WITH opportunities in the PBA thinning, two-time league MVP Willie Miller and a handful of other former pro players are now trying their luck with new Asean Basketball League (ABL) ballclub Pacman Powervit Pilipinas Aguilas.
Backed by boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, the Aguilas are in the process of forming a team for the sixth season of the ABL and attracted more than 50 hopefuls - led by a sprinkling of former PBA players - in tryouts held at the Balajadia Gym in Tomas Morato, Quezon City.
Miller bared that after his short stint with Talk 'N Text last season, he already lose hope that another PBA team will sign him, especially with most ballclubs now looking to get young players.
"Tinawagan ako rito, kaya nagpunta ako. Sabi ko naman sa'yo dati basketball lang 'yan, kahit wala na ko sa PBA, hindi nawawala ang basketball," said Miller. who was all smiles when he took part in some of the drills tasked by the Aguilas coaching staff led by head coach Zaldy Realubit.
"Saka mahirap din kasi run (PBA) dahil masyado nang madaming player, tapos karamihan sa teams mas gusto sa mga bata. Siyempre, alam naman natin mas mababa sweldo ng mga 'yun," he added.
Aguilas team manager Bien Orillo revealed that Miller is already a shoo-in for the roster, which might also include Pacquiao himself.
"Kinakausap na namin si Willie. Final deal na lang ang kulang. Bukas maaring mag-usap sila ni boss Manny," said Orillo, a longtime Team Pacquiao member.
"Hindi na tryout si Willie. He is already part of the team, though under negotiations pa. We just let him join the drills kasi kailangan makita nung ibang nagta-try out ang work ethic niya and tendencies on the floor," added the Zamboangueno basketball head.
The sixth season of the ABL opens on October 28.
Joining Miller in the first day of tryouts are fellow former PBA cagers Sunday Salvacion, Jaypee Belencion, Eric Salamat, AJ Mandani, Sam Marata, Val Acuna, Emerson Oreta, James Martinez and Khasim Mirza and University of the East's former Nigerian center Charles Mammie.
"Baka makapag-extend pa ng basketball career," said Salvacion, who was recently dropped from the roster of PBA newcomer Blackwater Elite.
The team was initially christened Mindanao Aguilas, but was given the honor of carrying the Philippine name after Racal Motors Bulacan - supposedly the second Philippine-based teram in the regional league - pulled out.
Powervit owner Dick Balajadia, who is the chief backer of the team, is excited to have some stars from the PBA joining Pacquiao in their first-ever major basketball venture.
"I am so thrilled, imagine we are not just forming the only Philippine team in the ABL which we dominated twice over the last five years, but we are also proving to the Asean region that we are still a force to be reckoned with in this sport," said Balajadia.
"We are looking toward a long-term partnership here. We want to maintain this team for a longer period of time," he said as the Philippines' twice pulled out a team in the ABL in former champions Air Asia Philippine Patriots and San Miguel Beermen-Philippines.
See VIDEO of the Pilipinas Aguilas tryouts: