For PBA's Marcial, Pinoy imports in Japan a source of pride

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 26 2021 03:11 PM

After playing against each other in the PBA, Kiefer Ravena and Ray Parks faced off in the B.League last weekend as well. B.League
After playing against each other in the PBA, Kiefer Ravena and Ray Parks faced off in the B.League last weekend as well. B.League

MANILA, Philippines -- Concerns have been raised over the "poaching" of local players by overseas basketball leagues. But for PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, it is an honor to see Filipino basketball players showcasing their skills abroad.

Nine Filipinos are now playing in the B.League in Japan, including two former PBA stars in Kiefer Ravena and Ray Parks Jr. 

So far, the Filipino imports have given a good account of themselves through the first month of action in the league.

"Napanood ko sina Thirdy (Ravena) at Kiefer eh. Ako, natutuwa ako sa ginagawa niya, at nakikita ng buong mundo 'yung hilig natin sa basketball at kung gaano tayo kagaling sa basketball," Marcial said.

Brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena matched up in the first week, splitting their two-game series. The showdown between the brothers was widely hyped by the B.League which billed it as a "sibling rivalry."

Since then, there have been showdowns between Thirdy's San-En NeoPhoenix and Kobe Paras' Niigata Albirex, and just this weekend between Kiefer's Shiga Lakestars and Parks' Nagoya Diamond Dolphins.

Marcial said he is delighted to see the Filipino players shining in the B.League, whether they have played in the PBA or not.

"Malaking bagay. Ako, proud at natutuwa na andoon sila, at nandoon 'yung mga players natin, kahit amateur, kahit PBA players, na ang laking tulong," he said.

"Honored ako na... tinitingala sila ng ibang players na andoon. Nakita ko maglaro, okay eh. Okay si Kiefer," he added.

PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial. File photo. PBA Media Bureau.
PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial. File photo. PBA Media Bureau.

But the move of Filipino players to overseas leagues did not come without hand-wringing from the PBA. It took months before Parks and Ravena were given clearance by their respective teams and the league to eventually play in Japan. 

The PBA has also installed new rules for potential draftees who may want to explore opportunities abroad before joining the local league.

Last week, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas is concerned about foreign leagues' attempts to "poach" more PBA players -- including TNT stars Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario.

Vargas is also the team governor of the Tropang GIGA.

A report by also claimed that big men Christian Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar of Barangay Ginebra, and Robert Bolick of NorthPort, are among the targets of B.League teams. It was also reported that both Bolick and Standhardinger have yet to sign contract extensions with their respective teams.

"This is an invasion and a disrespect to the league," Vargas told the Inquirer. "Just because you have more money to offer doesn't mean you're free to poach any player, right?"

Marcial assured that there are rules in place to protect PBA teams in this situation. In July -- after giving Kiefer Ravena permission to play in the B.League for one season -- the PBA reworked its free agency rules to give players more wiggle room in signing with teams. 

"Alam naman ng mga teams kung paano, kung ano ang kontrata," said Marcial, when asked if the reports of "poaching" PBA players is a cause for concern.

"Kung wala naman silang kontrata at hindi nila nilalabag 'yung mga nilabas natin na mga ruling, eh okay. Kung walang kontrata sa PBA, okay, 'di ba?" he said. "Alam 'yan ng mga teams."

"Alam nila ang dapat nilang gawin doon. So ako naman, natutuwa ako, kasi ang gagaling nila eh," he added.

Aside from the Filipino imports in Japan, Kai Sotto is also set to play in Australia's National Basketball League, while high schooler Lebron Lopez will play in Overtime Elite in the United States. 

Three Filipinos have also signed with leagues in Taiwan's T1: Jordan Heading (Taichung Suns), Jason Brickman (Kaohsiung Aquas), and Caelan Tiongson (Taoyuan Leopards).

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