FIBA Executive Director Hagop Khajirian’s decision not to allow Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge did not sit well with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) leadership.
The Meralco Bolts, who are currently representing the flag in 2018 Fiba Champions Cup, are already facing stiff competition against the best club teams in the region. Aside from losing first choice import Liam McMorrow to injury, Norman Black’s wards were surprised by the sudden exclusion of its two Fil-American young stars.
During the half-time break of the Meralco-Philippines vs. Japan-Toyota match, Panlilio confronted Hagop about the unexpected ruling.
“I had to rush to Bangkok to articulate my displeasure. Both Newsome and Hodge are Filipinos who have been playing in the Philippines for so long,” SBP chief Al Panilio shared.
“First of all, FIBA-Asia Champions Cup was not in the calendar of the PBA and not part of Coach Norman Black’s build up plan for Meralco. But, no less than FIBA president Patrick Baumann requested the SBP that a PBA team represent the Philippines,” he added.
With the PBA Governors’ Cup currently on-going, the Meralco franchise generously agreed to set their sights on the international tourney instead.
“It is unfair to Coach Norman too, Meralco na ang nag sakripisyo, Meralco pa ang nadehado ng husto”. Panlilio narrated. “During the manager’s meeting, I instructed Meralco team manager Paolo Trillo to advise Hagop to call FIBA administrator Zoran Radovic because there was an opinion to differentiate FIBA-Asia Champions Cup eligibility rules from the national team rules.”
“If Hagop’s stance is firm, then in the future, no PBA team will be able to represent the Philippines in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup because almost all the teams have similar cases as Newsome and Hodge. It is just counter-productive for club teams,” the SBP executive explained.
It seems that Panlilio’s plea did not go on deaf ears, as Hagop assured the SBP president that he will propose to modify the eligibility rules in the FIBA-Asia Champions Cup.
“Mission accomplished. That was my objective in coming over”. Panlilio shared. “The SBP just wants to be fair to the future teams who will represent our country. We must protect the interest of the club teams and the Filipino basketball fans in general. We take our basketball seriously and it is the federation’s responsibility to compete with the best possible roster and have a chance to win”. Panlilio stressed.
The undermanned Meralco, meanwhile, dropped its second game against Toyota-Japan and is facing elimination, pending how the tourney’s quotient system will go. Still, Panlilio continues to laud our representatives’ valiant efforts despite being low on man-power.
“I am pleased with the effort of Meralco in general. I saw at least 4 Japan national team players in the roster of Toyota-Japan,” he said. “I couldn’t help but think that the outcome could have been different had Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge played”.
Meralco-Philippines still has a chance to make it to the next round via the backdoor if Toyota-Japan beats Mono-Thailand tomorrow and Meralco-Philippines’ beats Al-Riyadi-Lebanon by 9 points or more.
If that happens, Japan-Toyota will sweep the bracket with 3-0 and a triple tie among Meralco-Philippines, Al-Riyadi-Lebanon and Mono-Thailand at 1-2. Quotient system will apply. Only 2 teams from each bracket will advance.
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