By Aeron Allec Bautista
The Philippine Basketball Association D-League returns this week after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
PBA deputy commissioner Eric Castro made the announcement in the virtual session of the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday, adding that eight teams have enlisted for the Aspirants Cup, which begins on July 7 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“After two years, we are back. Nagpa-pasalamat po kami sa walong teams,” said Castro, referring to Wangs Basketball-Letran Knights, Adalem Construction-St. Clare, CEU Scorpions, AMA Online, Builders Warehouse-UST, Eco Oil-DLSU Green Archers, Marinerong Pilipino and Apex Fuel-San Sebastian College.
“Na-notice ko rin po na ang D-League is the only amateur league right now. Because of the pandemic, a lot of amateur leagues applied to become pro sa GAB [Games and Amusements Board]. So ngayon po, naiwan po tayo, the only premier (amateur) league in the country right now that will prepare the players and the coaches sa kanilang pangarap na makapag-PBA.”
Also attending the forum were head coaches Jino Manansala of St. Claire and Edgar Macaraya of San Sebastian College, together with Gian Nazario, assistant coach of La Salle.
“This is a very good exposure para sa lahat ng mga players na nag a-aspire na pumasok sa PBA,” said Macaraya.
Preparation was limited, according to Manansala, but exposing his players to an actual competition is still very valuable.
“Very short po ang preparation, pero nagkaroon na po kami ng dalawang liga at ito po ang pangatlo namin. At least na-expose na ang mga bata. Tulad kong coach, pangarap ko na makapaglaro sa PBA tulad ng daddy ko, pero hindi ako pinalad ngayon,” said Manansala, whose father Jimmy played for 12 seasons in the PBA and was a Rookie of the Year awardee in 1978 with Tanduay.
“As a coach naman, at least narito ako sa D-League para maipakita sa kanila kung ano ang mayroon sa D-League dahil matagal na rin ako dito, na makita nila kung gaano kaganda ang liga natin,” added Manansala.
Nazario, on the other hand, welcomes the return of the D-League, which he says signals the return to “normalcy.”
“We are very excited, kasi we are one of the teams na nag-participate nu’ng last (tournament) bago mag-pandemic.
At the same time, nafi-feel namin kahit papano nagno-normalize na ‘yung condition, especially when it comes tobasketball. We are very happy na at least nandito ang PBA D-League to serve as an amateur league for aspiring players na maka-paglaro sa PBA,” Nazario said.
Prerequisite to PBA
Castro also announced during the forum that he is proposing for the D-League to again be a prerequisite for players, who wish to be drafted into the PBA.
“Everytime we have a PBA draft, it is a prerequisite na dapat dumaan ng D-League. Pero sa absence ng D-League for two years, nawala po ‘yung requirement na iyon,” he said.
“Ngayon po na mayroon tayong PBA D-League coming, we will (try) to bring back that requirement,” added Castro, who will seek the approval of commissioner Willie Marcial and the board.
National Collegiate Athletic Association champion Letran Knights kick off D-League action against the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities titlist St. Clare at 10:30 a.m., followed by the game between the CEU Scorpions and AMA Online.