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Sports

Appeal for varsity players

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

There is an existing rule in the UAAP that while the basketball season is ongoing, no player may be listed in the final roster of eligible candidates for the PBA draft. A player may apply for the draft but will be made to withdraw from the final roster if the season hasn’t ended. The penalty for inclusion in the draft is the loss of eligibility for the remainder of the UAAP season.

The rule is different in the NCAA which allows a player to be drafted by the PBA even while the season is in progress. However, the player will not be allowed to practice or play with the PBA team that drafted him until after the NCAA season. Under PBA rules, a player is eligible for the draft if he is at least 22 regardless of years of college or if he has at least two years of college, he must be at least 19. There is no age limit for Filipino draft applicants. The age limit for Fil-foreigners to apply for the draft is 30.

Neither the UAAP nor NCAA has held basketball or contact sport competitions since the pandemic broke out last year. The UAAP has already sent a letter of intent to CHED to resume training preparatory for the start of the next season, possibly in February. During the pandemic, the NCAA rolled out online competitions in taekwondo (poomsae and speed kicking) and chess.

With varsity basketball on hold for two years, perhaps the UAAP may reconsider its restrictive rule on players intending to apply for the PBA draft. If the UAAP begins its basketball season in February, the games will likely end in April. At the moment, the PBA’s timetable is to start the second conference in the middle of November to finish in March. It’s highly probable that the PBA draft will be held while the UAAP basketball season is still being played. If the current rule applies, graduating UAAP players or those winding up their college eligibility will not be able to apply for the next PBA draft unless they withdraw from their school teams. That also means they’ll wait until 2023 for the chance to turn pro or an inactive period of nearly another year. It will lead those players to try their luck overseas instead of staying home with their families.

Actually, the UAAP rule needs revisiting not just because of this pandemic but also because it makes no sense. The UAAP allows a player to enlist for the draft but won’t allow him to be in the final roster if the season is still going on. The rationale can’t be that the player won’t play his best any longer to preserve himself for the PBA without risking injury. In fact, the more the player will want to showcase his skills to enhance his chances of being drafted. Why can’t a UAAP player be drafted even while he’s still playing for his school since he won’t join the PBA until after the college season is over? The NCAA allows it on condition the player who’s drafted must finish the ongoing season before moving to the pros. The UAAP should do the same.

It’s tough enough for varsity players to sit out two years. Now, they’ll have to wait another year before turning pro under UAAP rules. Calvin Oftana renounced his final season of NCAA eligibility at San Beda to enter the PBA draft this year as did Aljun Melecio at La Salle. They’re now in the PBA. If Melecio opted to stay at La Salle for one last year, he wouldn’t be able to join the PBA until 2023. Perhaps, the time is now for the UAAP to rethink its rule on disallowing players to enter the PBA draft while the college season is in progress.

PBA UAAP
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