Basketball: New Visayas-Mindanao league not out to compete with other associations, says exec

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Feb 05 2021 06:13 PM

A pro basketball league showcasing standouts from Visayas and Mindanao?

It’s an idea the time of which may have finally come as organizers of the 12-team Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup kicks off with its initial leg featuring 6 teams from the Visayas on April 9 at Cebu Coliseum.

With the support of the Games and Amusements Board led by chairman Baham Mitra, Super Cup chief operating officer Rocky Chan unveiled the plans for the fledgling league during a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

“This (league) will catch fire given the love for basketball in the Visayas and Mindanao,” Mitra said, as he welcomed another league into the pro ranks. “We would like to commend and congratulate the people behind this endeavor and for their fighting spirit for pushing through with it.”

Added Chan, a veteran events organizer and promoter, of the opportunity to highlight basketball talents from both regions: “We know it is a big gamble but after our talks with chairman Mitra and his assistance, we have no regrets of turning professional.” 

Lending his name to the league is Cebuano basketball star Dondon Hontiveros, tapped as its goodwill ambassador. 

“This league is a manifestation of our love and passion for the game, especially for someone like me who was a product of a community-based league 20 years ago,” said Hontiveros, who made it big as one the mainstays of the Cebu Gems in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association.

“This is perfect for the city to have the first leg here. I am happy and excited to have the VisMin Super Cup to be held in Cebu City,” added the Cebu City councilor, revealing that they were in the process of drafting an ordinance on how the city could fully support the league.

Vehicle for Mindanao, Visayas hoops prospects

With the arrival of the league, he said other provincial prospects need not go to Manila to get attention, citing his own case and that of 3-time Cebu Sports Athletics Foundation Inc. MVP Rey Suerte as examples.

“There too many (known) players who came from the South but there are many of them to mention,” Hontiveros noted of the two regions that saw the rise of Kenneth Duremdes, Ramon Fernandez, and along with fellow Cebuanos Yoyong Martirez and Dondon Ampalayo.

“Wala naman nakakakilala sa akin in 1996 and 1997 until I was given an opportunity to play in the MBA, and the rest as they say is history. (No one knew me way back in 1996 and 1997 until I was given an opportunity to play in the MBA, and the rest, as they say is history.)”

He said Suerte nearly had the same pathway, going to the Big City to play for University of the East for a year before gaining national attention playing for Che-Lu Bar and Grill in the D-League.

“If I recall right, Rey was drafted in the third round of the D-League. Doon lang nakita yong galing niya. (That is where he shown). Now he is part of the national training pool of Gilas,” Hontiveros said.

Chan said league honchos were not out to compete with other leagues, “because we are here to help. We have three goals: develop homegrown talents, provide jobs and promote sports tourism.”

Homegrown names guaranteed playing time

To ensure that local talent will be given a chance to shine, Chan said the league has laid down a policy that six players on the 15-player roster of each club must come from either the team’s base or its nearby provinces.

“Three of the players must come from the location of the squad while the other three must be from a neighboring city or province. Under our league policy, they will all be given ample playing time,” he said. “No one among them will be benchwarmers or decorations.”

Chan added that the league has a salary cap to sustain operations and make it viable.

The VisMin Super Cup boss disclosed that the among the six Visayan teams are from Cebu City and the cities of Talisay, Mandaue, one from Eastern Samar plus two other squads.

Those from Mindanao are from Zamboanga City; Pagadian city, Zamboanga del Sur; and Sindangan and Roxas towns, Zamboanga del Norte; and two other clubs, he added.

Chan said that the opening leg will be a double-round series, with quarterfinals and semifinals leading to the best-of-3 championships.

“We are looking at around 20 to 25 playing days with two days off in-between matches and 3 games on each playing date following the FIBA format,” he disclosed.

Hontiveros said he was now in talks with Cebu city members of the Inter-Agency Task Force in charge of the COVID-19 mitigation so that the tournament participants would be swabbed for the virus at least a week before they enter the competition bubble.

He added that he was also talking with the management of the 5,000-seat Cebu Coliseum in downtown Cebu City for the tournament “since we believe it is the best we can offer having been the main venue of big tournaments in the past.”

Since the basketball arena only has one court, the councilor said he was also looking for another training venue for the teams for the duration of the event, “but I am not at liberty to divulge it yet.” 

“We will give our best so that health and safety protocols will be observed during the tournament,” Hontiveros said, adding that all six squads will be quartered in two separate hotels.

Chan said that once Cebu leg winds up, the Mindanao stop will be held sometime in late May in Zamboanga City, through the support of Mayor Beng Climaco, with a similar tournament format.

The Visayas and Mindanao champions of their respective legs will dispute the first Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup title.