RYAN Buenafe has hardly caught a break in his basketball career since coming out of a four-championship stay at Ateneo.
Buenafe needs one now. He may get one.
The former Blue Eagles star was one of the players handed lifetime bans by the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Cup in the aftermath of Siquijor's game against Lapu Lapu, where play by both sides raised suspicion of game-fixing.
A VisMin Cup lifetime ban can be detrimental to the career of the 31-year old, who, after a storied career in Katipunan, never got to recapture the same magic in a journeyman career in the PBA, D League, MPBL, and smaller leagues.
Buenafe, however, may yet get a reprieve according to Vismin Super Cup COO Rocky Chan, who revealed that findings in a continuing investigation raised hope that sanctions on Buenafe and another former PBA player may be downgraded.
“Isa si Ryan sa mga inaaral pa namin ang case. Kasi if you notice, maganda ipinakita nya sa previous game nila, nanalo pa nga sila. Siya ang hero dun,” said Chan in an interview with SPIN.ph on Friday, pointing to Buenafe's heroics in Siquijor's lone win against Dumaguete.
SPIN.ph learned that Buenafe only played for five minutes and 28 seconds in the widely criticized game against Lapu Lapu before retreating to the bench for good due to tendinitis issues.
If proven true, that may mitigate Buenafe's punishment, Chan said.
“Yan yung isa sa tinitignan namin ngayon, that Ryan was not in the game nung talagang lumala na yung mga controversial plays," he said. "In the spirit of parity, lahat naman ini-evaluate namin. The Games and Amusement Board is also with us in the probe."
Aside from Buenafe, Chan said league officials are also assessing the involvement of another high profile cager in Jerrick Canada, who also played sparingly in the game for ARQ Lapu Lapu Builders.
“Pinag-aaralan rin namin ang involvement ni Jerrick and the others,” he said.
The same holds true for Siquijor players who didn't play in the game but were part of the initial list of banned players because they were part of the official roster.
One such player, Mike Sereno, has already appealed his ban, telling SPIN.ph that he was part of the Siquijor training but left the team before the tournament could start to attend to personal matters.
Chan said the league is inclined to absolve them.
“Inaaral na rin namin yun kasi wala naman sila sa laro and yung iba wala nga sa venue and wala sa Cebu, so why involve them?” the league chief said.
Asked about reports that the MPBL might also ban those players involved, Chan said it is no longer part of his jurisdiction.
“Wala akong say dun sa MPBL decision. Pero kami naman, we will continue the investigation then clear the names of people na mapapatunayan naming innocent,” said the soft-spoken league official.