MANILA, Philippines -- The PBA is optimistic that it can re-launch its Developmental League in the near future, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation in 2020.
The D-League had just opened its Aspirants Cup in March 2020 when the PBA was forced to suspend all activities due to the global health crisis. While the Philippine Cup resumed later that year, the PBA decided to cancel D-League competitions, and the tournament was not held in 2021 either.
But according to PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, they remain as invested as ever in the D-League, especially with collegiate leagues reaffirming their interest to take part.
"Sinabi ng UAAP… na inaasahan din nila 'yung D-League, pagkatapos ng kanilang season," Marcial revealed during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum last Tuesday. "Kasi malaking bagay daw sa training nila ang D-League."
"So sigurado 'yun. Kasi naman, nagsisimula naman tayo ng D-League pagkatapos ng mga collegiate tournaments, 'di ba? So pagkatapos noon, sigurado may D-League tayo," he assured.
Collegiate teams have traditionally competed in the PBA D-League -- usually carrying the name of a corporate sponsor -- as part of their build-up for their main tournaments.
In line with this, Marcial also confirmed that the PBA has extended a helping hand to both the UAAP and the NCAA on how to conduct their own tournaments amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Neither league has held an in-person competition since March 2020, although the NCAA pushed through with its 96th season in virtual fashion last year.
The PBA held talks with the NCAA last year and just recently met with the UAAP, together with its executive director, Atty. Rebo Saguisag, and Season 84 president Nonong Calanog of De La Salle University.
"Nag-meeting kami, kasama 'yung ManCom ko, na paano tumulong sa protocols. So pinag-usapan namin 'yung mga protocols, kung ano dapat gawin," said Marcial, whose league has held two tournaments in bubble set-ups since the onset of the pandemic.
"Maganda 'yung usapan namin," he added. "Nag-uusap kami ng UAAP, may open communication kami with UAAP, kay Atty. Rebo."
Marcial said that the PBA is expected to meet again with the UAAP soon to discuss further protocols, especially with the collegiate league looking to start its season by March.
As for the PBA D-League, there is no concrete date in mind but Marcial assured that the league will soon take off.
"Diretso pa rin 'yan -- D-League, 3x3, dire-diretso 'yan. Baka pati Batang PBA, kung papalarin," he said.