PBA chairman Patrick Gregorio is appealing to all 12 member teams of the league to give the novel idea of tapping Asian imports in the season-ending Governors Cup a chance.
The scheme, according to him, ‘could possibly open the pro league to the world’ in the future.
“What’s important is we’re giving this novel idea a try because if we do not dare and do not try, the next generation of players will harvest the fruits of our indifference,” said Gregorio.
His personal plea came in response to plans of teams such as Barako Bull, Alaska, and even defending champion Purefoods, not to take in Asian imports as part of their roster for the season’s final conference.
Gregorio again reiterated the rationale behind the tapping of Asian imports, saying it is meant to attract interest from Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, and even Iranian cage fans.
“For the PBA to grow, we have to play with the best Asian players in the region. And if the fans realize the PBA is a premiere league in Asia, then, you will see more owners buying (PBA) franchises, and more fans like the Iranians, more Chinese, more Taiwanese, and more Koreans in Manila watching PBA games,” he added.
Gregorio, who also serves as governor of Talk ‘N Text in the league board, admitted the PBA is taking a calculated risk when the board approved of the project during the offseason.
And while the idea may not be popular among some coaches, the Talk ‘N Text executive believes it’s the only way for the league to expand its horizon.
“Since it’s a novel idea, it is very challenging to the point of even making a calculated risk. Because that’s the only way to grow,” he said.
“There’s no harm in trying. We should think out of the box.”
Under the setup, the top eight teams after the Commissioner’s Cup will be allowed to get imports with a 6-foot-5 ceiling, while the bottom four will be given the leeway to tap imports with no height restriction.
Asian players, meanwhile, no taller than 6-foot-3 will be part of the 16-man pool of each team, but will not be paid more than US$10,000.
At the same time, only Fiba-eligible Asian players are allowed to play in the third conference.
So far, only Ginebra has confirmed tapping an Asian import in Mongolian shooter Sanchir Tungala.
Meralco has set its sight on signing up Iranian star playmaker Mehdi Kamrani, Blackwater will be bringing in Jordanian national team reserve guard Imad Qahwash, while KIA said it will be tapping a Korean guard.
Kamrani and Qahwash’s status for Meralco and Blackwater are still pending though.
The 6-foot Kamrani is still getting separate medical opinion on his wife’s pregnancy, while Blackwater has yet to get the green light from the PBA since the league is waiting for an official communication from Fiba that Canada-born Qahwash is a natural-born Jordanian.