Why not exempt Alex Compton?

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson -
If you go by the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) definition of a local player, there is no way Alex Compton will qualify in the draft. He was born in Makati but his place of birth has no relevance to his bloodline. As far as the PBA is concerned, it will allow only players of Filipino descent to be eligible for the draft.

Fil-Ams, of course, are eligible. The rule is one of a Fil-Am’s parents must be Filipino and must have still been a Filipino citizen before the player’s birth. An endorsement from the Bureau of Immigration and confirmation from the Department of Justice are required for a Fil-Am to play as a local. In effect, the blessings from both government agencies lawfully establish his Filipino citizenship.

Compton is a full-blooded American but in many ways, he’s more Filipino than some Fil-Ams who carry Philippine passports. His parents were Peace Corps volunteers, educators who were once assigned here. Compton grew up like a Filipino and today, acts, thinks, and speaks like a Filipino.

There’s no doubt that as a basketball player, Compton can hold his own in the PBA.

As a senior at West High School in Madison, Wisconsin, the six-foot guard averaged 18.9 points and 8.6 assists. He knocked in 53 triples and shot .514 from the field. For his efforts, Compton was named to the All-State mythical first team.

From high school, Compton enrolled at St. Joseph’s University, local legend Norman Black’s alma mater in Philadelphia. He played sparingly as a freshman, scoring a total of 25 points in 51 minutes of 19 games. Compton hit .833 from the line and committed only two turnovers. An honor student, he was used almost exclusively in late-game, ballhandling, and foul-shooting situations by coach John Griffin in 1992-93.

Compton was an Atlantic-10 All-Academic selection as a St. Joe’s sophomore and became one of the varsity’s most popular players. During the NCAA season, he broke his nose in a game, sat out a pair of contests, and played the rest of the campaign wearing a protective mask. He wound up averaging only 1.4 points in his second year.

Despite his campus popularity, Compton never got the minutes he deserved from Griffin. In two years, he shot 15 of 16 free throws and averaged 3.6 minutes in 38 games. Exasperated by his lack of playing time, Compton decided to transfer to a school closer to home in Ithaca, New York. He moved to Cornell University in the Ivy League. Compton sat out the 1994-95 season to establish residence at Cornell and quickly gained a reputation as coach Al Walker’s top practice player. Writer Charlie Creme, scouting the Ivies, said Compton could play either guard position, is an outstanding ballhandler, and boasts a fine shooting stroke.

In 1995-96, Compton bumped off DeShawn Standard as Cornell’s starting point guard and finished the season as the Big Red’s third leading scorer, averaging 11.2 points. He ranked sixth in the Ivy League in three-point marksmanship at .363 and led Cornell in average assists at 2.7. In a game against Yale, Compton erupted for 38 points–the third highest single-game total in Cornell history–and buried nine-of-11 treys.

As a senior in 1996-97, Compton averaged 11.9 points and hit .425 from three-point range. New coach Scott Thompson piloted Cornell to a 15-11 record, the varsity’s first winning mark since 1993. The Big Red won eight of 10 games decided by 10 points or less, indicating solid poise down the stretch. Compton ended up his collegiate career as a campus folk hero.

Eventually, Compton drifted back to the land of his birth. He’d heard about Philippine hoops from Cornell teammate John McCord who played for Tanduay in the 1997 Asian Basketball Confederation Champions Cup.

In 1998, he broke into the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) as a local exemption because he was born here. Compton played in the MBA until its demise this year. He was recently exempted–once more–to play as a local for LBC in the Philippine Basketball League (PBL).

Compton’s agent Jim Clibanoff, who earned a political science degree from Tuffs University and a law degree from Temple, wrote The STAR recently to publicly announce that his client is ready to play in the PBA.

"Alex is very interested in the country’s top league," said Clibanoff. "He is such a loyal person that we never really tried to pursue this before as Alex believed very much in the MBA which he himself helped to popularize. As you know, Alex has been in the Philippines for close to five years. He speaks Tagalog fluently, is one of the most popular and gentlemanly sportsmen in the country and many recognize him as more Pinoy than all other Fil-Ams combined."

Clibanoff, who has sent such imports as Terquin Mott and Joe Bunn hare, said he is appealing to the PBA to make an exception in Compton’s case and clear his eligibility for the coming draft as a local.

"His addition would be outstanding for the PBA," said Clibanoff. "I have spoken to many PBA managers and coaches and they all would love to see Alex join the league–certainly they would be happiest if he joined their team but there is only one Compton to go around. He is a great player and an even better person. He wants to use basketball to help the country, to touch the lives of millions. I would say this can be achieved much easier if he is in the PBA."

There are only three Philippine-born American NCAA Division I players who come to mind–Compton, Tony Rutland of Wake Forest, and Phil Rodman III of Boise State. Rutland’s mother is Korean. The 6-3 guard played with Tim Duncan at Wake Forest. Rodman is Dennis’s half-brother and was born at Clark Air Base like Rutland.

Surely, making an exception in Compton’s case will not set a dangerous precedent because you can count with the five fingers in your hand how many fall in his category. If Rutland and Rodman apply for a similar exception later, there should be no reason to panic. Future applications could be dealt with on a case-to-case basis.

As for Compton, the popular sentiment is to declare him eligible for the coming PBA draft.











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