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Henry Liao

College Basketball: Student-first, Athlete-second Foreign Players

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Since the mid-2000s, foreign student-athletes have flocked to play in premier college basketball leagues in the Metro Manila area, including the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Even Cebu has followed Imperial Manila’s lead as elite schools belonging to the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (CESAFI) also have utilized the services of foreigners in recent years to prop up their rosters.

Some teams have as many as five imports – two eligible to suit up immediately in the NCAA, UAAP or CESAFI – and three others on Team B or on the reserved list.

Most of them are of African variety – from Nigeria to Cameroon to Sierra Leone, to Congo (the former Zaire) to Ghana – for the simple reason that they are as athletic as African-Americans but come in cheaper in recruitment payoffs to sports agents and monthly allowances to players.
Regardless, the foreign recruits are paid handsomely, if not royally. There’s free tuition and tutorship, a rented condo unit, a high-end vehicle for their transport, tutorship for the academically-challenged and, of course, a monthly allowance. All these benefits are courtesy of the rich businessmen among their alumni communities.

I have called it allowances since the word “salary” has a different connotation.

In the American NCAA, which remains an amateur league in nature, any form of monetary payments or perks to an athlete runs the risk of his school being suspended or banned from NCAA tournament participation (March Madness) and the player losing his NCAA eligibility altogether.
Even the acceptance of free mobile phone load, transportation money (even for recruitment trips) or a financial loan (or a doleout) from the basketball team boosters (or school alumni) is disallowed.

Doing so would compromise their amateur status. The U.S. NCAA has remained an amateur league since its inauguration in 1939 and is independent of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), which has ceased to differentiate an amateur from a pro under its “open basketball” policy since 1990.

Through the decades, there just have been too many cases of such kind of transgressions in the U.S. NCAA. Some get caught by the NCAA police early while others have been able to camouflage their “dark” secrets for some time before punishment is served years later.

In several instances, there were a number of schools that participated in the final national championship that had their tournament records struck out due to violations (major or minor) of NCAA rules following post-tournament investigations that sometimes are concluded several years thereafter after more evidence are pieced together.

Even player statistics from those seasons were deleted from the official U.S. NCAA basketball tournament record books.
In the past, there were three NCAA tournament teams that had to surrender their second-place trophies because of NCAA violations that were discovered and authenticated years later.

These are the University of Los Angeles at California (UCLA) in 1980 (a finals loss to the University of Louisville), the University of Michigan (led by the Fab Five that included Chris Webber) in 1992 and 1993 and Memphis University (powered by Derrick Rose) in 2008, have to surrender their second-place trophies because of NCAA violations.

In the local setting, foreign student-athletes are expected to come in with the mindset of being a student firstly and an athlete secondly.
Alas, some have come aboard primarily to play basketball (their height is a giveaway) and only look to study when there is a full moon.
Education must be of prime importance to foreign student-athletes.

Perhaps they should try to emulate former Atenean Jeffrey Kirk Long.

With the Blue Eagles varsity, Long was no extraordinary player. But as a student, he was outstanding enough to graduate with a college degree.

Long, to me and some, is a prime example of a student-first, athlete-second foreign college player from the past.

Concededly, there also have been former foreign recruits who also did their homework (pun intended) well and even studied hard to graduate with a degree.

From what I have been told, ex-San Beda College imports Sam Ekwe and Sudan Daniel took their studies seriously when they were at the Mendiola campus.

But they are more of an exception than the rule.

There have been foreign imports from other high-profile schools that have spoon-fed them or tolerated their disrespectful acts (including exorbitant material demands) at the expense of team unity and chemistry.

This is not acceptable. And it will never be.
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Philippine Basketball


  1. BedanRoar's Avatar
    Even Local (Blu Chips) Athletes are receiving these Perks!

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