PAUL Desiderio is not the only player from the University of the Philippines seeking to make the leap in the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft.
Diego Dario and Kyles Lao have also thrown their names in the hat, making it three former Fighting Maroons who are betting on themselves in hopes of getting their names called out on Sunday.
How times have changed.
Finding a player from UP taking the gamble and entering the PBA draft before is considered a rarity.
"For sure, coach Bo (Perasol) did a great job in upgrading the program in UP," said Dario. "I'm sure yung efforts niya, efforts ng mga seniors, and all the other players in UP, it's a collective effort kasama na ng alumni. I think natural progression lang na there will be players na pwedeng ma-draft sa PBA cause of what happened in the program."
Lao agreed, saying: "It speaks of the system and the culture within UP. It's a system na pwede ring mag-produce ng players who can win and can play. Dati kasi, yung mga tiga-UP, sinasabi nila losing culture. I guess it's understandable that coaches wouldn't gamble on us especially if you want to win. But it speaks on how the culture has changed. We know how to win and what to do to win games."
As of the past season, only five players in the active PBA rosters came from UP, namely Jireh Ibanes, JayR Reyes, Raul Soyud, Jett Manuel and Mike Gamboa.
That's why for Dario and Lao, they acknowledge how great of an achievement it would be to play in the league with these former Maroons.
"It's an honor," said the 5-foot-7 Dario, who was the team captain for the Fighting Maroons this past UAAP season. "Madalang lang yung UP na napupunta sa PBA, so it's gonna be an honor coming from that not good of a program before, ngayon gumanda na ang program namin."
Lao, a former UAAP Rookie of the Year, echoed those sentiments.
"It would mean the world," he said.
"This is what I wanted since I was young, and for UP, hindi lang ito luck. It's a motivation to other players na porket di ka starter sa college, di ka na pwede magpa-draft. Ang daming players who started from scratch and they're now in the PBA. So it's a motivation for UP players, di lang ngayon but for the future as well."