This is the problem with the PBA right now.
It’s not the fans.
It’s their system.
It’s Father Time.
When you type “youngest PBA player” on Google, the first name that pops up is Encho Serrano. Drafted 19th overall by the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters in the 2022 PBA Draft (or Season 47, if you’re a nerd), the former DLSU Green Archer and MPBL mainstay is been having a good rookie season.
Serrano is also 23 years old.
He has yet to hit his prime. With that said, a 23-year-old rookie is considerably old. In the 2022 NBA Draft, Ochai Agbaji is the only college senior selected in the first round and he is also born in 2000. The dude will only turn 23 in April and he was drafted 14th overall because he got picked “old”. The next senior selected in the draft is Indiana Pacers' Andrew Nembhard. Selected 31st, he is actually having a good rookie campaign for the East squad. Nembhard just turned 23 last January and the Canadian also switched schools. In total, only four seniors were selected in the draft. In contrast, G League Ignite had three players getting picked – Dyson Daniels and Marjon Beauchamp in the first round with Jaden Hardy scoring a spot in the second round. In 2021, Ignite had Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, and Isaiah Todd and the drafted seniors were only six.
Basically, hanging on to a college career is detrimental to an NBA career.
In the Philippines, it’s different.
It didn’t help that the really stupid K-to-12 plan just added two additional years to students. With that said, this is not a political blog so I am not going to on this. However, in this day and age, with the whole basketball globalization going on, it’s no wonder why other players are choosing the international market over the PBA.
Luka Doncic is going to play his fourth NBA All-Star Game at 23 years old. He is also older than Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson, Jr., Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, and Zion Williamson. Meanwhile, Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser is the top pick of the 2022 PBA Draft, has played in a lot of places as an import, and is older than multiple-time NBA MVPs Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic.
I know education is important in the Philippines but this is also why the PBA isn’t as popular and why the young players are choosing other leagues. I think it’s better for the PBA teams to loan the players to the international leagues and keep their rights than what is the current trend in the UAAP and NCAA at the moment. Because here’s the thing – there was a time when this is considered a violation. When Bobby Ray Parks moved from Georgia Tech to NU, we saw this as a wow moment and when he foregoes his remaining UAAP year to pursue an NBA career, people also saw this as a drastic step. The same thing can be said with Kobe Paras. Yes, the spotlight is on Kai Sotto but there are tens of players trying their luck in various leagues if they would stay in college, then by the time they are “ready”, they are also well in their prime.
Brent Paraiso – a two-time NCAA champ – is expected to apply for the draft because aside from exhausting his college opportunities, he is also 27 years old. 2017 top pick Christian Standhardinger is already 33 years old and he is almost the same age as 2015 top pick Mo Tautuaa. This is awe-striking considering that 2014 top pick Stanley Pringle is about to turn 36 years old in March.
Rhenz Abando is only 24 and has already obtained import status in Korea. The same can be said for 23-year-old SJ Belangel and RJ Abarrientos, as well as 22-year-old Carl Tamayo. With little to no assurance of returning, a PBA team could have tagged their rights to these players with a possibility of playing for them in the offseason like what Kiefer Ravena did a few seasons back. But then, you also need to consider that most players have tendencies to bomb – like what happened to Justine Baltazar’s KBL campaign or how Ricci Rivero’s unfortunate injury ruined his Taiwanese league stint.
Again, if the PBA wants to boost its popularity, they need to get back the teen demographic. Yes, you can depend on your old reliables especially if the PBA players of Gilas Pilipinas do well in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. With that said, most of the players are coming from the top teams, which would further alienate the fans from the down-and-out squads. Converge is doing its best to make its team "young" and in some ways, this is working well for them.
What about the other teams though?