THE Asian invasion of the PBA is finally a go.
On Thursday, the PBA Board officially approved the novelty plan of hiring of Asian reinforcement to spice up the season-ending Governors Cup, which could pave the way for the entry of such Asian stars such as Mehdi Kamrani of Iran, among others.
League chairman Patrick Gregorio was grateful to the entire board for fully supporting his personal project he referred to as ‘Asian integration’, which he claims is bent on giving the PBA a wider reach and perspective.
“I am really thankful the board is all out in giving this project a chance,’ said Gregorio shortly after emerging from the board meeting held at the PBA office in Libis.
“We talked about the league balance and the competitive scenarios and we appreciate the fact about the image and branding and positioning of the league,” he added.
“It’s a program I initiated and they were one hundred percent in supporting that. And I thank the board for seeing my vision.”
Under the program, the league will require all 12 teams to hire Asian cagers not more than 6-foot-3 outside of the regular imports to be tapped.
The top eight teams after the Commissioner’s Cup will be allowed to get 6-foot-5 imports, while the bottom four will be given the leeway to tap imports with unlimited.
All Asian players will be part of the 16-man pool of each team. They must not be paid more than the allowable $10,000 salary cap.
The league also placed safety nets by stressing that Asian players to be hired are only those who FIBA eligible.
“Yes, bawal ang mga naturalized cagers. Saka dapat from countries na lumalaro sa Asian Games ang kukunin if they are to look for players from the Middle East,” said Gregorio.
The amiable chairman also reiterated the entry of Asian players in the league should not be seen as ‘anti-Filipino,’ but instead it’s a way of further uplifting the level of Philippine basketball.
“It’s just one PBA conference. Mas tataas nga ang level of play ng mga Pilipino kasi masusukat sila hindi lamang against American imports kungdi against Asians,” said Gregorio, known as one of the top executives of businessman Manny V. Pangilinan.
Asked how this will be in conjunction with the mother ballclubs of the Asian player in their respective countries, Gregorio bared the PBA is now seeking solid partnership with other leagues around the region.
“Kinakausap usap namin ang ibang leagues. In fact, when we were in Korea last month, nakausap na ni Commissioner (Chito) Salud yung counterpart niya sa KBL (Korean Basketball League),” he said.
“Yung Japan kinakausap na rin ni Mr. Rickie Santos (PBA operations head). Tapos yung China, Middle East, Taiwan at iba pa, isusunod na rin natin na makausap,” Gregorio bared. “So hindi magiging illegal ang paglalaro nila dito sa PBA.”
The board is now reviewing the idea of posting the logo of player’s Asian ballclub in their respective PBA jerseys.
Gregorio stressed that exposing Asian cagers will bring more benefits to the league and could attract the attention of expatriates in the country.
“Sabi nga ni Governor Alfrancis Chua, maganda ito dahil pag may mga Koreans na maglalaro sa isang PBA team, syempre, huli mo ang madaming Koreans na based dito sa bansa ngayon,” he said.
“It holds true sa iba pang nationalities like Iranians, Chinese, and the likes. Lahat sila manunuod na ng PBA,” added Gregorio, an expert business strategist at Smart and Maynilad.
The chairman also emphasized the business prospect and Asian exposure the project could give all the teams in the league.
“Once we attract Asian players, we can also attract the Asian crowd. Governor Al Chua said we can expect the Koreans residing in Manila and other Asians to patronize the PBA,” he said.
“It’s a win-win situation for everybody. It’s worth a try. No harm in trying.”
Meanwhile, Gregorio also bared the Department of Tourism is set to partner with the league in promoting its ‘Visit Philippines’ 2015 program.
“Yes papasok na rin sa atin ang DOT kasi nakita nila na this project of ours has the potential to boost the influx of tourists in the country,” said Gregorio, who’s in negotiations with Tourism Promotions Board head Chicoy Enerio.
“Lumawak na tayo to 12 teams. I think it’s about time na palawakin na rin natin ang reach ng ating liga,” he said.
“If it’s successful, we’ll continue. If we need to adjust, we adjust. If not successful, we’ll scratch. At least we tried. Let’s give it a try,” Gregorio said.