Cignal's Marck Espejo, one of the top male volleyball players in the Philippines, has been selected third overall in the 2023 KOVO Asian Quota Draft by the Incheon Korean Air Jumbos.
This draft, which was held on Thursday at the Jeju Sun Hotel in South Korea, opened for Asian quota imports for the first time in the league's history.
Espejo's selection makes him the second Filipino set to play in the Korean Volleyball League (KVL), joining MJ Phillips, who was drafted fifth by Gwangju last week.
Espejo is a 6-foot-3 outside spiker who has had stints abroad before. He has played in Japan twice for Oita Miyoshi and FC Tokyo, in Thailand for Visakha, and in Bahrain for Bani Jamra.
He recently led Cignal to the 2023 Spikers' Turf Open Conference championship in the Philippines before being drafted by the Jumbos.
Espejo's selection by the three-time defending champions is seen as a big boost to their chances of winning a fourth consecutive title.
The first pick went to Mongolia's Eddie, who was selected by Daejeon Samsung, while the second pick went to Japanese libero Ryohei Iga, who was picked by Suwon KEPCO.
The fourth pick was middle blocker Batsükh Bayarsaikhan of Mongolia, who was selected by Ansan OK Financial Group. Chinese Taipei's Pei-Chang Tsai was selected by Cheonan Hyundai Capital at fifth, completing the top five picks.
The draft also saw Taiwanese open spiker Hung-Min Liu and Japanese opposite hitter Issei Otake get drafted by Uijeongbu KB Insurance and Seoul Woori Card, respectively.
Espejo's selection means that there will be a Filipino player in both the men's and women's divisions of the KVL, with Phillips already playing for the Peppers. This is a significant development for Philippine volleyball, as it further exposes the country's volleyball talent to the rest of the region. It also provides Filipino players with more opportunities to showcase their skills and earn a living playing the sport they love.
Aside from Espejo and Phillips, other Filipinos who participated in the three-day tryout were Jau Umandal, JP Bugaoan, and Manuel Sumangguid III. While they were not selected in the draft, their participation is a sign of the growing interest in Philippine volleyball and the potential for more Filipino players to play in the KVL in the future.