SHOULD the PBA reconsider a longstanding yet little-known rule that imposes a ban on rookie prospects who opt to skip the draft for two years?
PBA commissioner Willie Marcial explained the wisdom behind the rule was to discourage incoming neophytes - especially those touted to be at the top of the class - from choosing the team they want to play for.
"Unfair naman siyempre na itong si star player ayaw munang magpa-draft this year kasi ayaw niya doon sa team na posibleng makakuha sa kanya sa draft. Yan ang essence nung rule na yan," he said.
Under the rule, eligible rookie prospects who chose to skip the draft for two straight years faces a total ban from the league. Among those under threat were Thirdy Ravena, the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2019 PBA Draft, as well as Alvin Pasaol and Santi Santillan, who opted to forego turning pro to focus on the country's Olympic chase in 3x3 basketball.
But for every rule, there should always be exceptions.
Take for example Bobby Ray Parks, who waited for five years since he ended his collegiate career at National University in 2013 before making the jump to the PBA.
The second-generation star was already eligible to be drafted in the pro league, yet chose to hold off those plans as he tried his luck in the NBA. He went undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft before he got an invite to the Dallas Mavericks' Summer League team. He eventually found his way in the NBA D-League, playing for the Texas Legends.
Parks then spent three more seasons in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), leading San Miguel Alab Pilipinas to a championship before finally joining the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft, where he was selected second overall by Blackwater.
How about Kai Sotto, who, like Parks and Kiefer Ravena before him, is also chasing the NBA dream? Should he be penalized for not applying for the draft in the future once he's eligible just because his overseas foray becomes a success?
It's exactly the path the younger Ravena is planning to take, now that he's entertaining offers from clubs in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Italy.
The enforcement of such rule gets a lot more complicated when we talk about Fil-foreign talents, especially those with eligibility papers to sort out.
Christian Standhardinger graduated from Hawaii in 2014 and played professionally in Germany until 2017 before applying for the draft. Even after being taken No. 1 in that year's proceedings, he still honored his standing contract with Hong Kong Eastern in the ABL.
Same with Robbie Herndon, who graduated from San Francisco State in 2013 but didn't make the leap until 2017, when GlobalPort took him sixth overall. He was immediately flipped to Magnolia in a draft day trade.
Stanley Pringle graduated from Penn State in 2009, but took his act to Europe and played in Belgium, Poland, and Ukraine, before he found his way to the Indonesia Warriors in 2013. He eventually was picked No. 1 in the 2014 PBA Rookie Draft by GlobalPort.
Jason Brickman, who is long regarded as one of the top point guards outside of the PBA, has yet to declare as he's still in the process of sorting out all of his documents.
As you can see, the rule, which insiders said was put in place by the board in 2018 before Parks got drafted, is simply hard to enforce without unfairly penalizing players who want to be a better version of themselves before making the leap to the PBA.
Let the rookies make the decision for themselves. It's already a major career gamble on their part anyway if they choose to forego a draft, since they risk sliding down the draft order when a bigger star comes along or lose a shot at a fat paycheck if they get injured duing the pre-draft wait.
Unsolicited advice to the PBA: it's a rule worth revisiting.