Varsity leagues under attack

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Player agents feeding talents to the Japanese, Korean and Taiwan leagues are finding it easier to pluck prospective Asian imports from the UAAP and NCAA than to raid the PBA ranks. PBA players require clearance from the PBA, SBP and FIBA before theyre brought overseas while collegiate players can sign up without approval from any league or SBP because theyre not bound by a pro contract.

The recent Gilas friendlies in Anyang, South Korea, turned out to be a showcase of collegiate players so KBL scouts could size them up. Gilas guard SJ Belangel had already expressed intention to forgo his Ateneo eligibility to play in Korea before the Anyang friendlies but William Navarro, RJ Abarrientos and Rhenz Abando were new targets. Navarro has a live two-year deal with Gilas but since its not a pro agreement, FIBA will allow him to move to Korea as in the Jordan Heading case where his SBP contract was ignored and he was permitted to play in Taiwan. SBP, however, should insist that it must clear players with federation contracts before going overseas. Justin Gutang is another KBL target. Since Gutang isnt playing in the PBA or Gilas, it seems that Filipino scouts are deeply rooted in even minor leagues to provide talent leads for their foreign bosses.

In the PBA, if a player like Bobby Ray Parks or Roosevelt Adams leaves without coming to terms on a contract renewal, he is given two years within which to negotiate an agreement. If no agreement is made, he will sit out three more years before becoming an unrestricted free agent eligible to play for a team of his choice. If a collegiate player like Thirdy Ravena or Justine Baltazar declines to join the PBA draft on his first year of eligibility, he is given three years within which to apply. If three years lapse and the player still hasnt applied for the draft, he will sit out two more years then regain eligibility to join the draft. There is no age limit for a local to enter the draft.

Abarrientos, 22, is an incoming sophomore at FEU. Abando, 24, is being recruited out of Letran by the KBL. There are more collegiate players being enticed to leave school and sign pro contracts for big bucks overseas.  Both Abarrientos and Abando are actually eligible to join the PBA. Draft eligibles must be at least 22 or with two years of college education and must be at least 19. The lure of playing overseas is intoxicating. In Belangels case, the KBL package includes bringing his family to Korea. At least, Belangel has finished his undergraduate studies. Abarrientos and Abando havent.

While economic considerations are essential, collegiate players seem to forget the value of a good education to secure their future. Theyre blinded by money on the table and they wont see beyond whats in front of them. Whats worse is some parents encourage their children to take the money and run. The challenge is for SBP to protect not just collegiate players but also varsity leagues from poachers. FIBAs support is critical in this aspect and SBP has to step up to the plate in preserving the respectability of Filipino basketball players, especially those in school.




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