matthew Kyle Sanchez, McKevin Velasquez, Michael Tobias, Michael Panolino, and Christian Rivera round out the 21 applicants who were left undrafted.
Nevertheless, the draft snub shouldn't extinguish the PBA dreams of these applicants, who need not look far for inspiration.
Jerwin Gaco, who went undrafted in the 2005 PBA Rookie Draft, ended up with a six-year career in the pros highlighted by five championships, including the grand slam with San Mig Coffee in 2014.
Another undrafted player, Chico Lanete, spent 12 years in the pro league and won three championships while Josh Urbiztondo was a former PBA champion who played nine seasons in the pro league.
Even today, undrafted talents are aplenty, with Magnolia enlisting Jackson Corpuz and NLEX having Philip Paniamogan.
Hard as the road may be for these players, hope should never be lost.