|The PSL officials and team owners are ready for the start of the PSL 21U. PSL|
CEBU CITY--After the success of its opening salvo, the Pilipinas Super League's (PSL) youth basketball division is making a return with the start of its regular season.
Formerly known as the Aspirants Division, the youth league will now be simply known as Pilipinas Super League 21U.
The inaugural season will begin on July 2 with the Visayas-Mindanao games at the Cebu City Sports Institute and the Lawa-an 1 Gym in the nearby city of Talisay.
Ten teams will take part in the VisMin games. Six of them are situated in the Cebu Province alone led by the Consolacion Sarok Weavers, the champions in the PSL 21U Invitational Tournament last summer.
The other Cebuano teams confirmed for the first season are the San Fernando Buffaloes, Padayon Bogo, Mandaue - Cebu Sherilin Trading Corporation, Barili, and the Lapu-Lapu Chiefs - ARQ Builders.
Meanwhile, representing Mindanao are the Bukidnon Cowboys, Davao Occidental Dreamers, Cagayan De Oro - Sealcor Kingfishers, and Davao Del Norte.
"We're so excited, especially with the Visayas and Mindanao teams who have committed, especially the champions during our Invitational, the Consolacion Sarok Weavers. We're very thankful to the teams," PSL president Rocky Chan said at the PSL 21U press launch held recently at Dimes Bistro and Coffee here.
For the VisMin games, the 10 teams will play a single round-robin elimination phase.
The Mindanao teams, however, will be through to the division semifinals with only their respective seeding to be disputed.
Afterward, the top four teams per island group will play in the best-of-three division semis with the winners qualifying for the best-of-three division finals.
Spicing up this season is the addition of a Northern Division pitting teams from Luzon.
As of press time, the teams that have confirmed their participation in the Luzon leg are the Pampanga Delta, Luid One Kapampangan, Pasig - Cocolife Pirates, Mapua Cardinals, Immaculada Concepcion College Blue Hawks, Cainta - NBS Kris, Paranaque, Lucena, Laguna Lakers, and Mandaluyong.
Leo Isaac, the newly-installed PSL head of basketball operations, added that the league is finalizing the commitment of Batang Bacoor to the PSL 21U Luzon leg.
A tournament format similar to that of the VisMin leg will be implemented in the Luzon leg, which will begin on July 3 in Pampanga.
Meanwhile, all the division finalists will qualify as well for the national championship later this year.
"The Luzon teams are quite excited also to meet hopefully the Visayas and Mindanao teams," Chan added.
While cash prizes will be given away to the top finishers, PSL deputy commissioner Chelito Caro clarified, "The 21-Under division of the Pilipinas Super League is an amateur league. Ang purpose lang namin is to promote the grassroots level and to discover new talents from Visayas, Mindanao, and also Luzon."
To add more hype to the upcoming league, Chan said that the PSL 21U tournament will have a similar live streaming broadcast treatment to the PSL professional division games.
"If you saw the Invitational, we did a two-camera setup. Now, to give more excitement to the games at para mas makita ang aksyon on the court, we will be doing full coverage in the upcoming inaugural conference, so it means we'll be doing probably a four-camera setup," Chan bared.
On the other hand, while PSL 21U is basically limited to players aged 21 or younger, Isaac said that they will give some leeway to players born in the year 2000 for the inaugural season as they were deprived of competitive basketball action for two years due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
"The basic meaning of 21-under is would be 21 years old and below, but for this season, approved yung born in 2000 due to the pandemic na nag-stop ng basketball sa mga bata," Isaac said. "If you were born in 2000--and baka 22 ka na ngayon--pwede ka pa rin, kasi sayang naman yung talent ng bata na di nakapaglaro because of the pandemic."
Despite allowing 22-year-olds to play, Isaac said that collegiate players who are on their schools' rosters for the UAAP and the NCAA are not allowed to join the PSL 21U season.
"We're giving way to Team B players who have not yet played in their local collegiate tournaments," he further said.
Isaac added that teams are allowed to recruit up to 20 players, but only a maximum of 15 will be allowed to suit up per gameday.
He also said that the teams are allowed to bring in a Filipino player of mixed descent, but they are limited to only one Fil-foreign player.