PBA assures it isn’t insensitive

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial explained yesterday that the league’s threat to totally ban players who bypass the draft two straight years from eligibility isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. But he stressed that the rule exists and was approved by the Board of Governors as confirmed in a memorandum dated Dec. 7, 2018.

“We want to do what is best for the players and the league,” said Marcial. “While there is a rule to follow, the Board isn’t insensitive to players who reach out to explain why they’re skipping the draft. The rule was made to dissuade players from choosing the year to join the draft depending on which team is likely to pick them. We want to be fair to the teams that earn their positions in the draft.”

The rule was conceived when Bobby Ray Parks avoided applying for the PBA draft despite being eligible for at least three years. He was finally persuaded to join the draft in 2018 after Marcial spoke to him about his future as a basketball player. In the PBA, a player has benefits, particularly relating to health, that other leagues may not be able to offer. 

“It’s not a curtailment of a player’s freedom to choose the league to play in,” said Marcial. “We want to protect the interests of both the players and the league. Take the case of Thirdy Ravena who was eligible for the draft last year but didn’t apply. I personally spoke with Thirdy to find out his plans. He wants to pursue overseas options. We’ll take up his case with the Board and for sure, the Board will understand his position. It’s a case-to-case basis. I expect Kai Sotto will do the same thing when it’s his turn to become eligible for our draft. It will depend on a player’s situation. If it’s clear the player isn’t skipping the draft because he’s avoiding to be picked by a team that is in a likely position to choose him, the Board will consider the situation. In that case, I don’t think a total ban will be ruled.”

Marcial said the key is opening a line of communication with players. “We’re like a family,” he said. “We try to take care of each other. Thirdy is a special case and so is Kai.”

It was at a PBA Board meeting on Nov. 29, 2018 that the rule was made requiring a player to apply for the draft within two years from the time he exhausted his college eligibility (maximum of five years in college) and failing to apply will mean losing his chance to play in the PBA. 

“A player who already finished a four-year college course and decides to pursue a two-year Masteral degree must join the PBA draft within one year from earning his masteral degree,” the rule stated. “If he fails to do so, he shall be declared ineligible to join the draft. A player who has already exhausted his college eligibility prior to the approval of this rule shall apply in the PBA draft within the next two years. If he fails to do so, he shall be declared ineligible to join the draft.”

Curiously, the rule is silent on its applicability to Fil-foreigners. For instance, Maurice Shaw ended his US collegiate career in 2004 but joined the PBA draft only last December at the age of 34. Shaw has since turned 35 and will make his PBA debut with Blackwater as a rookie this season. Stanley Pringle is another case. He graduated at Penn State in 2009 and applied for the PBA draft in 2014 at the age of 27. Under the two-year window rule to apply for the PBA draft, Shaw and Pringle would’ve been ineligible. Perhaps, the rule is relevant only to homegrown or local players but wouldn’t it be discriminatory? 

On another issue, Marcial pointed out that if a player is drafted but fails to come to terms with the drafting team that submitted a tender offer sheet, the matter will be brought to the Commissioner’s attention for arbitration. If arbitration fails, the drafted player may not be engaged by any PBA team until after seven years. During the seven-year period, the drafting team retains all rights over the player and may trade or assign the rights to any team. If the player plays in another league during the seven-year sit-out, an additional number of years shall be imposed to extend his estrangement equivalent to the number of years he played in another league.  

An interesting point that Marcial mentioned was the rule allowing a player to become an unrestricted free agent after seven years, starting with the 2014 draft batch. However, a player must honor his existing contract if it remains live after seven years in the league. That means Pringle, Kevin Alas, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Chris Banchero and others who were picked in the 2014 draft may become unrestricted free agents after their seventh year in the PBA if they’re not signed to contracts. As an example, if Alas’ contract with NLEX expires after at least seven years in the PBA, he may choose to join any team without NLEX getting compensation or retaining rights of any kind over his services. In the past, a team that had a contract with a player enjoyed “forever” rights over him.



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