MANILA, Philippines -- Franz Pumaren sees plenty of benefits to allowing foreign student-athletes to play in collegiate leagues -- from leveling the playing field to improving the skills of local players.
Thus, the Adamson University head coach was quite surprised at the decision of the NCAA to ban "imports" starting next year, when it holds its 96th season.
"I was surprised nga, how come… Of course, it's the decision of the board of the NCAA. Why did they remove it? Kasi ako -- it's my own opinion -- if I'm a small school compared to the other big schools in the NCAA, only way for me to compete is to get an import eh," said Pumaren during a recent appearance on the "Coaches Unfiltered" podcast.
"At least kahit papaano, you can compete with them," he added.
The NCAA Management Committee confirmed in June that it will push through with the decision to ban foreign student-athletes, with chairman Fr. Vic Calvo of Colegio de San Juan de Letran claiming that they have done "more harm than good."
"At the moment, majority of the NCAA schools agree na mas maraming negative na nadudulot 'yung presence ng import," Calvo said.
It's a sentiment that Pumaren does not agree with. He believes that having foreign student-athletes will help smaller schools compete, especially given the landscape of recruitment in the collegiate leagues.
"Unang-una, when it comes to recruiting local players ang first option nila is 'yung so-called big schools eh so doon mahihirapan ka na agad eh," he said.
"At least with the imports, you can level the playing field especially if you're lucky that you're able to get a good import," he added.
Moreover, Pumaren believes that having foreign players in the league will benefit the locals -- something that has been said by former NCAA Most Valuable Player Raymond Almazan and UAAP Mythical Team member Justine Baltazar. Almazan has said that playing against "imports" prepared him for the PBA, and Baltazar credited his battles with Cameroonian star Ben Mbala in their practices with elevating his game.
"It's a good training ground for local players," said Pumaren. "Could you just imagine, day in day out, 'yan ang bantay ng local players ng college players, then when you play against the opposing college teams, they play against the import."
"It improves the quality of the game and it improves the level of competition. At the same time 'yung local players it improves their skills eh. So for me, I’m for it," he said.
Pumaren has coached two foreign student-athletes during his time in Adamson -- Papi Sarr and Lenda Douanga.
There is one thing that Pumaren would change, however. He is not a fan of how foreign student-athletes have been dominating the awards scene in the UAAP, particularly in recent years.
"Imports" have won the UAAP Most Valuable Player award for the past four seasons, with Soulemane Chabi Yo of University of Santo Tomas winning the top individual trophy in Season 82.
Pumaren suggests that imports should instead have a separate award, much like how the NCAA gave out a "Best Foreign Player" plum in Season 95 -- the last year where they would be allowed to play.
"I proposed this already to our board representative, dapat sa UAAP hindi nagiging MVP ang import. They should be classified as best (foreign) student-athlete," he said. "Kasi lugi na eh. I think sa NCAA, there was one time 'yung mythical team yata, puro import."
"Hindi eh. 'Yun ang opinion ko, kaya nga sa PBA, 'di ba, wala ngang nag-MVP na import dahil import 'yan eh. Best Import," he stressed. "Kasi kawawa 'yung locals eh. That's my opinion. It's up to the board if they want to decide on that one."
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