Quo vadis, collegiate ‘imports?’
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Mythical Five this season stirred interesting social media comments and from basketball fans elsewhere.
Four of the five stellar performers were the African “imports” of the schools with Arellano University’s Jiovani Jalalon the sole Filipino to get a spot in the honor roll. Statistics were the main basis for the selection.
The negative comments did not border on racial slurs but more on the state of affairs of collegiate basketball.
Over the last decade, tall and beefy players mostly from Africa have enrolled as student-athletes to boost lineups in need of a dominating center or power forward. Some players begin with very limited basketball know-how and end up being schooled by patient Filipino coaches. They improve and sharpen skills beyond snaring rebounds or clogging the lane.
The social media concern centered on the state of young Filipino college players and how their talents fare against the imports. There was a tinge of protectiveness in the comments while fretting about the development of Filipino slot men.
The size and dominance of the Africans in our college game is jarring for those accustomed to watching graceful, high-flying and sharp shooting Filipino players. The Filipino-foreigners physiques aren’t so mind-boggling because they seem to fit in with the locals except when they start speaking with a twang they’ve grown up with. They’re mostly guards or forwards and local players can match up with them.
Critics are complaining that the Philippines doesn’t get anything out of this exchange aside from a championship for a school at season’s end.
Hopefully, the guest players in our collegiate leagues are indeed student-athletes who go to class because Filipino athletes who make it to US schools but don’t crack the books get cut from programs.
There are moves in the NCAA to limit, if not ban, the participation of foreign student-athletes in the near future.
Inquirer NCAA reporter Cedelf Tupas told me that the rule to stop recruitment of foreigners was approved 2014 so the last batch could be in 2018-2019. Until then, the Filipino players will have to learn to play with and against the “imports.”