Sunday, January 2, 2011

Board abandoned us, says PBL executive

Have we seen the last of the Philippine Basketball League?

The fate of the longest-running amateur cage league remains uncertain as board members of the league have yet to meet to come up with plans for the 2011 season.

This was confirmed to GMANews.TV by Butch Maniego, executive director of the PBL.

“We still don’t know what awaits us," said Maniego in a telephone interview. "They haven’t spoken to us since September last year. Right now, we feel we were abandoned."

From the old group, only one active team member has expressed its intention of continuous participation — Pharex.

Pharex team manager Gene Alabanza said in a text message that he expects the league to start its season in early 2011. Whether a new group will be brought in to reshape the league or the old members will stay remains to be seen.

“Pharex is sill active and its management told us it will bring in a new group to join the PBL, but right now, we still don’t know where we’re headed," said Maniego.

He appealed to the people concerned to give them a chance to continue what they’ve been doing to keep honoring the league's legacy.

One company that expressed its intention to join is the SM Group of Henry Sy. The company entered the field of sports as early as two years ago, when it took over the controlling shares of National University.

Henry's son, Hans, is now very much involved in the sports development program of NU, whose basketball team went a game short of entering the Final Four of the UAAP men's tournament last year.

Junel Baculi, NU's athletic director, said in a telephone interview that the PBL could help hone the skills of their players.

"It is the perfect venue for us, as we intend to join as a guest team, since most of our players are still young and need exposure. We cannot promise a longer commitment at this time," said Baculi. 

Founded by then Ambassador and now San Miguel Corporation’s top honcho Danding Cojuangco, the PBL became the premier breeding ground for future superstars of the Philippine Basketball Association.

The league gained tremendous success during the '80s as players such as Jerome Cueto, Leo Austria, Allan Caidic, Alvin Patrimonio, Samboy Lim, Jojo Lastimosa, Al Solis, Zaldy Realubit, Benjie Paras, Jerry Codiñera, Ronnie Magsanoc, Eric Altamirano, Nelson Asaytono, Franz and Dindo Pumaren became household names.

In the '90s, players Jun Limpot, Vergel Meneses, Dennis Espino, Johnny Abarrientos, Vic Pablo, Bong Hawkins, Bong Ravena, Eugene Quilban, Romel Adducul and Danny Ildefonso were some of the discovered talents from this amateur league. 

Teams such as ESQ, Lagerlite, Masagana 99, Magnolia, Mama’s Love, Philips Sardines, Swift, the Crispa Redmanizers, Triple-V, Tanduay, Red Bull, Welcoat, Shark Energy Drink, Ana Freezers, Hapee Toothpaste, Montaña Jewelry and Harbour Centre had their share of followers during their stints in the PBL.

Lately, the league experienced financial difficulties, with teams leaving one time or another, while conferences were shortened. Even the league's last commissioner, Chino Trinidad, stepped down last year, and joined GMA-7 as a broadcast journalist. 

Already feeling the pinch, the PBL even tried to join forces with Liga Pilipinas to come up with a Tournament of the Philippines, featuring teams coming from both leagues.

Creation of the PBA’s D-League 

Alarmed by the two leagues’ bleak future, the PBA expressed concern over the fate of future players who will turn pro.

“The board was alarmed. They saw things were not doing well anymore, both in the Liga Pilipinas and the PBL, so they acted immediately and came up with the idea of creating a PBA D-League," said PBA operations manager Rickie Santos.

“Naniniwala kasi kami na yung mga players coming from the collegiate ranks, hindi pa hinog maglaro sa PBA, so mawawalaan tayo ng pang-gitnang liga para sa mga players if ever mawawala yung PBL, so we decided to form the D-League."

The D-League is patterned after the National Basketball Association’s Developmental League (NBDL), where regular NBA teams maintain their farm teams for undrafted rookies, free agents and even veteran players who need to sharpen their skills before getting a chance to play in the big league.

According to Santos, he and Maniego gave their inputs to PBA commissioner Atty. Chito Salud regarding the concept of the D-League.

“I remember that sometime in October 2010, Butch gave his inputs, maybe to inform the PBA on how much is the budget of the PBL in running the league," said Santos. “My own input was more on the nitty-gritty concept of the D-League."

The PBA's Commissioner Office will oversee the D-League, while the technical group will also come from the pro league, including the referees.

“We will tap referees from the PBA referees' academy to officiate in the D-League," added Santos. - GMANews.TV

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