Abarrientos, Belangel still dream of playing in the PBA

Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 03 2023 08:00 PM

RJ Abarrientos and SJ Belangel. Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBN News
RJ Abarrientos and SJ Belangel. Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- RJ Abarrientos and SJ Belangel admitted they still dream of playing in the PBA someday despite signing up for foreign clubs in the Korean Basketball League.

Abarrientos and Belangel were among the first wave of Filipinos who signed up to play in Korea together with Rhenz Abando.

Abarrientos, who was named the 2022-23 KBL Rookie of the Year, signed up with the Ulsan Hyundai Mobis Phoebus as their Asian reinforcement, while Belangel is with the Daegu KOGAS Pegasus.

“Sobrang dream talaga namin noong kabataan mag-PBA. Gusto ko noong makaapak sa Araneta (Coliseum), sa MOA, yung mga ganoong pangarap,” said Abarrientos during the My Korea Story event at the Korean Cultural Center on Saturday.

But the former Far Eastern University (FEU) standout admitted he could not pass up with the opportunity of playing overseas when the offer came up.

Belangel, for his part, said playing in Korea was a chance to test themselves.

“Nag-iba lang talaga dahil nag open na ang door outside the Philippines,” explained the former Ateneo Blue Eagle. “Gusto pa rin namin mag-PBA pero gusto naming malaman kung hanggang saan ba kami.”

Abarrientos said playing overseas was certainly an experience that developed his character. He was able to adjust, thanks to his Ulsan teammates.

“The way they approach sila sa Filipino, sobrang friendly nila,” he said.

Belangel also compared the Korean style of play to the Filipino game especially the ruggedness. 

“Dito sa Pilipinas sanay tayong nakakakita ng siko. Pero sa kanila kasi tago sa kanila, may technique talaga na tinuturo,” he said.

They also reacted to the PBA’s decision to soften its stance against Filipinos playing abroad. To entice them to play in the Philippines, the league will now allow overseas based players to join the draft in the first three years of their eligibility.

“Natutuwa naman kami at nagdecide ang PBA ng ganoon,” said Abarrientos.