The recent 2017 PBA D-League Rookie Draft saw the touted prospects failing to live up to expectations of being picked high.
UE scoring machine Alvin Pasaol was still available late in the second round (ended up with Marinerong Pilipino), while Che'Lu-San Sebastian was able to nab Tamaraw do-it-all forward Arvin Tolentino, who slid all the way down to the seventh round.
One of the under-the-radar guys who managed to leapfrog the collegiate stalwarts was AMA Online Education's top pick Fil-Canadian Owen Graham, who hails from Toronto and learned the sport as a 10-year-old.
"I really just developed the passion for the game as a kid. I played at a nearby park by myself if my friends were not around. I didn't really have anyone teaching me until much later," the 6'4" forward shares to FHM in an interview.
In Canada, Graham suited up for Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School, and continued playing competitive hoops through semi-professional leagues like Megacity Basketball, Crown League, and OVO Bounce.
Earlier this year, he arrived in the country to pursue a pro basketball career, playing with AMA and for coach Mark Herrera (at Naascu, Fr. Martin's Cup, and NCRAA, according to a report by SPIN.ph)—which pretty much explains the team's decision to select him No. 1 overall.
He relates, "I was encouraged since 18 years old to go to the Phillipines, but had to finish school first in Canada."
He says his style of play is similar to Giannis "Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Growing up, he watched a lot of Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Hakeem Olajuwon, and patterned his footwork after them.
"I take pride in my defense, athleticism, and ability to play different positions. My goal has always been versatility. I can also fill in the gaps and what's needed the most."
Graham is setting his sights on the big league, having watched a couple of games in the PBA. "It's pretty intense—the atmosphere, the fans. And to be honest, I love everything about it." (He is actually friends with Phoenix Fuel Masters dead shot Matthew Wright.)