From Dave Ildefonso, Carl Tamayo, and more, these basketball stars took their talents abroad.
In the basketball-loving country that is the Philippines, it feels as if we’re being introduced to new sports stars every year. All you have to do is watch the new seasons of the UAAP and NCAA to see which ballers are grabbing people’s attention with their talents. It’s no secret that the country has many talented basketball players who can have an illustrious career in the sport. And while Filipino players can make a living out of basketball by playing pro in the country, some athletes look to other shores to flex their talents.
Over the past year, there have been quite a few star players who decided to move on abroad or give up a promising career in collegiate basketball to turn pro overseas. There reasons for signing to an international team vary, but there’s no doubt that the appetite of international basketball teams for homegrown players is there. Here are just a few young basketball stars who decided to pack it up for the pro leagues in other countries.
Dave gave the Ildefonso family name justice during his time with the Ateneo Blue Eagles. And he ended his collegiate career on a high note with the boys in blue reclaiming the championship from UP in Season 85. But with his time in Ateneo now over, he decided to expand his horizons abroad. In early January 2023, Dave announced that he was moving to Korea to play for Suwon KT Sonicboom under the Korean Basketball League (KBL).
“I decided to take the challenge of playing in Korea. I believe that my stint in Korea will not only benefit me but will give my family pride. It will be great for both our national basketball program and our professional league for young guys like me to experience first-hand the basketball culture of other countries, and eventually share that knowledge back home,” shared Dave in the caption of his Instagram post announcing the move. Even though he’s only been playing for the team for a few days, it seems that he’s made fans in Korea with how he already has fansites.
Carl Tamayo had all the makings to be a star in his collegiate career. His rookie debut in Season 84 was explosive and helped UP achieve their first championship win in decades. He had years ahead of him with the Fighting Maroons. But it seems that life had other plans for the athlete as he announced in early January that he was going pro and playing in the Japanese B.League for the Ryukyu Golden Kings.
“Becoming a professional basketball player is a dream I have had ever since I started playing organized basketball. It will allow me to care of my family while playing the game that I love,” explained Carl in his IG post revealing the move. The announcement sent waves in the local basketball community given the promise he had for UP. Regardless, it still is a flex given how he’ll be the second Filipino after Jay Washington to play for the Ryukyu Golden Kings.
When looking at the Ateneo Blue Eagles over the past few UAAP seasons, SJ Belangel was no doubt one of the team’s stars. But then Korea came calling. The Gilas Pilipinas point guard decided to skip his last two seasons in the UAAP for a stint with the Daegu KOGAS Pegasus for the KBL. While the move was a blow for Ateneo at the time, it was a boon for SJ since he made history as the first Asian import to the KBL. In hindsight, SJ’s time in Korea was set in motion in 2021 when he impressed the crowd with a buzzer-beating three-pointer for Gilas during the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Korea.
Around the time SJ Belangel announced that he was going to Korea, one of his Gilas Pilipinas teammates made the switch, too. And that was RJ Abbarientos. Despite playing for just one season with the Far Easter University Tamaraws, RJ signed with the Ulsan Hyundai Mobis Phoebus to play in the KBL where he remains to this day.
The KBL got themselves a good one with Rhenz Abando. The former Letran Knights player was a star during his time with the NCAA, winning both Rookie of the Year and MVP, as well as helping his team go for a second straight championship in May 2022. He could have given more for Letran, but his athletic career had a different path as he signed with Anyang KGC in 2022.
From Taft to Seoul, Justin Gutang has been making moves. The former Saint Benilde player was one to watch on the court, even having an MVP title to his name. But like quite a few of his contemporaries, the young athlete signed a deal with the Changwon LG to play for them in the KBL.
JUAN GOMEZ DE LIANO
While most Filipino basketball players who go pro overseas go to Korea or Japan, Juan Gomez De Liano decided to stake his path in Europe. Initially, the UP Fighting Marrons veteran played in the B.League in Japan in 2021. But 2022 saw him make history when he signed with the BC Wolves from Lithuania. In doing so, he became the first homegrown Pinoy talent to play in Europe.