Decorated coach Franz Pumaren firmly believes that the presence of foreign student-athletes is beneficial for the local college game, as they help in raising the level of competition.
Adamson’s chief mentor said as much in Tiebreaker Vodcasts’ Coaches Unfiltered on Thursday when asked about the topic, which has dominated conversation for months now following the NCAA’s decision to ban FSAs starting Season 96.
“For me, it’s good eh,” Pumaren told the podcast presented by SMART and supported by Mighty Sports and Choi Garden.
“I was surprised nga eh, but of course it’s the decision of the board of the NCAA why did they remove it.”
The five-time UAAP champion coach with De La Salle University then explained that having foreigners actually helps, especially for what he calls the “small schools” to compete with the big schools.
“Kasi ako — it’s my opinion ah — if I’m a small school compared to the other big schools in the NCAA, the only way for me to compete is to get an import. At least kahit papaano you can compete with them,” he said.
“Because unang-una, when it comes to recruiting local players, ang first option nila is ‘yung so-called big schools eh. So doon mahihirapan ka na kaagad eh. At least with the imports, you can level the playing field.”
Moreover, Pumaren believes that FSAs help in sharpening the skills of the local players. Even former NCAA MVP Raymond Almazan has previously admitted that going up against FSAs helped him when going pro.
“It’s a good training ground din for the local players. You can just imagine, day in, day out, ‘yan ang bantay ng local players, ng college players, then when you play against the opposing college teams, they play against an import.
“So, it improves the quality of the game, and it improves the level of competition. At the same time, young local players will improve their skills eh. For me, I’m all for it,” said Pumaren.
But as fond as he is of having FSAs in the collegiate scene, Pumaren admitted that there was a time when he did not like the FSA policies of both the UAAP and the NCAA in the past.
There was a time that both leagues allowed schools to field in two FSAs in their lineups. The UAAP, though, abandoned the practice after Season 77, while the NCAA continued with it until the last season FSAs could play in Season 95.
“Ang ayoko lang naman, there was a time sa inyo na masyadong maraming import, pumapayag ng dalawa eh,” said Pumaren, who currently has Congolese big man Lenda Douanga in his Soaring Falcons.
Pumaren also admitted he isn’t a fan of FSAs bagging top individual honors, particularly the Most Valuable Player award. For him, they should be honored as Best Foreign Student-Athlete instead.
“Ako nga I proposed this already to our board representative (Fr. Aldin Suan) dapat sa UAAP, hindi nagiging MVP ang import. They should be classified as Best Student-Athlete,” he shared.
Pumaren believes that former La Salle star Jeron Teng and Ateneo de Manila University’s Thirdy Ravena both should have won an MVP award in their respective careers, but the award went to FSAs.
Looking back, Teng helped the Green Archers cop the gold medal and won himself the Finals MVP plum in his final year, while the season MVP award went to Cameroonian center Ben Mbala.
The same happened to Ravena last season. He was named the Finals MVP after leading the Blue Eagles’ season sweep at the expense of University of Santo Tomas, bannered by Beninese Soulemane Chabi-Yo, the season MVP.
“How many local players ang hindi nakakuha ng award that they should have been the MVP? ‘Di ba?
“Si Jeron Teng should’ve been the MVP, kaya lang they gave it to an import. Sino pa ba… Last year, dapat si Thirdy ang MVP, they gave it to another import,” said Pumaren, who has been manning the sidelines for the Soaring Falcons since 2016.
Looking at the numbers, the 6-foot-5 Mbala averaged 20.6 points in 54 percent shooting, 16.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 assists in his first MVP year. Teng, meanwhile, averaged 16.9 points, 3.3 caroms, and 2.1 assists.
On the other hand. Chabi Yo posted per-game norms of 16.9 points, 14.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists en route to the award. The all-around Ravena had averages of 14.2 markers, 6.6 boards, 2.6 dimes, and 1.1 steals.
Since 2015, FSAs have been crowned UAAP MVPs. Mbala won the award in his two years in the UAAP in 2016 and 2017, followed by University of the Philippines’ Bright Akhuetie the year later, and then Chabi Yo.
“For me, I think I mentioned this already, dapat they should remove that eh, ‘yung MVP, import. No. They should name it Best Student-Athlete. Kasi lugi na eh. I think sa NCAA, there was one time ‘yung Mythical Team ata puro import, ‘di ba? Apat. Hindi eh. Ako ‘yun ‘yung opinyon ko eh. Kaya nga sa PBA ‘di ba, wala ngang nage-MVP na import dahil import ‘yun eh. Best Import,” Pumaren said.
“At the same time, sa UAAP, dapat Best Student-Athlete. Kasi kawawa ‘yung locals eh. ‘Di ba? That’s my opinion. That’s up to the board if they want to decide on that one.”