HIGHLY-recruited guard Chris Banchero has yet to suit up in the PBA D-League, but he’s already made known where his loyalty lies.
Banchero said he’s bound to honor his contract with Blackwater and in the process, might forego his first-ever stint in the league in the Aspirant Cup if he doesn't end up with the Elite.
“At the end of the day, I realized I don’t want to play against Blackwater!” stressed Banchero when reached by Spin.ph.
Banchero has been in a bind of late after the D-League decided to institutionalize a rookie draft where aspirants will have to go through the process on September 19 to become eligible for the 2013-14 season.
Café France owns the right to the No. 1 overall selection, with Blackwater not taking its turn until the fifth pick.
The Bakers have already declared they intend to make Banchero the top draft pick and doesn’t intend to trade him away.
But Banchero has already been under contract with Blackwater – the reigning Foundations Cup champion - both as product endorser and player.
“From what I understand, Café France has the first pick in the D-League draft. But I already signed with Blackwater and I am expecting to play for Blackwater,” said the good-looking Filipino-Italian, who has been a regular fixture in the Elite’s team practice since June yet.
“Blackwater doesn’t have the top pick, and I’m expected to go number one. So hopefully we can work something out. I’ve been with the team, and I am already a part of it,” added the Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals MVP with champion team San Miguel.
“I already signed a contract with them so I am really hoping I could play for Blackwater, because before they implemented the draft … I have already been practicing and playing with this team."
Banchero stressed he has a two-year endorsement deal with the franchise owned by Dioceldo Sy and that playing against the team in the D-League is clearly against the principles of his signed agreement.
Blackwater team manager Johnson Martines, meanwhile, stressed the Elite will still try to negotiate a trade with Café France for the No. 1 pick or just wait on how the developments turn out.
“Of course, we will fight for Chris. Let’s see what happens. We really can’t say anything yet,” said Martines, who bared Banchero has already signified his desire to return to the ABL or sign up with the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
“We really have to look at how things will pan out in the coming days. But Chris already laid down his next possible moves. Sayang!” added Martines, whose team will pick fifth behind Café France, Cebuana Lhuillier, Boracay Rhum, and Big Chill.
For his part, Sy told Spin.ph that Blackwater has already carefully evaluated the guidelines of the draft.
“Masasayang lang `yung pick nila (Café France) kay Chris kasi ramdam ko hindi talaga lalaro `yung bata. Hindi namin siya pinipigilan, he’s just being professional to honor his contract with us,” said Sy.
“Kontrata yun eh.”
Added the Blackwater team owner: “Again, hindi namin pipigilan si Chris na maglaro sa iba. Pero hindi rin namin siya pipigilan kung ipipilit niyang sa amin lumaro.”
D-League tournament supervisor Eric Castro still refused to comment on the matter, saying he would rather wait for the teams involved to resolve the complex scenario surrounding Banchero.
“Hindi natin alam kung paano nila mapa-pag-usapan yan. Siguro let’s wait for them to talk or hintayin natin matapos ang draft,” said Castro.
“Pero worst-case scenario, may arbitration of the commissioner yan,” added the amiable league official.
As of the moment, nine teams have already signified intention to compete in the coming fourth season of the developmental league which also include many-time champion NLEX, Cagayan Valley, Hog’s Breath Café, and Jumbo Plastic.
Castro bared they will already finalize on Thursday the lineup of the coming conference set to open on October 24.
“May walo pa na gustong sumali. Nagpasa na sila ng letter of intent. They have until September 12 to pay the membership fee,” said Castro.