While the Toronto Raptors take a 3-1 lead and are on the verge of stunning the Golden State Warriors, let’s re-train our eyes back on local shores, shall we? Cebu Basketball has been quiet these past months, hasn’t it? The good news is that the CESAFI Partners’ Cup fired off yesterday, a pre-season tournament in preparation for the upcoming CESAFI 2019-2020 season. And since it’s practically the only game in town (for the big leagues), basketball action is going to heat up along with the current microwave-like temperatures.

Competing are the member teams of the CESAFI. In the collegiate division are ARQ Builders/UV, Jomang’s Surplus/UC, USJR, Cebu Landmasters Inc./USC, Tough Gear/CITU, SWU-PHINMA and USPF. Meanwhile the high school division is composed of ARQ Builders/UV, Tough Gear/SWU-PHINMA, Cebu Landmasters Inc./SHS-Ateneo, Cebu Elite/USC, Hotel Fortuna/UC, USJR, USPF, OCCCI/CITU, and UCLM. Games will be played at the USC Main Gym and the Cebu Coliseum, the two most popular gyms for the collegiate scene for the past four to five decades.

Why is this tournament important? The most basic reason is that Cebu Basketball is dead without the CESAFI. Since we don’t have a legitimate commercial league that can have games played for large parts of the year, college basketball is THE main event itself. Let’s give credit though to the recently concluded Governor’s Cup, the Samsam Gullas Cup, Red Durano Cup and other initiatives that tapped grassroots talents for its tournaments. These were able to fill in the vacuum left when basketball is quiet. But let’s face it. The CESAFI is CESAFI. This is where Cebu’s best players are found, honed and developed. And this is why it can go silent for a long time.

Rey Suerte played for UV, was named an MVP of the CESAFI, and has played in the PBA D-League in Manila. He’s playing for the University of the East in the UAAP in a one-and-done gimmick this school-year. He’s also assured of slot with Batangas in the MPBL when the UAAP season is over. His fellow MVP Jaybie Mantilla of USJR is going the same path and will play for the University of the Philippines alongside CESAFI products Jun Manzo, Janjan Jaboneta and Pio Longa. Mantilla will then resume his stint with the Cebu Casino Sharks in the MPBL.

Also stepping up to take their careers to Manila collegiate teams are the likes of CESAFI high school standouts Joshua Yerro (Adamson) and Beirn Laurente (Lyceum). Already in the UAAP, NCAA and NAASCU are SHS-Ateneo products Jed Colonia, Zachy Huang, Josh Sinclair, Franz Diaz and Alex Visser. Ex-USPF players JB Bahio and Ayn Obeinza are with San Beda. Orlan Wamar played for CEU then San Juan in the MPBL. With today’s program of recruiting going deeper and wider, Manila’s high school teams (Juniors and Passerelle) are now stacked with Cebu products. This list can go on and on and I’m sure I missed out on some names but one thing is certain. This pattern of producing quality players isn’t going to stop. We must also stress that the PBA’s most dominant player today is no less than June Mar Fajardo, the gentle giant who once roamed the streets of Sanciangko while playing for UC. And didn’t Greg Slaughter once wear the green and white of UV? And look who came out as the top vote-getter in the recent elections for councilors of Cebu City’s South district: Dondon Hontiveros also of UC (college) and Don Bosco (high school).

I cite all these names so we realize how much Cebu has contributed to the Philippine basketball scene and so that it can level-up and do even more: for its players and its over-all segment. Leveling up means having even more games for everyone. As a benchmark, the Manila basketball scene is so loaded this summer that some teams play in as many as three tournaments these days. To cite an example, college and high school teams play in the PBA D-League, Filoil Pre-season tournament, Fr. Martin’s Cup, Milcu Got Skills and/or the UCBL. For Cebu, while it may not be practical to have many tournaments ongoing at the same time, there are still months when the basketball scene is idle. I would’ve loved to see basketball activities between January and April. The CESAFI Partners’ Cup takes place June to July, while the main CESAFI tournament is from August to November.

While ARQ/UV, Jomang’s/UC will be a favorites to win the CESAFI Partner’s Cup, all coaches are more concerned with getting more exposure and playing time for their teams. This is the only long-running tournament outside of the CESAFI’s main tournament later as all other pre-season tournaments are short weekend games. So bring on the CESAFI Partner’s Cup. Let the teams play, get in the much-needed game exposure and let our players improve and develop themselves.

Source: CESAFI’s back in action