Japanese basketball

Japan B. League emerging as top destination for young Filipino hoops stars

Naveen Ganglani

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Japan B. League emerging as top destination for young Filipino hoops stars

SIBLINGS ABROAD. Brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño will both take their talents to Japan.


The monetary benefit, international-level coaching and exposure, and the chance to travel while playing in Japan are tempting propositions for the Philippines' top young players

When Javi Gomez De Liaño announced in early 2021 his plan to return for a final year with the UP Fighting Maroons – fueled by a desire to win the school its first UAAP title since 1986 – he did so despite knowing that a handful of PBA teams were more than ready to select him once he joined for the draft. 

“The PBA is great,” Gomez de Liaño told Rappler, “but there’s really nothing wrong if you dream big.”

That is one of the reasons why he had a change of heart.

Rather than playing his final season of collegiate eligibility or declaring for the PBA Draft, Gomez de Liaño followed the same path as his brother Juan and Thirdy Ravena by signing with the Ibaraki Robots of the Japan B. League as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

The GDLs won’t be the last to choose this path.

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The Robots await in Javi’s next chapter

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According to multiple trusted sources, the entry level for a B. League Asian import’s salary is currently at least $10,000 (around P490,000) a month, which is more than triple the monthly salary for a top PBA rookie and even more than the monthly salary of a veteran player in the league. 

That figure could go up to as much as $50,000 (around P2.45 million) a month, depending on the player’s performance and market size of his team.

“The bigger the market, the bigger the offer,” a source said. 

The monetary benefit is enticing alone, but the added bonus of international-level coaching and exposure plus the chance to travel and explore different cultures are tempting propositions for the country’s young hoops standouts. 

Javi was personally recruited by Ibaraki head coach Richard Glessman, in addition to the team managers and president.

Juan, who signed with Earth Friends Tokyo Z, admitted that the presence of his new coach, Hugo Lopez, who has more than two decades of coaching internationally, played a major role in his final choice.

Ravena, considered a pioneer for his decision to sign with San-En NeoPhoenix, recently inked an extension to stay with the team, further delaying a potential return to the Philippine basketball pro scene.

Sources said the B. League is currently scouting other young players as well, notably those who recently played for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Justine Baltazar, La Salle’s veteran standout, was mentioned repeatedly.

Rappler has also learned from sources that former UAAP MVP and PBA top draft pick Bobby Ray Parks is set to join the B. League. 

As of posting time, Parks has not responded to a request for an interview.

Another source said B. League teams have showed interest in Kobe Paras given his talent and social reach, which are factors in teams’ recruitment.

Kiefer Ravena, who was barred by the PBA from joining the B. League because of his contractual commitment with NLEX, is still part of the Shiga Lakestars’ line-up for the upcoming season.

There is the possibility there will be more players recruited, as this upcoming B. League season will be a way to “test the local talent,” a source said. 

With that in mind, the current trend of recruiting Filipino talent to display their abilities in the Japanese basketball scene could only be on the rise, leading to the question of “who will be next?”

Given the many benefits, from money to exposure, the chances of it happening more seems likely.

And with that in mind, it’s fair to wonder how the PBA will react as the country’s young talents spread their wings elsewhere. – Rappler.com


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