Reviving Cebu commercial basketball

CEBU CITY, Philippines – How long Cebu basketball has been orphaned? Well it’s quite a long time now.

Why did I use the word orphan? Because Cebu no longer has an existing developmental basketball tournament that compliments the school league, the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (CESAFI).

The last organized commercial league was the Cebu Basketball Federation (CBF) that ceased to exist in mid-2000s. While pocket tournaments and regional competitions sprouted like mushrooms from where CBF had stopped operation, they too did not stay long enough to make impressions.

Likewise, tournaments that do not embrace a developmental concept as most teams hired either former pros or over the hill cagers that old enough to get their chances in the pros.

As a basketball fanatic, my awareness of commercial basketball started with the Cebu Basketball League (CBL) in its glory days. As a sports journalist, I witnessed and covered the heights of the Mandaue Industrial-Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) and CBF.

These tournaments contributed much to the vast history of Cebu basketball. It gave us the moniker as the basketball hotbed of the South.

Many PBA Great players were discovered from CBL, the likes of Anthony Mendoza, Jun Jun Cabanca, Max Delantes, Montoy Singson, Allen Sasan, Rhoel Gomez, Larry Villanil, Rudy Enterina, Fredie Abuda, Ronnie Padilla, Ric-ric Marata, Boy Cabahug, Al Solis, Gilbert Demape, Junthy Valenzuela, Jimwell Torion, Botchoy Alforque, Jercules Tangkay to name a few.

MICAA also had a slew of players who were in the roster of the PBA – Roger Yap, Danny Aying, John Ferriols, Joel Co, Bruce Dacia, Stephen Padilla among others while JR Quinahan, Niel Raneses, Peter June Simon, Reynell Hugnatan, Mark Magsumbol and Red Juntilla were among the players who made it to the Philippine pro league coming from CBF tournaments.

But the golden years of Cebu basketball came during the Cebu Amateur Basketball Association (CABA) where the big names like Ramon “El Presidente” Fernandez, Yoyong Martirez, Jake Rojas, Estoy Estrada, Manny Paner, Dodie Miego, Boy Adolfo among who made it to the pro league.

You see, Cebu basketball was vibrant then. And every game was packed to the rafters that were perfect for TV, only television coverage was impossible back then.

After CBF, Cebu was left with only the school tournament, the CESAFI. Yes, it has a fair share of players send to the pros. Junemar Fajardo, the owner of record 6-MVP awards in succession, fellow giant Gregg Slaughter, guards Brian Heruela, Mac-Mac Tallo and Rey Anthony Suerte, who is yet to see action with the team that drafted him because of his obligations with the Gilas Pilipinas. RR Pogoy and Paul Desiderio included since they have also played in the CESAFI Juniors tournament.

However, this will end when the coronavirus disease is won. A group basically made up of University of Cebu Law School Dean Baldomero Estenzo – who is the prime mover of MICAA and CBF and the think-tank of CESAFI, sportsman-businessman Lorenzo Sy and sports journalists Jun Migallen and this writer met last week to discuss the possibility of reviving a commercial league that would help aspiring players develop their skills,

According to Estenzo, “It is very frustrating that Cebu being a prime city/province and a basketball hotbed has no commercial league to boot. How can we develop our collegiate players without one? Some would go to Manila just to play after college but only a few get that chance. We are here to know what were the reasons why commercial tournaments folded up, point out what went wrong and correct those mistakes to be sure that will not happen again.”

Sy added that in order for a commercial league to prosper, “the crowd must be involved. As we can see, the CESAFI tournament is a barometer. Basketball in Cebu is practically dead because even the collegiate tournament has “no attendance.” We must understand why this happened and make corrections so that we will make the difference.”

At this point, five teams are already sending their intentions, but Estenzo needs their commitment to participate.

An invitation to the next meeting will be handed out. For those who are interested, you may email or send a message through messenger to this writer.