Marcial hopes to expand fanbase with 20-team PBA D-League

The PBA D-League is all set to open this February 14 at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City with 20 teams set to see action, which is by far the most number of squads in the league's history.

According to PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, the number was quite unexpected but he's happy that the PBA D-League has generated a lot of attention.

"To be honest, our target was just 10 to 12 teams," Marcial told ESPN5. "A lot of teams expressed their intent to join and we did our best to accommodate everyone."

The last conference of the PBA D-League only featured six teams in the competition. The six teams in the Foundation Cup played a double round robin eliminations with the top four teams making it to the semifinals and the top two holding a twice-to-beat advantage.

The Go for Gold Scratchers won the title, besting the Che-Lu Bar and Grill Revellers in a five-game series.

The other four teams from the last conference, AMA, Marinerong Pilipino, CEU, and Batangas EAC, will still be in the league but they will be challenged by strong newcomers.

UAAP champion Ateneo, NCAA champion San Beda, NAASCU champion St. Clare, and UCBL champion Diliman will spice up the competitions.

For Marcial, the D-League is not only for the development of future PBA stars but also an avenue to attract younger fans.

"We have 15 school-based teams this year and we'll be playing in four different venues to give more people the chance to see the teams, especially the students of the schools," Marcial explained. "Some of them night not be PBA fans yet but if they see the games, there's a chance that they'll follow the careers of their own players and become PBA fans as well."

Aside from the Ynares, there will be games played at the JCSGO Gym in Cubao, Paco Gym in Manila, and Trinity University of Asia.

"We'll only be having one conference this season because we want to keep the same level of competition," Marcial added. "We'll finish right before the collegiate season starts so we're hoping that there will be no weather postponements so things will run smoothly."

Asked why he thought more school-based teams decided to join, Marcial noted they the D-League is a great way to hone their players' skills.

"The level of competition here is really good so it's a good way to prepare for their own collegiate leagues. We all saw how Adamson improved last season and I think other collegiate teams saw the value in that. They can also use this to gauge which players will make into their lineup," the commissioner explained. "We all know that the most proven way to get better is to play as many games as possible at a high level and that's what our teams will get in the D-League."

Heading into the biggest D-League season ever, Marcial is hoping that more athletes get to showcase their talent to give themselves a shot at the PBA someday.

"We have so many stories like Jackson Corpuz who got his opportunity because of the D-League," closed Marcial. "We're hoping we could discover more talents and help them have a better life through basketball."