Saturday, September 8, 2012

ABA : Filipinos' launch pad to the NBA?

Source : NBA Philippines

In the year 2000, one of the league's founders, Atty. Dick Tinkham, acquired the rights to the league back from the NBA. To date, over 71 teams are listed on the ABA website, and it runs two tournaments. The ABA is now the second-largest sports league in the United States next to the NBA. In fact, Dream Team member and 1992 NBA third overall pick Christian Laettner played for the ABA's Jacksonville Gianst in 2011.

The good news is that the chairman of the ABA is a Filipino named Paul Moñozca. A former investment banker based in Singapore, Moñozca started acquiring stakes in major American sports leagues when the US economy dipped a few years ago. He also has stock in NASCAR, power boat racing, major golf tournaments, and other sports organizations. Moñozca, who helped launch Gatorade in Asia earlier in his career, also established the Spirit University program, which incorporates apprenticeship programs with his various sports interests. His ultimate goal is to catapult Filipinos onto the world stage in sport, including the NBA someday, in whatever capacity he can.
"We may not be able to get a Filipino player into the NBA right now, but the ABA is the next step," explains Moñozca. "We are bringing together the three key elements of education, training and competition, because that is what it takes for Filipinos to get better and compete at this level."
Moñozca founded the ASEAN Basketball League four years ago, and there is already an NBA connection. One of the ABL team owners has stock in the Philadelphia 76ers. Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, an NBA veteran and Kobe Bryant's father, coaches in the league. The ABA, meanwhile, has a stronger connection with the NBA, as they do joint scouting and have a friendly relationship. In fact, in some respects, what Moñozca is doing parallels what the NBA D-League was set up to do, which is to prepare players, officials, managers and personnel in other key positions for a possible future in the NBA. The transition is literally just step away.
Moñozca clearly knows what he's doing, and it is a strong blend of passion and financial expertise that he brings to the table. Smart Gilas played in an exhibition series against ABA teams in Las Vegas in 2010. Moñozca introduced Talk n’ Text guard Jason Castro to the Singapore Slingers, and recently flew Letran's Kevin Alas to Los Angeles to train with the LA Slam. The Slam, which at one point had eight former NBA players, wanted to sign Alas, but he is still an amateur. In an NCAA game Thursday, the Knights skipper dropped 30 points on the Lyceum Pirates, reinforcing Moñozca's belief that he is on the right track.
"The recent win of Smart Gilas Pilipinas over the US in the Jones Cup also proves that Filipinos can compete against Americans in basketball," he adds. "The ABA is an intermediate step. We already have a relationship with the NBA, so it is quite possible that a Filipino could break through soon."
The ABA is also in the midst of a $200 million expansion program that includes a new cable television deal with UBCTV in the US. The regular season runs from November to March, while the ABA World Basketball Cup will be played from April to May of 2013. The World Basketball Cup will have twelve teams, including the top three teams of the ABA and squads from Mexico, China, Japan, Russia, Korea, Australia, two teams from Europe and a team from the Philippines. The teams from China and Japan, owned by rich businessmen in those countries, have already been training full time in California. Moñozca is offering controlling interests in key ABA franchises to Filipino businessmen who invest in basketball, to further cement the pipeline for Filipino talent into the US professional basketball mainstream, whether they be players or not.
"A Philippine team would immediately be a top-10 contender in the ABA's regular league," Moñozca believes. "In three years' time, they would probably be champions. And their companies can use the ABA as a means for their products to enter the US and Chinese markets, since we've already been playing our ABA China Games for the last two years."
The best talent will always rise to the top, and in basketball, that means the NBA. Over four decades ago, the ABA sent Julius Erving and a platoon of players into the NBA. As in the past, Moñozca is doing everything he can to make the ABA the catapult that launches Filipinos onto the world basketball stage, the NBA. And that dream may just be a step away.

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