Seeing homegrown Filipino player in NBA 'just a matter of time'

MANILA, Philippines – With the rise of basketball talent in the Philippines, an NBA executive is convinced that it won't take long before the country witnesses its first homegrown player in the world's best basketball league. 

NBA Asia managing director Scott Levy told Filipino reporters he believes a full-blooded Filipino is bound for the NBA soon – and not just one, but many. 

"I think it's just a matter of time before we have multiple local Filipinos playing in the NBA," Levy said during a media roundtable at the NBA Philippines headquarters in Taguig on Wednesday, October 24. 

"The game is getting better, the coaches are getting better, the level of talent in the PBA continues to go up and there are more Filipino players coming to the US and playing in university, so it's definitely going to happen."

Many have attempted to turn that Filipino dream into reality. 

In recent memory, Ray Parks and Kiefer Ravena had both tried their lucks in the NBA G-League.

After going undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft, Parks became the first Filipino-born player to see action in the NBA Summer League thanks to an invitation from the Dallas Mavericks.

He then suited up for the Mavericks' minor league affiliate, Texas Legends, in the G-League and played there for one season before he joined Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) in 2016. 

Ravena, meanwhile, signed as a "developmental player" for the Legends in 2016 but did not become a part of the team's official roster. He is now part of NLEX in the PBA after being picked second overall in the 2017 draft. 

The closest the Philippines could get to a Filipino NBA player is Jordan Clarkson of the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

But all of that could change with 7-foot-1 wunderkind Kai Sotto, who – at a young age of 16 – has received offers to play in Europe and the NCAA Division 1 in the USA. 

Rumors swirled in September that Sotto was pursued by Real Madrid. That means he could follow the path used by Luka Doncic, who signed with the Spanish giants before going third overall in the latest NBA Draft at age 19. 

However, Ateneo juniors coach Reggie Varilla revealed that Sotto will remain with the Blue Eaglets in the UAAP. 

While the chance of seeing a homegrown Filipino in the NBA has increased, Levy said it's another story for that particular player to gain the biggest following in the country. 

"[C]learly, Jordan Clarkson is very popular here, but he's not the most popular NBA player. So would a Filipino player be the most popular player? If he was the best player in the NBA, he'd probably be the most popular player," he said. 

"But if he's not, I think Filipino players will follow that player and will continue to follow the best players in the NBA because that's the expectation here in the Philippines – I'm looking for the best players and the best teams and that's who I want to follow." –

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.