PBA special draftee Rey Suerte is the latest upstart player from the South who eventually made it big.
And hopefully more can follow his path once the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup finally gets rolling by the second quarter of the year.
League ambassador Dondon Hontiveros cited the case of Suerte, the 25-year-old gunner who was a virtual unknown despite being a two-time CESAFI (Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc.) MVP out of the University of the Visayas, which he likewise steered to three straight CESAFI championships.
Despite his glowing credentials, Suerte was only picked in the third round of the PBA D-League draft two years ago.
“Kasi hindi masyadong exposed yung CESAFI (dito sa Manila),” recalled the 43-year-old Hontiveros.
But luck went Suerte’s way as he did very well in his stint with Che’Lu Bar and Grill in the D-League and during his one-year stay with University of the East that he ended up being picked as part of the special PBA draft who were included as part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool.
“Pero nabigyan siya ng break, nakilala, and saan na siya ngayon? He’s now part of the national team training pool,” said Hontiveros, a present councilor from the second district of Cebu City.
“We have a lot of those players like Rey Suerte in the Visayas and Mindanao,” he added. “It’s our goal na maka-produce pa and makilala pa ‘yung mga talent here in the province down South.”
The three-time PBA champion and former national team member sees success stories similar to Suerte to come out of the VisMin Cup, which he sees as the perfect platform in discovering more talent from the South and opportunities for the players to showcase their skills.
Hontiveros himself was one of the best products ever to come out of a community-based league before eventually reaching superstardom when he landed in the PBA with Tanduay in 2000 and later on, with San Miguel Beer.
“I for one would say, was an example. Kasi wala namang nakakakilala sa akin nung 1996 and 1997. But MBA (Metropolitan Basketball Association) came and nabigyan ako ng opportunity at nakilala ako,” recalled Hontiveros, a 13-time All-Star and former member of the PBA Mythical Second Team.
“And the rest was history.”
The Super Cup is tentatively scheduled to kick off on April 9 under a bubble set-up in Cebu City.
Games And Amusement Board (GAB) Chairman Baham Mitra along with Commissioner Eduard Trinidad on Wednesday officially approved the license of the newest pro league in the country.
A total of 12 pioneer teams will be part of the league’s inaugural season comprising of six teams from the Visayas and six more from Mindanao.
“This is a historic day for the league. We are not here to compete with other leagues. We are here to help create jobs and opportunities for players, coaches, utilities, and people who are involved in the sport,” said VisMin Super Cup Chief Operating Officer during the virtual launching of the league.
Teams from Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City, Talisay City in Cebu have already signed up, along with a ballclub from Eastern Samar and two more from the Visayas.
Zamboanga City, Pagadian City, Roxas and Sindangan in Zamboanga del Norte will represent Mindanao along with two other teams from the region.
Chan stressed the mandatory ruling of each team hiring six homegrown players – three of them must come from the city the team represents and the other three, should come from the Visayas and Mindanao regions. These players are also required to play a certain number of minutes per game.
The rest of the 15-man roster could be filled by players outside of VisMin, including former PBA cagers.
The Visayas bubble kicks off hostilities to be played behind a double-round elimination format.
The Mindanao leg meanwhile, is set for a May start in a similar bubble format to be held in Zamboanga.
Champions from both regions will then clash in a best-of-three titular showdown.
Games will be shown over Solar Sports, while MDC, a Filipino-manufactured indoor basketball, will serve as the league’s official ball.