CHICAGO -- As reported by our SPIN.ph colleague Jonas Panerio, five players have now backed out of the VisMin Cup just days before the tournament tips off this Friday at a bubble in Alcantara, Cebu.
Rocky Chan, the chief operating officer of the league, told me that Enrico Llanto and Edrian Lao of ARQ Builders-Lapu-Lapu City Heroes and JR Ongteco of KCS Computer Specialist in Mandaue City will not take part in the games while two others have yet to formally inform the league.
Either way, the exits don't bother him a bit.
"Everyone is welcome to come and anyone is free to go if they think they would be more happy to play elsewhere."
The mini exodus is linked to a recent MPBL memo that said VisMin Cup participants will be tagged as professionals once they play in the new league, a move that effectively compromises their slots in the Manny Pacquiao-founded league.
Chan can't help but wonder. "Is VisMin a threat to the MPBL?"
That being said, he made it clear they won't genuflect in the altar of the MPBL and beg for reconsideration.
"We stand to welcome anyone who is willing to play and "maka pagbigay tayo ng hanapbuhay."
Although the MPBL pays higher wages and offers a better, wider exposure as it pertains to TV coverage, the salaries at Vis-Min Cup aren't too shabby, either.
Minimum salary is P10,000 and teams have a salary cap of P1 million.
And because it is a professional enterprise, the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) will oversee important matters including salaries and contract disputes within the VisMin Cup, whose Visayas and Mindanao legs run for two months,
Chan gave the assurance that their bubble is air-tight and protocols have been in place and all the players have already arrived in Alcantara since March 30.
In what is deemed as marking its territory, the MPBL fired a warning shot via a terse memo. So far, VisMin ain't blinking.
GONZAGA BOWS. At only 19 years old, the future of Jalen Suggs is sun-glare bright, one that includes a future career in the NBA.
But today's NCAA championship game will sting him for a long, long time.
As the Gonzaga Bulldogs, 4.5-point favorites to finish their magical season unbeaten, gunned for the crown, this is what the freakishly athletic 6-foot-4 Suggs did in the first 3:54 of play.
He missed two field goals. Hacked two fouls and committed one bad turnover in a rare, uncharacteristic display of frayed nerves.
Suggs eventually regained his bearings and finished with 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, but his slow start gave Baylor University a 9-0 headway that paved the way for a lopsided 86-70 victory.
In the biggest game of their lives. Gonzaga's two other stars - Drew Timmie and Corey Kispert - came up short, combining only for 24 points while Baylor's starters pooled together 65, highlighted by Jared Butler's 22 points on 4-of-9 shooting from 3.
The lack of bench depth haunted the Bulldogs, whose reserves got outscored by Baylor's miracle bench workers, 21-7.
And the Bears badly outshot Gonzaga from 3-point range, 10-5, which translates to a 15-point differential. The rebounding was also brutally one-sided in favor of Baylor, 38-22.
In case you were wondering, that dude MaCio Teague, who had a "quiet" 19 points, is the brother of NBA players Jeff and Marqui Teague.
I feel awful to see Gonzaga watch their 31-0 run up to the final end up in flames.
But man, those Baylor Bears were a sight to behold.