CEBU CITY - Hoop dreams die hard and for many basketball players down here in the south, especially those aspiring to make it to the next level, the next step in their careers may be as vast – not to mention uncertain – as the divide between Luzon and the Visayas-Mindanao region.
This means most will have to be content with barnstorming one tournament after another, in search of a fast buck and less likely, a fast track to their dreams of going pro.
Most of Cebu’s finest basketball players have taken this path before but only a few – former Talk N Text, Air21 and Kia guard Eloy Poligrates and current San Miguel guard Brian Heruela come to mind – can claim to finally capturing the brass ring of the pro league.
But this never stops the south’s young guns from lacing up for the highest basketball bidders in what can only be described as a basketball tour of duty.
“Oo naman. Kahit sinong manlalaro tanungin mo, ang paglalaro talaga sa PBA ang hangad namin lahat. Kaya eto, bata pa naman ako so may chance pa talaga. Kailangan ko lang talaga muna magpakundisyun ng maayos,” said former University of San Jose-Recoletos guard Iron Suano, who incidentally, was on a bus bound for Bayugan, Agusan del Sur, when SPIN.ph got in touch with him.
Suano is one of the many basketball players down south who are hoping that the PBA Vis-Min D-League is the real deal.
After a brief dalliance with Mighty Sports in the Philippine Commercial Basketball League (PCBL) where he played with former UAAP MVP Kiefer Ravena and recent Ginebra draft pick, Kevin Ferrer, Suano and the rest of his basketball brethren are hinging their hopes on the said league as they hope to get noticed by scouts from up north.
“Ito yung liga na hinihintay ng mga taga province, hindi lang sa Cebu pero pati sa Mindanao para mapakita nila yung talent nila. Sana nga kasi sa pagkakaalam ko, maraming magagaling na player dito pero di lang gaanong napansin dahil priority nila ay yung mga nasa Manila. Sana nga matuloy kasi maraming naghahangad na makapaglaro ng D-League,” Ouano said.
Suano’s teammate at Mighty Sports, James Regalado, a former NBTC MVP, who also has been relegated to playing in “ligang-labas” tournaments, said that he, too, is looking to get his shot at his hoop dreams.
“Maganda naman sa ligang-labas. Nagkakapera ka pero ang kalaban mo lang talaga injury. Pero iba pa rin yung PBA eh. And the Vis-Min D-League is a great thing para sa mga Cebaunos lalo na yung mga players na ubos na yung mga playing years katulad ko na hindi na kelangan pumunta ng Manila para mag-try out para sa PBA D-League,” Regalado said.
Guards Eman Calo, John Abad and Marty Pearce are also licking their chops at the chance to finally showcase their talents on a much bigger stage.
“It’s a big opportunity for us Cebuano players. It’s a slight opening for the future that we have always aspired for,” said Calo, who had previously played for the Cagayan Rising Suns in the D-League.
“It bodes well for Cebu’s basketball scene to become alive again. At the same time, it gives former collegiate players like us a goal to aspire for. There’s a lot of us who dream of playing in the PBA,” said Abad, a many-time Cesafi Mythical Five member during his time with the University of the Visayas.
Pearce, a flashy guard who suited up for the Far Eastern University Tamaraws back in 2009, said the creation of the Vis-Min D-League would inspire local players, especially those who don’t have the means to go to Manila, to take their shot.
Elmer Mykiel Cabahug, a former Ateneo Team B campaigner and the son of former PBA great Elmer “Boy” Cabahug, shared that having the D-League here in Cebu would give players a better shot at making the cut since it’s really difficult to make rosters in Manila with the teams being school-based or already boasting of their own stable of players.
“Based on my experience, it's really challenging to get a team in the D-League in Manila since most the teams are school-based teams and the other teams already have their own core players. So it’s really difficult to make the cut during tryouts sine they’re already just looking for one or two players,” shared Cabahug.