Is the exodus of top-notch Filipino players to cage leagues abroad a boon or bane to Philippine basketball?
In just a couple of years, former Gilas stars like brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos, Matthew Wright, Bobby Ray Parks, Jr., have taken their acts to the Japan Basketball League for better pay and career opportunities.
Some young stars, who could be future top picks in the Philippine Basketball Association rookie draft, have signed up with teams in the Korean Basketball League straight out of college.
Renz Abando of the Letran Knights, Justin Gutang of the College of St. Benilde, and Ronjay Abbarientos of Far Eastern University are some of the highest-paid imports in the fledgling Korean league.
Topping the list is the high-flying Abando who is reportedly set to receive P13.9 million for his first year with the Anyang KGC Ginseng Corporation.
Japan B-League reportedly pays higher, four times what the former PBA stars used to receive from their teams in Asia’s oldest basketball league.
Money is certainly a big factor, but for the young players it’s all about financial security in just a few years of playing healthy.
Add to the fact that these leagues outside the Philippines can offer more opportunities for growth, a new adventure, and probably more exposure to Europe prospects.
Juan Gomez de Liano is playing in Europe with a Lithuanian team and the way he’s displaying the Filipino brand of basketball, it’s not far-fetched that some teams may also employ Filipino imports soon.
The danger now for the Philippines, especially the PBA, is the impending dearth of stars during the annual draft as the top prospects are prompted to go overseas even before they complete their playing years in college.
While the Filipino players have committed themselves to put a clause to their contracts that they are allowed to play for the Philippine Team if their services are needed, it does not bode well for the long-term plan of the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas.
With the top-notch playing overseas, it has become impossible for Gilas to form a more prepared national squad due to the short period of training before an international competition—at least in the current SBP set-up.
The SBP must improve its program that suits the globalization of Filipino basketball or it could form its own young developmental that will have a long-term contract to represent the country in international competitions.
That was proven effective for the then NCC Team of the late Ron Jacobs — starring Samboy Lim, Allan Caidic, and naturalized players Jeff Moore, Chip Engeland and Dennis Still.
As for the PBA, it needs to adapt itself to the changing landscape of global basketball.
The so-called international players who may go back and forth to play as imports and locally may be put on a separate list where the teams can conduct a separate selection process from the rookie draft.
Filipino basketball talents abound and have become the apple of the eye of growing pro leagues in Asia and Europe and that is a big opportunity to make Filipinos proud in the sport that has become a religion.
As a team, becoming one of the best in the world may have become a far-fetched idea but we can still take pride in our kababayans displaying their skills on the world stage.
And there’s nothing to worry about in our local basketball scene as we will never run out of quality players.