MANILA, January 15, 2006
(STAR) BLEACHER TALK By Rico S. Navarro The Freeman - Sorry, but I have bad news first. Basketball is not going to be a rosy sight in 2006. This is due to the never-ending quarrel between the Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) that recognizes the Philippine Basketball Federation (PBF). It doesn't look like both sides are even close to living up a kiss and make up fairy tale this year, and consequently, the Philippines will remain suspended in the eyes of the FIBA, the world's ruling body of the sport. The sad part is that both sides claim to be doing their thing for the good of the sport and for the country.

On the local front, a combination of positives and negatives stick out. The collegiate scene will be very much alive once again with the University of the Visayas (UV) having a clear shot at lording over the CESAFI for a sixth consecutive year, with everybody else fighting for # 2. Although UV may have one of its weakest teams due to a loss of players, they'll continue to be a formidable ballclub.

My other concern here is that the CESAFI has now become the only remaining regular basketball spectacle for Cebu Basketball. It doesn't look like the commercial league scene will get back on its feet this year. The CBF officially went "on leave," but it now looks like a more permanent leave from the sport. It's rather sad that it also had to follow the way of the MICAA, CBL, CABA and all other commercial leagues in local basketball history.

2005 was a year where local fans couldn't watch a local commercial league game except those small tournaments played in local barangays and the National Basketball Conference (NBC) - more on the NBC later. There was no summer commercial league. No October tournament, and no Jan-March year-starting conference.

But I'm still hopeful that 2006 will see a revival of commercial league action, albeit in a small, start-up mode. There are talks that some sportsmen are seeking to bring back the commercial league battles by tapping schools during their off-season. This makes sense since the young players are raring to play, and they're looking for more exposure when the CESAFI season is over.

Commercial basketball wasn't totally absent though, as games of the NBC were played in both Cebu or Minglanilla (Tribu Sugbu) and Mandaue. It now looks like the new age of local basketball has gone regional with both teams battling it out for supremacy in the Vismin along with six other teams. Local fans will now turn their attention to the NBC, and it sure looks like it is now slowly but surely being accepted as an alternative to local commercial basketball. I just wish they have more games played on local soil to make up for the huge vacuum left by the absence of the previous commercial leagues.

There are talks of an upcoming regional league called the MVBA-Mindanao Visayas Basketball Association. It's designed to be regional in the sense that all teams will be composed of players coming from the respective cities that they represent. An MVBA pre-season tournament was held last month and the regular season is due to kick off in the first quarter of 2006. It's tough to guess how this will turn out, but if the URBL is be a gauge of things to come, it might turn out to be just another one hit wonder.

I'm just wondering why another regional league has to be established when the NBC was doing a fairly good job in developing regional competition. It's unfortunately a reflection of the kind of narrow-mindedness that is being displayed by the leaders of the sport. Unite? Merge? Fuse? Join hands? Sorry, but these words aren't part of their vocabulary.

That's basketball in 2006. It isn't much, is it? We've always been proud of being the top basketball province outside of Manila. I guess we're still it, but somehow, I get the feeling that we're slowly losing a grip on this title. I just hope we wake up and do something about it before it's too late.

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Time-out: Pit Senyor! May Seņor Sto. Niņo continue to bless us all with his abundance of graces.

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