MANILA, May 18, 2004
By Joey Villar And Nelson Beltran  -  In a bid to further reach out to its legion of fans abroad and showcase the Filipinos’ brand of play before an international audience, the PBA mulls to hold games outside the country as part of its main regular season offering starting September.

Willie Marcial, the PBA’s media bureau chief, said they are seriously considering the idea in the face of tremendous requests from promoters abroad who have signified their intention to stage PBA games in at least five key cities with big Filipino population.

This developed as the PBA confirmed that the Perth Wildcats of Australia will replace Argentina when the Fiesta Conference enters its quarterfinal stage next month.

University of British Columbia might also take the spot of Lebanon, which has lost contact with the league after confirming its participation two weeks ago.

PBA commissioner Noli Eala said they will give Lebanon until this week to re-confirm its stint here, otherwise they will have to give the slot to the Canada-based squad, which incidentally will be led by Carlo Villanueva, a 5-foot-3 Filipino guard who leads the Canadian Division I league in assists with 8.1 doleouts per game.

Six local teams after the double round elims will advance to the next round of the league’s transition tournament with the top two squads gaining automatic entry and the four others passing through the wildcard plays.

If plans don’t miscarry, Marcial said the PBA would visit Dubai in Saudi Arabia, Guam, Chinese Taipei, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia in the league’s season-ending conference.

In fact, the Guam promoters said they are willing to host and see four teams play in the United States territory for a two-game offering.

"It will depend on the outcome of our meetings with these promoters," said Marcial. "If we can come up with an agreement favorable to the league, then this plan may just push through."

Marcial added that all emissaries from the five countries are willing to shoulder most of the expenses, including air fare, billeting, security, transportation and allowances as what the league does during PBA’s provincial sorties.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola is bringing in a new import in Tate Decker in the team’s bid to give injured Mark Sanford a much-deserved rest.

Decker, who has been in the country for two months, was signed up for two weeks in case the Tigers decide to put Sanford in the injury list due to a hyperextended right knee and a contusion on the other.

"We’re bringing him in just in case Mark’s injury doesn’t improve over the next few days," Coke coach Chot Reyes yesterday told The STAR. "We haven’t made up our mind though if we’ll rest Mark or play him against Alaska this Saturday."

The Tigers are currently at second spot with a 10-5 (win-loss) slate behind the San Miguel Beermen (13-2) and a win over the Aces on Saturday in Antipolo City would strengthen their chances of clinching the other outright quarterfinal berth.

Like Coke, Red Bull Barako might also take in its former import Julius Nwosu as a possible replacement to Victor Thomas depending on the latter’s performance in the next few games.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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