The PBA and the SBP have appeared to have mastered the art of double speak, releasing statements full of platitudes that are good for sound bites, their actions running contrary to the spirit of their words.
And that is why they hardly get any sympathy from fans. They have cried wolf so many times that only those within the pro league and its die-hard followers buy their narrative.
In their attempt to not sound self-serving, they cited the case of SJ Belangel whom they said could have played out his last year of eligibility for the Ateneo Blue Eagles but instead was snatched by a ballclub in the Korean Basketball League, the Daegu Kogas Pegasus. They raised a howl about the “poaching” of young players from the collegiate ranks.
It is as if they are saying that the likes of Belangel, RJ Abbarientos of FEU who signed with the Ulsan Hyundai Mobis Phoebus, and Letran’s Rhenz Abando who is now part of the Anyang KGC, and before them, Kobe Paras and Dwight Ramos, now both in their second season in the Japan B. League, were naïve young players who did not know better and were misguided in leaving their collegiate teams to turn professional abroad.
Yet these same officials conveniently chose to stay quiet on the fact that there are players in the PBA who decided to turn pro despite still having a year of college eligibility left.
Belangel’s own Ateneo teammates, Tyler Tio and Gian Mamuyac, decided to forego their remaining UAAP playing year to turn pro. The two were welcomed with open arms by the teams that drafted them, the Phoenix Fuel Masters and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
Meanwhile, Jolo Mendoza and Troy Mallillin also opted to turn pro, signing with MPBL club Rizal Xentro Mall Golden Coolers. Raffy Verano, also of Ateneo, went on to play for the San Miguel Beermen’s 3×3 team.
Former La Salle standout Aljun Melecio, drafted by Phoenix in 2021, also skipped his last playing year for the Green Archers. Ditto with Melecio’s college rival Jerrick Ahanmisi who decided to forgo his final year with Adamson and was eventually drafted by Magnolia.
So following the logic, these players were also “poached” by PBA ballclubs from the college ranks.
But then again, by the parlance of local basketball officials, “poaching” only happens when foreign teams are the ones doing it.
The same officials complained that foreign leagues are offering salaries that PBA teams cannot afford to match. This, they say, poses a threat to the very existence of Asia’s first professional league.
Their cries just fell short of asking for government intervention to prevent the diaspora of players who see the opportunity to earn more abroad and to test themselves against competition that some basketball officials previously said was of inferior quality but in recent years has grown to be at par or probably even better than what is showcased in the local scene.
In the ever-evolving landscape of international basketball where the trend is to open doors, the key stakeholders in Philippine basketball would rather curtail the wings of Filipino players from spreading abroad.
In the sport of basketball which has grown rapidly global in the last decade or so, Philippine basketball as a whole has not been able to keep pace because of “traditional” practices.
It is in so doing that the richer teams get richer by getting top-caliber players from teams that do not belong to the major blocs in the pro league. They hoard these players and then stash some of them at the far end of the bench.
But then again, as far as these officials are concerned, these were legal trades approved by the league and cannot be counted as “poaching”