FOR officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), young Filipino stars spreading their wings overseas speaks volumes of how Philippine basketball has grown as a whole over the past few years.
"It's an honor and we should be honored and flattered that our players are being considered as imports now in our region," said SBP director of operations Butch Antonio in the online Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday.
"Ang respeto sa atin ng ating mga neighbors in other countries, nakikita nila na pwedeng lumahok at mag-participate ang ating mga players in their respective leagues."
SBP executive director Sonny Barrios echoed those sentiments.
"As they always say, if you want to improve in team sports, you play against those better than you," he said. "Kaya nga 'yang mga nabibigyan ng oportunidad maglaro abroad where they can learn and develop their skills and talents at a different level, maganda yang opportunity."
The year has seen Filipino players blaze a trail overseas, beginning with teen prodigy Kai Sotto who is headed to the NBA G League as the first international prospect to sign with it's elite select team.
Three-time UAAP Finals MVP and Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena has also signed with San-En NeoPhoenix and will become the first Filipino to play in the Japanese B.League.
Far Eastern University sniper Ken Tuffin is also suiting up for the Taranaki Mountainairs in the National Basketball League in New Zealand.
UAAP MVP Jack Animam of National University is also heading overseas as she agreed to be an import for Shih Hsin University in Taiwan's University Basketball Association.
To these executives, the experiences they will garner in these different environments could only bode well for their individual growth, and in turn, benefit the Philippine basketball landscape in the long run.
"As far as developing is concerned, being exposed to different kinds of basketball, in whatever level it is, is supposed to make the player better as long as sineseryoso niya ang practice," said Antonio.
Barrios even recalled a past conversation he had with four-time PBA MVP Ramon Fernandez on the development of future bigs.
"Kaka-announce lang ni Chot Reyes ng 23-for-2023 pool [noon], sila Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, puro malalaki. And I was saying, 'Sana naman matuto ng ballhandling skills yang matatangkad natin katulad ni Don Ramon.'
"Lo and behold, one day, he popped in the SBP office at sinabi ko sa kanya yung observation ko," he recounted, referring to Fernandez, who was an excellent ballhandler back in his playing days despite being a 6-foot-4 center.
"Sabi ko, 'Mon, paano ka ba gumaling sa dribbling sa tangkad mong yan?' Sabi niya, 'Alam mo Sonny, yung playing against those better than you, nung high school ako di ako pinalaro ng pari namin sa high school kundi sa college ako naglalaro. Point guard ako sa college pero high school ako. Kaya ako gumaling sa ballhandling.' It's the principle of playing against those better than you if you want to improve."