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MPBL set to turn pro ahead of Invitational

MPBL, Chooks-to-Go, and member team officials gathered for a general meeting ahead of the invitational tournament that would kick off the new season. Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas/MPBL
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--A major reboot will take place once the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League restarts this December.

Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas, the league behind the country's only professional 3x3 basketball league, has been tasked by MPBL founder Manny Pacquiao to handle the league's operations starting with an invitational tournament this December.

"Ang involvement po ng Chooks-to-Go is a little bit more expanded coming from a title sponsorship. Now, ang hawak na po ng Chooks-to-Go ay ang operations of the league," said Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas spokesperson Mark Zambrano. "This will still be done in cooperation and partnership with both our league founder Sen. Manny Pacquiao and the office of commissioner Kenneth Duremdes. 

"There will be changes but these changes will all be good for the league. Side-by-side, yun po ang gagawin natin."

Gone will be the height limit restriction for Filipino-foreigners that will play in the league. For as long as the player has a Philippine passport, he will be eligible to play.

Previously, Fil-foreigners above 6-foot-5 were not allowed to play in the league.

Restrictions on the number of homegrown players and "ex-pros" have also been removed.

The country's regional men's league is also in the process of turning professional and getting accreditation from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).

"There will also be meetings with our team managers, league officials, and the Games and Amusements Board regarding this matter," Zambrano added.

Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes will still retain his position. And he is embracing the sweeping changes the MPBL is set to undergo.

"Unang-una, nagpapasalamat kami sa lahat ng team owners na dumalo and, of course, sa Chooks-to-Go na nagkaroon tayo ng panibagong partnership. We both have a common goal which is to help our players reach their potential," he said. "May mga players na nag-struggle talaga this pandemic. Patience is a virtue talaga at naghintay ng tamang panahon ang MPBL para ma-reignite ang ating liga. 

"This is the best time na matagal ng hinihintay ng ating mga fans at ng ating mga players," he added.

Thirteen teams have already confirmed their participation for the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Invitational Tournament set from Dec. 11-21 at either the Caloocan Sports Complex, the Ynares Center in Antipolo, or Sta. Rosa Sports Complex.

Headlining the field are Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan season champion Davao Occidental Tigers.

Also joining them are the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards, the Makati Super Crunch, the GenSan Warriors, the Caloocan Supremos, the Sarangani Marlins, the Rizal Golden Coolers-Xentro Mall, the Marikina Shoemasters, the Binan City Heroes, the Bicol Volcanoes, the Imus Bandera, the Negros Mascuvados, and a team from Bacolod.

Other MPBL member teams who want to join the Invitationals are given a Wednesday afternoon deadline to make their decision. The final list of participating teams will be announce on Thursday.

Excited are the team representatives present about the upcoming changes set to be made by the league.

"We are very, very happy na makakapag-start na ang league with the partnership of Chooks and the MPBL," said Makati team owner Paolo Orbeta. "We would like to let everyone know that we are aligned with the goals of Chooks-to-Go MPBL. We needed this start para magtuloy-tuloy na for everyone. Maganda na we will have something to end the year on a positive note."

"Kanina nga nabanggit ni Commissioner na ang tagal ng nawala yung MPBL. Yung invitational tournament natin is our window to start the new normal," expressed Marikina head coach Elvis Tolentino.

"We are excited sa balik bola ng Chooks-to-Go and MPBL. It's been two long years," said Rizal team manager Angie Azores. "Sobrang dami naming natatanggap ng inquiries from the players. We are happy to be able to help them again and bring them back to the sport that they love."

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