CEBU CITY — Players and coaches in Cebu are looking forward to the planned expansion plans of the PBA D-League, hoping it will open doors for those from the South aspiring to make it to the big leagues.
Nico Magat, a senior at University of San Carlos, had already been eyeing the D-League as a route to the pros, and now the planned separate tournaments in Visayas and Mindanao gives players like him a better chance.
“This is great so that players from Cebu can also be seen. I know there are a lot of talented players here. It just so happens that they go unnoticed because most of the attention is in Manila,” Magat, a former San Beda Red Cub, told Spin.ph.
“If given the choice, I’d much rather play here, where I can be close to my family. The reason why a lot of Cebuano players do not get to play in the D-League is because it’s in Manila. And during the offseason of the Cesafi here, the players have classes so it’s really hard for them to go to Manila.”
Should the plan materialize, it will open up opportunities for both players and coaches alike, said Ryan Betia, a former assistant coach with USC now working as an assistant coach to Nash Racela at Far Eastern University.
“It’s very important so that we can produce local talent, at the same time it will be good exposure for players and coaches also,” said Betia who’s optimistic over the chance to hone local talents who can someday follow in the footsteps of such Cebuano greats as Dondon Hontiveros, Jercules Tangkay, Bruce Dacia, Stephen Padilla, Tata Merced and Jojo Lastimosa, all of whom played in the amateur leagues before moving on to professional careers.
“I think every team in the Cesafi has five or more players that can play in the D-League,” boldly declared Betia.
Current D-League players from the South include former Cesafi MVP Wowie Escosio (MP Hotel), ex-University of Southern Philippines Foundation gunner Joseph Sedurifa (Café France), former Southwestern University Cobra Eloy Poligrates (Café France) and Rene Pacquiao (MP Hotel).
Former University of Cebu forward Edward Pao, a former teammate of PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, said the D-League plan will also give young Cebuano kids something to look forward to.
“It is very important because it will bring back the spirit and pride of basketball in Cebu. And it will not only expose the present players to the league but to all the up and coming generations of players," Pao said.
"The kids will have something to aim for therefore they will learn the value of hard work.”