IN THE past, the route to a professional career for a Filipino basketball player had always ended up with the PBA. Though there were a few ambitious folks who dreamed of an NBA stint, they always ended up in the PBA.
Then, a few years ago, the ABL started, opening a new employment opportuniy for Filipino basketball players. It’s not only basketball players who have sought employment abroad. Thanks to the growing local pro scene, there were three volleyball players who got contracts to play in Japan and in Thailand. On the other hand, football leagues in Southeast Asia have also hired Filipinos, and I think as of last count, most of the starters in the senior team are playing in the region.
Now, it’s basketball’s turn to test the Asian waters. Thirdy Ravena, who didn’t join the PBA draft, signed up with San-En in the Japan B-League, while reports also indicate that suspended star Calvin Abueva is reportedly being lured to play in the league to the tune of $150,000 for 10 months.
Ravena’s move, I hope, will open the doors for Filipinos to play in the Japanese league. I also think the Japanese club will earn millions of instant Filipino fans, which isn’t bad for their marketing. Heck, if Neil Etheridge is a barometer, if the Filipino Brit brought thousands of followers to the clubs he joined, we can expect the same, if not more, for Ravena’s new club.
The PBA, too, should welcome the move as it would give the league to a new market. In an ideal world, that is.
But in the strange world that is Philippine basketball, the PBA, which doesn’t own any rights of Ravena, said the player has its blessings to play in Japan for two years, the same number of years that draft eligible players can avoid the PBA before they are meted a ban or suspension.
Ravena, of course, has to toe the line. His stint in Japan, while good for a season, isn’t a sure path to a long professional career and he knows the PBA will still be a fallback position.
The way it appears to me, the PBA is acting like Don Corleone, giving the blessing to some foot soldier to go pursue his own path before joining the family enterprise and knowing his place in the scheme of things.
I hope I’m wrong. The PBA has become stagnant, and Ravena’s move is a good thing for the league and Philippine basketball. I mean, if his new club is more than satisfied with his performance and the way he brought fans over, that would lead to the other clubs scouting for other Filipinos for their own rosters, right?