MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines just raised the ante for its 2022 East Asia Super League championship bid after PBA chairman Ricky Vargas announced the possible inclusion of the Gilas Pilipinas national team to the country’s pool of representatives.
Speaking in an EASL press conference on Thursday, December 2, Vargas explained how the national team can be included with the PBA’s top four teams which will be tapped to play in the regional league.
“The simplest way that we talked about is by drawing lots,” he said regarding the selection of the two Philippine teams to be deployed. The initial plan was to send the most recent conference champion and runner-up to fly the Philippine flag.
“The other way is also by forming teams around the top four teams. We may even consider including in the discussion the Philippine team, Gilas. We want to be competitive, and we will be competitive. That’s how we look at it,” he continued.
Given that most of the country’s national team mainstays are stars of the PBA’s top teams anyway, EASL CEO Matt Beyer gave his full support for the Philippines’ plans for the new tournament kicking off on October 2022.
“It’s all about being competitive. That’s what the fans want to see. We want to see the best Filipino teams possible, and we want to have the best matches possible on a weekly basis,” he said.
“In terms of this partnership with the PBA, we want it to be long-term, fair, equitable, and a true win-win. We support the PBA’s method for selecting teams, and we’re looking forward to strong Filipino teams taking part in EASL.”
Regarding possible scheduling conflicts with the EASL, Vargas assured fans of the PBA’s commitment, and likely the national team by extension, to the players’ availability.
“The number of [PBA] conferences has not been determined [for 2022], but when we signed the agreement with EASL, we were already looking at our schedules.”
“Right now we have two conferences, and those two conferences will probably end by February or March. We will adjust the [PBA schedule] year to be able to accommodate the schedule of the EASL.”
Split into two groups of four teams, the qualified squads from the PBA, Japan B. League, Korean Basketball League, Taiwan P. League, and the Hong Kong-based Bay Area Chun Yu team will play home-and-away games in their group following a round-robin format.
The group stage will run until February 2023, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the final four before ultimately vying for a $1 million cash prize in the finals.
So far, no PBA team has won in the EASL, whether in its Super 8 or Terrific 12 tournaments. Time will tell if the possible inclusion of the Gilas stars will change the country’s fortunes moving forward. – Rappler.com