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Out to win: PBA won’t be token EASL participant

/ 05:10 AM December 03, 2021
PBA board chairman Ricky Vargas.

PBA board chairman Ricky Vargas. PBA IMAGES

The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) joined the East Asia Super League (EASL) not for posterity, but to prove that it has some of the finest talents in the region.

“We not only have the talent, we also have seasoned competitors,” PBA chair Ricky Vargas said in a virtual presser on Thursday, a day after the league finalized its inclusion in the EASL. “And the other thing I’m very proud of [is that] we have the coaching know-how to be competitive.”

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The tournament, which is slated to start in October next year, will offer a handsome $1 million (around P50 million) to the champion, but Vargas declares that this will not be the driving force behind every team that the PBA would send there.

“The prize money is good, but we are a very proud organization, and we’d like to be able to prove that we can compete with the best in Asia,” Vargas said.

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Being invited to join the league is an honor in itself, the PBA chair said. And not only will the PBA be fielding teams, it will also sit in the board and will have a say in how the affairs are run.

“I think the PBA has something to prove—that it is the best in Asia,” said Vargas, who was joined by commissioner Willie Marcial, deputy Eric Castro, and EASL chief executive officer Matt Beyer. “[The] invitation for us to join the EASL—which is high-level competition—[recognizes] the contributions the PBA can have.”

“EASL would be, I would say, a very boring ecosystem if we didn’t have our friends in the PBA,” said Beyer.

Vargas believes that the PBA’s participation not only showcases the Filipino cager’s talent level, it also allows the PBA to bolster its ties with neighboring leagues.

“We’ll be sitting in the same table as part of the group that will manage the league,” he said. “That’s one of the requests we had—that the PBA is allowed to sit in the board of the EASL, and they so kindly allowed that.

“That [would be] the very strong beginning of discussions and camaraderie—of building relationships,” he added.

Asked on whether this partnership eliminates the threat of other leagues poaching PBA talents, Vargas begged off from providing a definitive response. “I cannot answer that,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s a competitive world [out there].”

Castro said the PBA schedule for 2022 will have a complete season and can still accommodate the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup Asian Qualifiers in February, and still fulfill its obligations to the EASL.

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