Chooks-to-Go willing to finance full-time national team
MANILA, Philippines – Though still in its first year as chief backer of the Philippine men's basketball team, Chooks-to-Go already has its eyes on the future.
The roast chicken franchise owned by Bounty Agro Ventures Incorporated (BAVI) expressed its willingness to finance a full-time national men's basketball team during a press conference that served as send-off for Gilas Pilipinas ahead of the 2017 William Jones Cup tournament.
"We're willing to, say, support a full-time national team," said BAVI president Ronald Mascariñas on Wednesday, July 12, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
"If we can iron out things with SBP and PBA, Chooks-to-Go is willing to finance a full-time national team. Of course one of the considerations are the finances of PBA players," he added.
"For those who will play full-time in the national team, we're willing to give the maximum salary of the PBA. You play for the national team, for as long as you're in the national team, we will give you the maximum. Because to be selected to the national team, you must be the best among the best."
Mascariñas clarified no plans or even initial talks have been made with either the PBA or the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) – all discussions have been internal up to this point. It's the first time that Chooks-to-Go management bared their plans for the future, and Mascariñas labeled it as a pitch.
That pitch includes offering valuable assistance even to retired national team players.
"We realized that the average playing time of a player in the PBA is 8 years. If you don't get renewed, if you're no longer competitive at a certain age, what will happen to the basketball player? We do not want to see a player, after serving the national team and the PBA, na magmukhang kawawa (to look pitiful)," Mascariñas explained.
"A lot of players, that's what happens, because they haven't developed any career, they didn't learn any businesses. We're in a peculiar situation where we can provide a business for our PBA players."
"Our plan, just like our plan for our retiring employees, is we give them one store. One Chooks-to-Go store. That's what we hope to do," he added.
"You serve the country well, you're with the national team, we will give you the maximum compensation the PBA can offer you and we'll take care of your livelihood after your playing time."
The declaration was met with applause during the press conference. The tune of this plan called to mind the initial setup of the Gilas 1 program from 2009 to 2012, with that team under coach Rajko Toroman and having then-amateurs Chris Tiu and JVee Casio.
That team ran its course but was eventually discontinued with Gilas in dire need of better, more mature PBA players for bigger tournaments.
"Gusto ko sana (I'm hoping for a) full-time national team. Wherever, kung saan man tournaments 'yan, hindi papalit-palit (Wherever, whatever tournaments those are, we won't have to keep changing the lineup)," Mascariñas said, noting a major benefit of having one full-time squad.
"We may not have the tallest team, not have the most talented team, but kung ang team natin ay matagal na magkasama (if our team plays together for a long time), in terms of teamwork, we might have that, that might be the asset of the Philippine team."
Gilas team manager and SBP director for external affairs Butch Antonio praised Chooks-to-Go for its unwavering support.
"You have to give it to Chooks-to-Go. They have not relented in support. When they were unleashed, they were just really unleashed. With regard to that plan, it's something that we can expound and talk about," he told reporters.
"Right now nothing is cast in stone, it has not even been put on any table for discussion. But that is an option that can be cultivated. For me anything that will help the program, it will help the federation, it will help the Philippines in general, eh dapat natin pagbigyan at pag-ukulan ng pansin (we should consider and take note of it)."
Chooks-to-Go signed on as a major sponsor for Gilas Pilipinas in late 2016 and has since been very active in supporting the national team. Their deal will run for 4 years.
Building a sustainable, long-term, and more importantly highly competitive national team has long been a subject of debate among basketball analysts and fans alike.
Gilas Pilipinas has persisted and had success in recent years thanks in large part to the relentless approach of patron Manuel V. Pangilinan and the cooperation of the PBA, albeit inconsistent at times.
The current program, aimed at long-term success hopefully in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and the 2010 Tokyo Olympics, has so-called Gilas cadets playing in the PBA, one for each team.
Based on the SBP and PBA agreement, those players can be pulled out at any time for national team duty. PBA teams are then also required to release one other regular player from their rosters to go with the 12 cadets.
When pressed for more details of the plan, Mascariñas said they would also want a full-time coaching staff to go with potentially up to 16 players. The next step, Mascariñas said, would be to discuss with the PBA and the SBP.
Should the pitch materialize, Chooks-to-Go would then abandon its plans of owning a PBA franchise.
For now, Chooks-to-Go will continue sponsoring the current roster of Gilas players as they participate in the Jones Cup beginning this weekend as well as the FIBA Asia Cup and the Southeast Asian Games next month. – Rappler.com