MANILA -- A PBA icon believes young cagers should consider themselves lucky to be living in the present era, because of the availability of overseas opportunities.
PBA legend Johnny Abarrientos, who came close to becoming the first homegrown Filipino to suit up for an NBA team back in the 90s, said a lot of things have changed since his time.
"Andaming nabago talaga sa culture and technology sa basketball. They are blessed in this era, kasi nung time namin wala pang professional league ang Korea, Japan and China," "The Flying A," told ABS-CBN News during the My Korea Story event that featured his nephew RJ Abarrientos and SJ Belangel.
"Sobrang limited ang exposure noon ng Pinoy na maraming magagaling sa batch namin."
Abarrientos said that aside from playing in the PBA, the only other competition they had as players is when they got called up to serve for the national team in international competitions like the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games.
"After mo magpro, babalik ka ng national team, babalik ka ng pro. Every four years yung cycle na yun. Doon lang iikot ang career direction ng player during our time," he said.
"'Pag naglevel up ka sobra magkakaroon ka ng offer sa NBA."
And this is happened to him when he received an offer to play for the Charlotte Hornets during the peak of his career in the PBA.
In the 1990s, he came close to be given a short-term contract by the Hornets to become the first homegrown Asian player in the NBA.
Back then, Abarrientos was at his finest, as he was named the 1996 PBA MVP for leading the Alaska Milkmen to a grand slam.
Unfortunately, the deal fell through when the Charlotte management changed priorities regarding securing an Asian import.
But things are different now with the likes of his nephew RJ, Belangel, Ray Parks and the Ravena siblings plying their trade in Asian leagues other than the PBA.
"Sila nagkaroon ng pro leagues in Asian countries. It's a good thing kasi mas tataas ang level ng game ng pros sa 'tin," he said.
But he admitted that it has become detrimental to the PBA as teams from the Korean Basketball League and the Japan B.League have been recruiting players right after they graduated from college.
"Malilimit ang mga magagaling na players sa pros, particularly sa PBA, kasi after ng college inooferan sila kamukha noong nangyari kay RJ. Mas maraming mawawalang players pag hindi naging maganda 'yung way ng PBA ngayon."
Abarrientos said the PBA is very much aware about the threat of foreign competition which is why the league has been exerting effort to keep attracting local talents.
"They are trying their best naman magkaroon ng bagong level of investment sa pro players right now dahil sa nangyayari around them na 'yung mga future greats try different culture through different pro basketball sa Asian countries around us."