Weird, funny basketball crossover

Wright said the players are representing Pinoy Pride wherever they go, while Slaughter called out the PBA for its actions, which he described as ‘total BS and crab mentality at its highest.’

September 21, 2022

Now it’s getting weird, albeit funny. Where in the world can you see athletes rising up in arms over their mother associations? Only in the Philippines perhaps?

This case of our young basketball players airing their sentiments against the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and the Philippine Basketball Association is just the latest in a number of such incidents involving Filipino athletes disenchanted with the way their national associations are treating them.

What is sad is that the athletes involved are of international caliber who could have given the country honors had they been taken care of well.

Take the case of chess prodigy Wesley So who was barely a teen when he made a splash on the world stage. He had a run-in with the Philippine Chess Federation when he captured a gold medal in the University Games, but was denied any incentive by the PCF, which claimed it was not a sanctioned event by the International Olympic Committee.

Disgusted at the incident, So decided to take a scholarship offer at an American university and eventually decided to change federation and play for the United States where he is now a citizen. He has since emerged among the Top 10 players in the world and reached as high as No. 2 in the ELO ratings for grandmasters.

A little consideration could have kept So playing for the country and reaping honors for the motherland.

Only recently, pole vaulter EJ Obiena was in hot water, too, with the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association, which put him under probe for allegedly falsifying his liquidations pertaining to payments made to his foreign coach Vitaly Petrov.

He was subsequently denied funding for his training pending the probe and was asked to return some P4.8 million in unliquidated allowances. The embattled Olympic pole vaulter found it weird that the issue of late payments to his coach was somehow leaked to the media after he tried to settle it internally.

A mediation facilitated by the Philippine Sports Commission prevented what could have been a long drawn-out war of attrition, which could have forced Obiena to retire if the issue remained unsolved.

It’s a good thing the two sides have agreed to settle their differences, allowing Obiena to represent the country anew in international events where, of late, he won several gold medals.

Now come reports that young basketball prodigy Kai Sotto and fellow Filipino overseas imports have taken to social media to express their frustration in the ongoing efforts of the SBP and the PBA to keep the players within their backyards following the exodus of talents to neighboring leagues in Asia.

Sotto’s comments and those from former PBA players and now Japanese League imports Greg Slaughter and Matthew Wright came in the wake of the SBP not giving clearance to Gilas forward Will Navarro to play in South Korea and the supposed visit of PBA officials to Japan to discuss possible action on player transfers.

Sotto called the twin developments crazy.

“THIS HAS TO STOP. You got players who’ve been working hard and dreaming to play basketball at the highest level they can reach and we got our own people stopping us from achieving greatness,” Sotto said in a tweet.

Wright said the players are representing Pinoy Pride wherever they go, while Slaughter called out the PBA for its actions, which he described as “total BS and crab mentality at its highest.” The seven-foot Slaughter urged the basketball bodies to respect the true ethics of the game.

In defense of its action against Navarro, the SBP said the player has an existing contract to play for the national team and his mother ball club, the North Port Batang Pier.

Navarro was drafted second overall pick by Northport during the 2021 PBA draft in the Gilas round behind Jordan Heading who was drafted by Terrafirma. Tzaddy Rangel is third for NLEX and Jaydee Tungcab is fourth for TNT.

“The SBP does not intend to unduly prevent players from furthering their careers with other teams here or overseas. But it is a fundamental and ethical practice for players to honor their existing contracts with their mother teams.”

Despite this avowal, the SBP and the PBA have been widely criticized for not including Navarro and fellow Gilas cadets in the national pool for the World Cup, leaving them in limbo and denied access to more lucrative jobs abroad.

Others have called out the two organizations to allow the cadets to play where they want, saying it is their right to seek greener pastures.

Where this standoff will lead, nobody knows. Suffice it to say that a win-win solution is a must for this weird, funny basketball crossover to end.

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