Basketball is arguably the Philippines’ most loved sport. In almost every community, a court will surely be in sight—whether it be fiberglass or wood, cemented or mud-filled. Filipinos play basketball with friends, family, neighbors, and even with total strangers—forming diverse communities wherever the sport may be played. In more casual setups, this is amateur basketball that we know and love. For a while, the usual pickup games and professional leagues have been halted amid the pandemic.
But after a long hiatus, basketball is back with FilBasket—a league that allows even amateur players to return to the court and to relive the glory of playing the game once again. Former ADMU Blue Eagle and FilBasket Founder Jai Reyes established the idea of building FilBasket to provide a competitive avenue for athletes and to cater to the amateur basketball scene.
Knowing the game
It is no easy feat to organize and run a tournament while the pandemic continues to rage. Yet, the goal of reviving the industry of basketball and providing livelihood for players and coaches is what sparked Reyes to begin FilBasket. “They get the opportunity to earn an allowance for this short tournament and hopefully build the foundation for a long-term league,” he explains.
As the influx of talented athletes grows across the country, the gap between the collegiate and professional leagues—such as the UAAP and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), respectively—becomes harder to fill. For some of these athletes, there are not enough opportunities to enter the big leagues. This is where FilBasket plans to come in. “We don’t want to compete with any league but be complementary to the current basketball landscape because [in] that way, the whole industry benefits and all of us can succeed,” Reyes rationalizes.
Running on a tight 26-day schedule, FilBasket’s first short tournament will have 11 teams vying for the championship. These squads will compete in a single round robin elimination format and the top-ranked teams will move on to the quarterfinals, which would then be followed by the semifinals. Eventually, the two best teams in the league will battle it out in a best-of-three finals for a shot to be FilBasket’s inaugural champions.
In its first tourney, the league also revealed some names to watch out for, including former UAAP stars Rhenz Abando, Jeric Teng, Diego Dario, and former DLSU Green Archer Thomas Torres.
Establishing an identity
As an inaugural league, setting the tone can pave the way for FilBasket’s success and longevity. The manner it is portrayed in can impact the way athletes would perform and set goals, and even how basketball diehards would support the tournament’s run. Reyes expresses, “Culture of excellence—this is how we want to be set apart from other leagues.” With an exciting mix of seasoned veterans and talented newcomers, their varying experiences coming from different levels of competition will contribute to the diversity of the competition.
As iron sharpens iron, Reyes believes that the presence of foreign teams will also only benefit our homegrown players in developing a new breed of skill and talent. Despite strict travel restrictions that have hindered international teams and players from joining the opening season, FilBasket aims to invite a number of them in the succeeding series. Reflecting on how international play could affect the game of local players, the founder affirms, “We can also assess where we are in terms of competition.”
While adding more opportunities for aspiring players, the most important goal of the league is to revive the spirit of amatuer basketball. Moreso, they are making the necessary adjustments to be in it for the long haul. Although deemed an amateur league, FilBasket commits itself to creating a competitive atmosphere for the players. Commercial and regional teams are expected to field a wide range of athletes who desire to make a name for themselves in the early stages of their career.
When asked what he pictures the league to embody, Reyes says, “We would like to model after successful international leagues like the NBA, Euroleague, and [the Japan] B. League.” Envisioning an inclusive league, they aim to take pride in making the players’ expertise and stories take the spotlight in their organization.
With hefty goals in sight, it is key that the emerging league takes it one step at a time, as it builds a newfound pillar and community of basketball in the country.