By John Bryan Ulanday
PHILIPPINE representatives have yet to be determined with the ongoing 2022 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup, but Commissioner Willie Marcial vows an all-out campaign to fly the flag high in the East Asia Super League (EASL) when it opens its inaugural season as the continent’s first regional league starting in October.
Ranged against the top ball clubs across different leagues in Asia, Mr. Marcial said whichever teams get to represent the PBA will hold their own — loud and proud — after finally determining the two groups for the eight-team EASL.
“The PBA is very excited to join the EASL. Mabigat ang laban natin sa EASL, but we will give the teams a run for their own money,” beamed Mr. Marcial after the official ceremony attended by EASL heads and respective officials of the founding leagues at the Shang-ri La The Fort, Manila on Tuesday.
“Abangan nila ang Pilipinas,” he added, looking forward to testing the mettle of the teams from the Korean Basketball League (KBL), Japan B.League, Chinese Taipei’s P.League+ and Greater China.
The PBA will field the top two teams from the ongoing All-Filipino Conference in the EASL with the pending champion landing in Group A and the runner-up in the powerhouse Group B.
Group A, after the draw rites led by CEO and founder Matt Beyer, has the PBA champion, KBL runner-up Anyang KGC, B.League runner-up Ryukyu Golden Kings, and P.League+ champion Taipei Fubon Braves.
The PBA runner-up fell in the loaded Group B composed of KBL champion Seoul SK Knights, B.League titlist Utsunomiya Brex and Bay Area Dragons from Hong Kong under the watch of legendary Australian mentor Brian Goorjian.
Bay Area will actually have Manila as its temporary home for the EASL tourney aside from a participation in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup as a guest team.
The eight EASL teams will slug it out in a home-and-away format starting on Oct. 12 until 2023 with the inaugural champion winning a $1-million grand prize.
But more than going toe-to-toe against neighboring leagues, Mr. Marcial and the PBA are looking forward to the EASL as a historic avenue to strengthen ties in the region all for the development and promotion of Asian basketball.
“It will be a mutual benefit for all the leagues as it will boost our partnership and relationship in the continent. It’s a big thing for basketball. We will showcase Asian basketball here in the EASL,” added Mr. Marcial, who will actually have separate meetings with KBL and B.League officials soon.
Mr. Beyer, who was also joined by B.League chairman Shinji Shimada, KBL commissioner Kim Hee-Ok and Bay Area representative Francesco Berre, echoed the same vision as EASL sets out a global vision.
“It feels like I’m still in the dream but when the games start, it will be reality. We want to see the entertainment value of Asian basketball rise. Our goal is to be a top-3 league in the world,” he said.