Among the cons against House Resolution (HR) 388, seeking to ban the hiring of imports in collegiate leagues, presented in Part 1 of this piece was the effect of setting the competition level in leagues low. We continue with the other argument against banning imports in this part.
Setting the talent standard low
In the first part, the against argument pointed out that availability of playing time alone is not enough, it’s the availability of playing time facing high quality opposition.
This part further argues that it’s not the quantity of playing time that’s more important, it’s the quality of output produced by the player using the available playing time.
While it’s true there will be playing time freed up to a local player if an import is not hired, the gain in terms of growth and development achieved by playing long but empty minutes might be misleading.
It might be better for a player to be fielded in just 15 minutes of a basketball game where he displays skills that is instrumental to lift his team win than playing 40 just to participate.
The development of a player will have a ceiling if he is not presented room for it. It is human nature that one tends to let up the competition if there no more challenges to conquer. That human tendency might make an athlete stop his development when he is the best in his group.
This was the case of the PBA’s protected list in the 1980s.
Ramon Fernandez, Alberto Guidaben, Manny Victorino and Elpidio Villamin were once prohibited from playing for one team because that scenario would distort parity within the PBA.
It is the same concept used for this resolution today. Limit the inflow of better talent outside and give it to an inferior local player.
This argument for banning imports, however, could be misplaced. It might lead to stagnancy of the skill development of the country’s prime players.
Take the case of Fernandez, arguably the greatest PBA center of all time until June Mar Fajardo arrived. If there was a missing component of “El Presidente”’s already all-around game, it was the lack of outside shooting.
While it is true that this skill wasn’t required of centers before and the NBA’s talent search had not yet reach the global level at that time, why didn’t Fernandez took the effort to develop this skill nor his coaches demanded it from him?
It was probably because they didn’t need to. He was runaway winner of being the best center in the league with his current skill and didn’t see any motivation to develop shooting from the distance.
Thing though is, if there was somebody who can realistically dream of landing in the NBA at that time, it was Fernandez.
The lack of long range shooting could be the biggest hindrance of being recruited in the NBA because he would be playing guard or small forward in that league given his size.
Take a minute to imagine the possibilities if Fernandez was forced to develop a decent three point shot. He was agile, can defend, can pass, can make free throws, makes good decisions during crunch time at 6’6”. If he had possess a decent three pointer, he was probably viable for consideration of a guard/forward spot for NBA teams back then.
The sad part, Fernandez’s developing a three point shot was almost impossible at that time because he was perceived to be the most dominant local center while measuring only 6’6”.
Things might have been a little different had the PBA consistently allowed teams to hire imports who are bigger, more athletic, immovable forces in the paint and of NBA caliber.
This scenario might have been forced Fernandez, and his fellow bigmen for that matter, to develop a shot from long range because that’s their only counter move against guys bigger and more athletic than them.
Everyone saw how diminutive NBA star Stephen Curry set the blue print and eliminated big men, who gets to see action on the floor only because they are big, in their league.
That’s a trait the Filipinos could emulate and should develop. And that’s why they need the bigger, more athletic imports to test this skill against.
Setting a Winning Culture
Romero cited the practice of recruiting imports gives certain schools undue advantages and destroys the beautiful game of basketball.
The other side of the coin says recruiting imports gives certain schools greater challenges to overcome in order to win and enhances the beautiful game of basketball with better competition and better skillset display for better entertainment.
This may sound morbid against the chance aspiring hardcourt players in colleges to become paid athletes in the future, but a highly challenging environment for developing their talents, better competition to test their skills and higher ambition to take on better opposition will eventually allow young athletes to bring home a better pay check.
Fernandez’s being a center in the PBA and included in the protected list at that time prevented him from acquiring additional skills that could have attracted foreign scouts and opened doors for a possible shot at bigger leagues like the NBA.
It’s the same situation when more gifted athletes are prevented from joining local leagues.
Like in other institutions and organizations, promotion and higher earning capability of employees will never be achieved if the standards of skillset requirement and competition faced are low and is on a diminishing trend.
HR 388 will eventually boil down to how talent development is defined.
If the government wants to encourage local players to develop talent so they could win tournaments and have a potential career in sports locally, then the resolution would be fitting.
But if the government wants local players to develop talent to the highest degree so they could deservingly be considered in international competitions and potentially be hired by foreign clubs, HB 388 will not be the answer.
Preventing better, more athletically gifted competition could be counter-productive because it doesn’t encourage the local players to push themselves maximum limits.
By Armando M. Bolislis