Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Poor Decisions: Why Stay Bobby Ray?

"This July, I'm going to take my talents to the Mall of Asia and join the National University Bulldogs"

I do not understand Bobby Ray Parks' decision to forego his scholarship to play for US NCAA Division I school Georgia Tech and instead play locally, in the UAAP, for the National University Bulldogs. No doubt, a good number of people won't understand the decision either.

There will be people who will claim to understand it though. They will wrap their reasons in the cloak of patriotism, but that's an overly simplistic view of things. It would be considered patriotic if the two leagues, the US NCAA and the UAAP were equal. It doesn't take a genius to see that the two aren't. And regardless of whether or not his future intentions are to play in the NBA, to play for a Philippine National Team, both, or simply to be the best that he can be, all three goals would be best achieved by going to Georgia Tech. He accomplishes none of those by going to NU.

Parks will not get noticed or draw any attention from NBA scouts by playing here. He may be good, but it'll be hard to tell here. At 6'5", Parks will be taller than most of his competition, a situation that will only be exacerbated by the fact that his father is insisting that he play a guard position. Playing long minutes at the 4 or 5 won't help him either, because the NBA won't be drafting him for his post skills. It's nice to see a taller point guard like Chauncey Billups post up a smaller opponent in the post, but it's not something you want to go to on every possession, so toss that out the window.

Defenders of his decision will say that by playing in the UAAP, he will have an easier time representing his country in international competitions. This is nonsense. The US NCAA basketball season runs roughly from October to March. The UAAP basketball season runs from July to October, with the PCCL in November. Guess what months most international competitions run from? The answer is July to November, meaning Parks would have to take a leave of absence from his studies and the Bulldogs to represent his country. If he had chosen Georgia Tech, it would be summer from July to September, and non-conference play up until January. That means Parks could easily come back to the Philippines with permission from GT to play for events like the Olympic Qualifier. This is something international students do all the time, like for example, current Portland Trailblazer, St. Mary's alum, and Australian national team member Patrick Mills.

Making the decision more inexplicable is the possibility that Parks will be ruled ineligible to play for at most two seasons locally, should several schools push through with their plan to question his eligibility.

In the article in the Philippine Star, NU head coach Eric Altamirano compares the case of Parks to that of DLSU Green Archer Maui Villanueva, saying "Bobby Ray played for the Philippines in the first Youth Olympics in Singapore last year. Residency is not necessary in his case."

Actually though, the two cases are quite dissimilar. As of Season 70, the UAAP Rules and Regulations says that a player who studied abroad must sit out 2 years before becoming eligible. One exception though, is for "Filipino students who had their second high school graduation abroad, provided the first graduation was from a high school in the Philippines." EDITED (01/12/11):  Such was the case for Villanueva, who graduated from UPIS, before moving to Japan and graduating from a high school there. Such was the case of Villanueva, who did not graduate from UPIS before finishing high school in Japan. Such was the case of Villanueva, who graduated from UPIS, AND from a secondary school in Japan. Thus, according to the rule (which is named in his honor), Villanueva was able to play immediately for DLSU in Season 70. In Parks' case, he studied high school in Melrose, Memphis, Tennessee where it is unclear if he graduated or not, given how he is listed as a class of 2011 recruit by ESPN.

What is known is that sometime around last year's UAAP season, he came over to the Philippines and enrolled in classes in National University. The article says that Parks "obtained a certification from the Department of Education" confirming that he has completed his high school requirements, but the point of attack will be where said requirements were completed. If the answer is, "America," he will have to sit out. EDITED TO ADD (01/12/11): Is it possible that NU had Parks take a PEP test? Parks would still have to sit out a year, according to UAAP rules. However, given that Parks enrolled as a freshman last year, which could in theory count as his year of sitting out, it gives rise to the question, "when did he take the test if he just came back to Manila last year?" And how could he pass the test given, at most, reaching the junior year in the US?

Making the situation more befuddling is the fact that Ray parks, his father, has said that Bobby Ray will still leave the door open to play college in the US, saying that his son "will play at least two years with NU then he'll study his options." While anything is possible, the chances of him getting recruited again by a program as good as Georgia Tech are now much slimmer. It's rare for student-atheletes to break or go back on their Letters of Intent, which Parks signed when he committed to Georgia Tech, and even rarer for them to want back in. The longer he plays collegiately will also have a negative effect on his NBA draft stock, what with most teams wanting rookies to be closer to 20, than to 24, which he will be, by the time he plays two years in the UAAP, one year of red-shirting, and at least one year in the NCAA.

And finally, there is the unspoken suspicion going around the internet that the reason why Parks has decided to stay is to keep reaping the benefits of a substantial signing bonus that NU offered him. As ADMU coach Norman Black said winkingly in a forum, he fears NU in the upcoming UAAP season because "they've been buying a lot of players out signing bonuses." Although that line drew laughs, it is the sort of thing that the NCAA can and probably will look into, further decreasing his chances of playing in the US.

There is no question that the addition of Parks will make the NU Bulldogs a Final Four contender next season. What is sad is the amount of opportunities abroad that Parks is giving up in order to give a former doormat team some legitimacy. Again, you can dress it up in patriotism all you want, but the possibility of Parks becoming the first Filipino drafted in the NBA would have been bigger cause for celebration. Settling for the UAAP, and most likely, for the PBA, isn't.

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