Exit measures | Inquirer Sports

Kiefer Ravena opting out of his NLEX contract in the PBA also has serious effects on Gilas Pilipinas, which has tapped the former Ateneo standout several times in the past. —SHERWIN VARDELEON

The seeming exodus of Gilas Pilipinas-caliber players to Japan and elsewhere is alarming to say the least, with the national team program taking a huge hit as far as its preparations for the 2023 International Basketball Federation (Fiba) World Cup, which the country will co-host, is concerned.

Dwight Ramos, the super-efficient and hardworking guard who starred for the Filipinos in the last Fiba tournaments, was the latest to take the jump to the more lucrative Japan B.League, and there’s no reason to believe that no one else will follow suit with the Korean league also set to open its doors to Asian imports.

That’s why the leadership of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) will meet on Monday during the pro league’s special board meeting called by chair Ricky Vargas, as they try to address the situation while “strengthening the collaboration of the PBA and the SBP for the national team.”

It’s hard to pass up on offers, at least for the players being lured to Japan, as Division I teams are offering prospects monthly salaries of up to $25,000 (roughly P1.2 million) that doesn’t include bonuses and side income coming from merchandise sales like that of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA).

There are 20 teams in Division I alone, and if the B.League does decide to invade the Philippines further, it could really throw a monkey wrench into the Gilas program.

So lucrative is a Japan stint that even Kiefer Ravena, who has a contract with NLEX in the PBA, opted out to play in the Land of the Rising Sun.

The Philippines will be one of the hosts in 2023 and is hoping to come up with its best possible team to at least make it past the group stages.

Tab Baldwin, the mercurial coach in-charge of the Gilas program, said in several reports that he is concerned with what is happening, and is now even going to look at collegiate and high school stars to form the nucleus of the national squad.

Though Baldwin has shown that having an all-amateur squad could be an effective program considering how Gilas played the past Fiba events, he might be forced to include PBA stars in the fold if the trend continues.

“We will talk and figure out how we can enhance our collaboration for the national team,” Vargas told the Inquirer on Tuesday. “Yes, it (exodus) is a concern and we all feel that it has to be addressed.

“The board is unanimous on this one (exploring options with the SBP), and I am grateful.”

There will be eight Filipinos seeing action in Japan, counting Kiefer and younger brother Thirdy and Ray Parks. Kai Sotto will start playing for Adelaide in Australia while LeBron Lopez will be playing in the United States.

Baldwin wants his teams to be together for the longest time to make his system work. That has never been a secret and he showed that it does work as the Philippines chalked up victories against bitter Asian rival South Korea with amateurs and collegiate players he’s had under his wing for months.

Ramos signed a contract that would free him from his Japan commitments for two weeks prior to national team duty, and Baldwin said so many times in that past that it wouldn’t be enough.

Vargas just hopes that the PBA and the SBP can nip this thing in the bud. INQ

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