Manila, July 29, 2003 By Joey Villar (Star) The Philippine Basketball Association yesterday appealed to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines to allow the country’s top collegiate players to join the Cebuana Lhuillier Nationals seeing action in the Samsung PBA Invitational Championship.

Commissioner Noli Eala said he wrote a formal request to the UAAP board led by Ateneo’s Jose Capistrano Jr. so that the different schools would allow some of their players to skip a couple of games in the UAAP and join the Nationals in the PBA event.

"We feel that we in the PBA are providing the assistance to the RP team and it’s imperative upon the other leagues to provide the enthusiastic cooperation," said Eala.

"We think that this is a golden opportunity for their players to be part of the national team and play in high-level competition like this. Sayang naman dahil three to four games lang naman ito," added the PBA commissioner.

There are 11 UAAP players and a couple more from the National Collegiate Athletic Association who are supposed to be part of the national team seeing action in the short PBA conference which also attracted three foreign teams and six regular PBA ballclubs.

They are Wesley Gonzales and Rich Alvarez of Ateneo, Mark Isip and Gerard Jones of FEU, James Yap, Paul Artadi, JayAr Estrada and Nino Canaleta of UE, Alwyn Espiritu, Noy Villamin and Jamal Vizcarra of UST from the UAAP and Al Magpayo and Glen Capati of St. Benilde from the NCAA.

Conflicts with the schedule have prevented the UAAP teams from allowing their key players to skip the games to join the Nationals who are gearing up for the ABC Championship and the Southeast Asian Games later this year.

"The UAAP board did not tackle this issue because in the first place, we did not receive any formal letter of request from the PBA regarding this," said Capistrano days before the 66th UAAP season started last July 12.

Without the top collegiate players, RP team coach Aric del Rosario was forced to field replacement players who didn’t even stand a chance against San Miguel Beer, dropping a 55-95 loss at the start of the PBA Invitational tournament last Sunday.

Meanwhile, the PBA board met last night but still failed to settle the issue surrounding Bong Hawkins’ controversial contract with the FedEx. Eala said a final decision might come on or before Aug. 12.

The dispute over Hawkins’ playing contract was elevated to the board as FedEx sought a reversal of an earlier decision made by the commissioner ordering the Express to honor an obligation to Hawkins, worth P9.6 million for the next two years, although he is no longer playing.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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