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Slingers-Castro partnership intact; Asian Pro League up

By Jasmine W. Payo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:27:00 07/31/2008

Filed Under: Basketball

MANILA, Philippines?Playing in the proposed Asian Professional League is now the priority for the Singapore Slingers following their pullout from Australia?s National Basketball League.

Although the move dashed hopes of Jason Castro to become the first Filipino import to play in the pro league Down Under, the Slingers will continue to see action in several invitational tournaments in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

?While they?re still finalizing plans of forming the Asian pro league, the Slingers will play in several invitational tournaments,? Castro?s agent Danny Espiritu said after a talk with his crack ward in Singapore Wednesday.

?The Slingers will continue to honor Jason?s contract, he?ll still earn won-game and championship bonuses even in those invitationals.?

Slingers officials said the Asian Pro League, composed of at least eight squads in the region like China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines, will tentatively kick off in March 2009.

?Playing against powerhouses, including a team from the Philippines, is an advantage and not a setback,? Slingers owner Bob Turner said in a statement.

Michael Johnson, Slingers head of basketball operations and an NBL Hall of Famer, added: ?Being based in Singapore, it is in the Slingers? best interest to position itself in the region rather than just in Australia?s NBL. This new direction is the future of this team.?

Castro, a three-time Philippine Basketball League most valuable player, had inked with the Slingers a contract worth an Australian $90,000 (approximately P3.8 million) for a seven-month period from July 2008 to February 2009.

?I?ve talked to Jason and he?s enjoying the facilities and the training there,? said Espiritu. ?He?s impressed with the type of physical conditioning, the offensive and defensive coaches. He?s not feeling homesick at all.

?He said many of his teammates are 7-footers, but they?re impressed with his speed. They?ve been teasing him to slow down.?

Espiritu said, however, that Castro remains open to a Philippine pro career if a PBA squad buys out his contract.

The Philippine Basketball Association has allowed Castro to join the annual draft despite his absence next season.

?Even if they don?t have a tournament, Jason will still be busy traveling and playing for the Slingers,? said Espiritu. ?But of course, there?s always the option to play in the Philippines. We all know that he?s likely to be among the top draft picks.?

The Slingers, who won only six of their 30 matches last season, was the third team to leave the NBL the past months after top-ranked squads Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets folded up.



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