This year marks the last season that the oldest collegiate basketball league in the country, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will allow member schools to field in imports in their sports disciplines. There’s an ongoing debate on whether or not the NCAA is becoming more traditional, secluded or to some extent, against the equal opportunity for aspiring foreign student-athletes.

Ever since San Beda revolutionized the import recruiting program by fielding Sam Ekwe back in 2004, it has become the norm for almost all collegiate teams to start recruiting their own foreign giants to beef up their chances to bag the crown in their respective school leagues. The UAAP, NCAA, CESAFI of Cebu, even the fledgling UCBL (The Universities and Colleges Basketball League) allow the entry of foreigners in their sports line ups, most commonly via their basketball teams.

The debate often revolves around being competitive and at the same time giving the right opportunities for our local talents to develop. This could be a double-bladed sword. Allowing foreigners to participate increases the quality and level of competitiveness of teams and players but I believe it does rob a local athlete of a slot, a scholarship and the chance to blossom in the collegiate scene.

Personally, I support the NCAA in keeping to the grassroots level next year. It will only mean an almost equal playing field between schools who can afford to hire foreign players vs those who only have a meager budget in sports. It will also maximize the talent and development of our local boys and fil foreign athletes. I expect the latter to blossom again in the NCAA with the ruling that prohibits foreign imports in 2020.

If we are thinking about the lower quality output in games with no foreigners on the line ups, look again. We have seen some great quality teams not so long ago that dominated the field without imports. I am referring to the powerhouse teams of San Sebastián (5 peat NCAA champs from’93-’97) and the UST Growling Tigers from ’94-’97. Even the Dela Salle Green Archers with Ren Ren Ritualo, Mike Cortez and Mac Cardona ’98-’01 were dominant in that period. The Archers reinvented college ball with 40 minutes of none stop trapping defense loaded with a roster of Fil Ams.

All yours truly is saying is that college basketball quality won’t suffer when imports are phased out. The NCAA, the oldest running collegiate basketball league in the country, will survive and will continue to blossom. We are a country of good basketball coaches and talented players. I am certain the excitement watching games at the NC would be worth our while … as usual.

What’s Up NorthPort?

The recent trade between San Miguel’s Chrstian Standhardinger NorthPort’s Mouala Tautuaa, a pair of high profile big men in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) caught everyone by surprise. Intriguingly, this is the second time this season that the Batang Pier franchise traded a marquee player from their team. The second conference send-off of Stanley Pringle for a couple of veteran players and a young and promising athlete made people feel like the Pier had the raw end of the deal here. To our surprise, it seems the Pier franchise ain’t done with business yet.

Tautuaa, having a break out year this season, clearly outperforms Standhardinger in statistics this conference. I don’t think the Pier got the raw end of the deal here … that is if Standhardinger will stick around for a while.

We all know that the Fil German will have his minutes and chances to shine under head coach Pido Jarencio. He would no longer have to play back up to Junemar Fajardo, who plays a minimum 36 minutes a game. The exposure Christian would have with the Pier will allow him to rekindle his ABL and International basketball form. Expect a Renaissance of sorts since he will be the main man at the block for the Pier. I do hope that Standhardinger has found a new home and that the Batang Pier supports his development for the long term … not just a pit stop, only to move him to another team after a few weeks.

For Tautuaa, he will definitely come off the bench sparing the San Miguel starting frontline so his minutes will not be the same as he used to log. At best, he could probably still get a decent 20 minutes per game with the Beermen, good enough to contribute some quality baskets and rebounds for the three peat seeking franchise. Will Tautuaa blossom as a back up guy in the formidable SMB bench? Time will tell but let’s not forget that his value will continue rising specially in spelling Fajardo some precious minutes of rest and as resident veteran power forward Arwind Santos starts to get his workload managed. Tautuaa can even play 30 minutes a game in the All Filipino but first, like any new player entering a championship caliber line up, he has to prove himself worthy to earn minutes this conference.

(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)

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