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Why is the Philippines not in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2016?
MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on my Mind) - The FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2016 is just around the corner, and it has got the Asian hoops scene buzzing. After a two-year absence, the premier continental club basketball tournament is set to light Chenzhou, China up with intense hardwood action.
Ten teams from the different Asia sub-zones will vie for the title last won by Foolad Mahan Isfahan of Iran in 2013, when the competition was held in Amman, Jordan. Foolad Mahan went undefeated in that campaign, eventually beating Qatar’s Al Rayyan in the Final, 84-74, behind the 21 points of national team mainstay Mahdi Kamrani. That gave Iran their fifth Champions Cup crown, making them the country with the most titles. Lebanon and the Philippines have four each, while China have three.
The ten clubs seeing action this year include Barsy Atyrau of Kazakhstan, Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates, Al Rayyan of Qatar, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India, the Malaysia Dragons, Al Shorta of Iraq, Al Riyadi of Lebanon and powerhouse Petrochimi Bandar Imam of Iran. For the first time since 2012, East Asia will also be represented, with not one, but two top level clubs participating. Among these are the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Xinjiang are among the perennial title contenders in the CBA, and they will be bannered by former NBA player and Filipino naturalized player Andray Blatche. The other East Asia team is Pure Youth Construction from Chinese Taipei’s Super Basketball League (SBL). Pure Youth won the SBL crown from 2012 to 2015 before being dethroned by Taiwan Beer this year. The Taipei national team’s naturalized player, Quincy Davis, is set to banner Pure Youth.
For sure, this is one of the most competitive cast of teams ever assembled in the history of the tournament, but what could have made it even more impressive would be having a bona fide top tier Philippine professional club participate. That won’t happen, though, since the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) — widely heralded as Asia’s first professional hoops circuit — doesn’t send a team to the Southeast Asia sub-zone qualifying competition, which is the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL).
The PBA, in fact, has never sent an actual club team to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup. Based on the past ten or so years, whenever the Philippines would send a team, it would be a quasi-national team and not an actual PBA club unit. They had the San Miguel-sponsored national team playing in the 2005 and 2007 editions, and they had the Smart-Gilas national team playing from 2009 to 2011. Prior to those years, the Philippines sent middling teams (if not minnows) from the now defunct Philippine Basketball League and Metropolitan Basketball Association.
If I’m being completely honest, I think Filipino basketball fans deserve better than this. I believe Filipino hoop nuts — widely heralded to be among the most passionate in the world — deserve to have their very best professional team play in the Champions Cup. The only way to do this, of course, is if the PBA send their best team to play in the ABL, or if the Philippines will host the tournament again (they did for the last time in 2011).
Draw results in for 2016 FIBA Asia Champions Cup. No Philippines :( https://t.co/9A6qM8jV3U— Enzo Flojo (@hoopnut) September 22, 2016
The Philippines did send a team to the 2016 ABL season, but that team are hardly worth mentioning, at least based on how they performed. The Pilipinas MX3 Kings played terribly, finishing with just 2 wins in 20 games — the worst record ever of any Philippine team in the ABL. To say it was embarrassing would be a gross understatement. Every team in the 2015-2016 ABL season had at least one player named as Player of the Week, except for the MX3 Kings, who lost their games by an average of 14 points. Again, it was a disservice to Filipino basketball fans, but, on the flipside, with PBA clubs were just not made available to play, who else could the Philippines send?
Things, however, may soon change. With the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas putting up the new Gilas Pilipinas pool, which is made up of some of the most promising young ballers in the country, the opportunity for the Philippines to send a competitive team to the ABL and, perhaps, back into the Champions Cup has been reopened. If all things fall into place, the Gilas team we saw in the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 may just resurface soon — in some shape or form — in a regional or continental club competition. That is, unless the PBA wises up, steps up and does everything it can to synchronize with the SEABA and FIBA calendars in an effort to really give Filipino basketball fans what they truly deserve.
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