Hunting season

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Jude P. Roque

Jude P. Roque

It’s that time of year when college basketball programs start hunting for prospective recruits to bolster their talent pools. Scouts from top colleges and universities roam the Philippine islands and even beyond to find the next collegiate superstar. In Cebu for instance, different high school, college and inter-city tournaments have been frequented by coaches and scouts, as the province is known for its abundance of basketball talents. And this goes on until about May.

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A recent shift of the country’s basic education system to the K to 12 Program added two more years in high school for a total of six (Grades 7 to 12). Because of this, most high school standouts won’t be available for picking until 2017. Many teams however are in dire need of fresh recruits after the departure of some key players from the previous season. San Beda, for instance, will lose six players to graduation this schoolyear, including top guns Baser Amer, Arth Dela Cruz and Ola Adeogun. Same is true for Ateneo and UST with the departure of Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal, and Kevin Ferrer, Karim Abdul and Ed Dacquioag respectively. So for many teams, this change in the high school curriculum is a bit of a pickle.

What’s the alternative? Teams are now looking at smaller collegiate squads in the provinces and even in Metro Manila to find players with at least two more playing years, and convince them to transfer. Two years from these players should be enough to tide their programs over until the availability of high school prospects. Swaying these players is not a challenge at all with promises of better exposure, especially in the UAAP and NCAA, and tempting perks. Over the years, this practice has been prevalent, which is why we see a good number of “rookie-veterans” that take the leagues by storm, like 2014 NCAA MVP Scottie Thompson, who transferred from Davao to the Perpetual Help U. For most of these players, the move to major collegiate programs has been a gargantuan blessing as they get to play in front of TV audience nationwide.

But the top teams’ gains mean heavy losses for the smaller programs that helplessly watch their finest talents walk away from their den. Here lies the issue of ethics in recruitment. We can’t blame the smaller programs for crying foul. After all, they’ve nourished and trained these players and spent for their tuition, meals, and even lodging for over a year only to be snatched by these “big program bullies.” This is why some provincial teams refuse to participate in Manila-held tournaments for fear of exposing their prize finds to a possible mousetrap. To counterattack, they’ve learned to ask for remuneration in exchange for the release of players. But some amounts are, some reports say, eye-popping, bringing the recruitment game to a distasteful course. Blocking these talents from seeking greener pastures surely isn’t fair. Demanding for lofty amounts for their release isn’t right either. But letting go of them without getting anything in return is likewise unjust.

So where’s the balance? Here are some suggestions. Think of ways to compensate for the transfer of players other than money. Establish a long-term relationship with the school by assisting in the development of its sports program. You can start by donating some equipment and information materials like books and DVDs for the use of their coaches. Offer trips to Manila to their coaches at least once a year so that they may learn from your program, through your daily practices, games, huddles, etc. If you can, send some of their players to train with your team for their skills improvement and experience. Occasionally, you may arrange friendly games with their teams.

Perhaps some will prefer the one-time payment of a huge amount. It’s surely less the hassle and more gratifying at first. But the long-term exchange program is not only ethical but also more beneficial for both parties in the long run. For the smaller programs, they get to upgrade their teams with the new technology, which eventually will result to higher quality of competition in the provinces. For the big schools, they get first crack at future talents produced by their partner schools. It’s win-win.

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