WHILE critics continue to lash out at college teams relying on foreign players, coach Boyet Fernandez said he sees nothing wrong with it and even believes imports have actually helped raise the standards of Philippine basketball.
Nigerian reinforcement Ola Adeogun, who helped the Red Lions capture their fourth straight NCAA crown, is the third foreign player to play for San Beda over the last seven years.
The Red Lions have won seven of the last eight crowns with foreign players in their lineup.
Fernandez said the practice of tapping foreign student-athletes is allowed by the league, which has nonetheless laid down a policy stopping the hiring of imports beginning last season.
They Said It!
“Nag-improve ang level of play ng mga Pilipino. Pagdating sa PBA, at least sanay na sila sa malalaki." - San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez
Under such time frame, foreign players are set to disappear from the league landscape over the next five years.
[For full story, Foreign players a vanishing breed in NCAA as new rule set to take effect]
“May freedom naman na kumuha lahat ng import sa NCAA. Hindi naman bawal kumuha ng import pati sa UAAP,” said Fernandez, who led the Red Lions to a championship in his first season as coach.
Fernandez defended San Beda’s choice of taking in imports which it started in 2006 with the hiring of Sam Ekwe, saying that any team in the NCAA has a choice on whether to hire a foreigner or not.
“Siyempre, kung gusto talaga mag-champion, kailangan mag-invest din tayo. You have a choice naman if you want to get an import or not. I know that marami ring alumni na sumusuporta sa ibang schools,” said Fernandez.
While the hiring of foreign players is allowed, the practice has been slammed by some quarters which feel it has only served to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots in the league.
Some critics also feel imports take away league spots from local players.
According to University of the Philippines president Alfredo Pascual, a move to close the door on foreign players in the UAAP has been discussed in a meeting among top university officials and the issue is now set to be passed on to the UAAP board for a vote.
[For full story, see UAAP ban on foreign players eyed as league reaches consensus]
Nigerian Ekwe helped the Mendiola-based squad to a 2006 crown that snapped the Red Lions' 28-year title drought. It was the first of three straight titles for the Red Lions.
After Ekwe, several schools also started recruiting imports. But San Beda continued to win NCAA crowns after American Sudan Daniel and Nigerian Adeogun beefed up the school after Ekwe's exit.
But Fernandez insisted the tough foreign players help make the locals play tougher, pointing out that such was the case with NCAA season MVP and now pro Raymond Almazan of Letran.
“Almazan is not the Almazan before. But he played with Adeogun and (Noubi) Happi (of Emilio Aguinaldo College). Almazan is the MVP for them. Parang import na rin si Almazan being in the top three in the PBA draft. Kaya marami ring positives na nadadala ang mga imports for the Filipino cagers.
“Nag-improve ang level of play ng mga Pilipino. Pagdating sa PBA, at least sanay na sila sa malalaki,” said Fernandez.
Fernandez also noted Adeogun’s effort to embrace the Filipino culture.
“Kung tutuusin, mas magaling pa mag-Tagalog si Ola kesa sa ibang Pilipino. Pilipinong Pilipino si Ola.”