The Philippine Basketball Association of Winnipeg (PBA) tipped off its 2013-2014 season on Sun., Nov. 17 at Garden City Collegiate.
This year, the PBA boasts more than 50 teams, split up between its tykes, peewee, bantam, midget, juvenile, men’s open , ladies’ open, senior’s (33 and over) and master’s (43 and over) divisions.
The organization was founded in 2001 by president Manny Aranez and has been growing ever since.
"Originally it was just for Filipinos in the community. It started out with seven teams and now its spread and got bigger and open to everyone," said Aranez, 56, who grew up in the Philippines, moving to Canada at age 21.
"The reason (he started the PBA), just because my son used to play and there was no organized league these guys can go to."
The league usually runs October or November until March or April. The PBA also represents Winnipeg in the Filipino Basketball Association of North America’s annual Labour Day tournament. In 2008, Winnipeg and hosted the FBA tournament.
"We’re looking forward to hosting it again, because the organization here has gotten really big and we’ve produced players," Aranez said.
"I’ve got a couple players that have already played at the University of Manitoba, and another one is in the Philippines right now trying out for the Philippine Basketball Association (a men’s professional league). We’ve had quite a bit of success in our men’s open division and our juvenile division in North America. We’re one of the highly regarded cities. A team to beat, they always say."
Lenin Mangaron, 37, is a point guard for Red Star in the men’s open division. He’s played ball for the University of Manitoba, Brandon University and a semi-pro team in the Philippines. He is grateful to Aranez for what he’s done for basketball and Winnipeg’s Filipino community.
"I was one of the pioneers in terms of playing in this league and we used to pay our own way to the FBA tournaments," said Mangaron, a Grade 5 teacher at Sargent Park School.
"It would cost a lot of money, but Manny’s built a good reputation, getting sponsorships, and now our expenses are cut down dramatically."
Money, or a lack thereof, is why Mangaron got into basketball in the first place.
"I grew up in the hood, Banntayne, that’s all we could afford," Mangaron said. "We went to Hugh John MacDonald School and we’d play outside in the courts. That’s all we did, just play ball every summer, every morning, lunch hour and after school."
Basketball is a lifelong passion for Aranez as well.
"I fell in love with basketball before I fell in love with a girl," Aranez said. "Every time I heard a ball bouncing in the back of the house where we used to live, I’d drop whatever I was doing and go there. My daddy always chased me, ‘Finish what you were doing first before you go play basketball’, but that was never the case."