The world of Philippine esports makes a fresh case on why it is the next space to watch as the E-Gilas team dominated the FIBA Esports Open III anew in April.
The team composed of Rial Polog, Philippe Herrero IV, Aljon Cruzin, Custer Galas, Ian Santiago, Arnie Sison, and Clark Banzon emerged victorious in the regional NBA 2K tournament, seeing online action in the beloved Filipino sport of basketball. The team bested Vietnam, Maldives, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Mongolia, or a total of 60 representative teams across the region.
This is the second time that the Philippines has dominated the online basketball tournament following the E-Gilas team’s debut crown in the FIBA Esports Open I. The win serves as the group’s comeback after losing the finals to Australia in last year’s FIBA Esports Open II.
Backed by the Laus Group of Companies
The team, like most great squads in sports, traces its roots from a community that helped propel them to their success today. As esports continues to gain momentum, it is vital to see just how an ecosystem of support can provide Philippine esports the boost that it needs to perform consistently in the international scene.
According to Rial Polog, the team’s leader and the first Filipino to become draft eligible in the NBA 2K League, E-Gilas began in the Veterans League group on Facebook, a known online hangout for NBA 2K fans. In 2015, Paul Laus, president of the Pampanga-based LausGroup of Companies, decided to hold a tournament among group members as a way to foster ties and discover talent.
“There were no formal events for NBA 2K in the Philippines yet, but the LausGroup, through Sir Paul, launched tournaments within our Facebook community. These events eventually became a training ground for the players and allowed us to connect with each other,” Polog shares.
Laus, who is an NBA 2K player himself, saw the potential in nurturing esports even in its early stages. “Just like any other sport, players in the esports leagues also need proper training framework and support to be truly competitive. My interest in NBA 2K led me to the Veterans League group and thus began our journey with E-Gilas,” Laus recounts.
As a conglomerate based off Manila, the LausGroup’s venture into esports also aligns with its vision to bring development to the countryside, given esports’ ability to provide players, regardless of location, the opportunity to showcase their skills.
“Since it is online, esports can be easily taken up by anyone, wherever they are, with little to no barriers to entry save for starting equipment at the right specs,” Laus adds.
The LausGroup NBA 2K tournament is now the only one of its kind in the country playing in the Pro-Am format. Since the first tournaments organized by Laus and his team in 2015, the LausGroup-sponsored tournaments have grown from 15 to over 2,500 players composed of 24 teams with 15 playing as professionals.
Filipinos’ competitive edge
Aljon Cruzin, another member of the E-Gilas squad, emphasizes how getting the right support is crucial to scoring victories especially in regional competitions.
“There’s a lot of strategy and preparation involved whenever we participate in these tournaments. The financial and morale boost from our community are significant factors to winning, especially when we’re going up against capable and well-funded teams in the region.”
The team members of E-Gilas are all pros, solely dedicated to honing their skills and strategy for NBA 2K tournaments. They clock in eight hours of work everyday, training through games, trying different plays, and scouting competitor teams’ strategy and style.
“It’s called esports because the discipline, dedication, and athleticism in traditional sports also apply here. Players go through mental challenges, continuously hone their craft, and cultivate a winning mindset much like athletes in the physical games,” Laus adds.
Polog also notes that NBA 2K holds a unique spot among other esports games such as League of Legends, Defense of the Ancients (DotA), and Mobile Legends. According to him, basketball is almost second nature to Filipinos given our history and national fascination with the sport. Filipinos know the game well and while we may be limited in the physical attributes needed to excel in the game, applying our court know-how through an online platform such as NBA 2K gives us a competitive edge.
“There really is a lot of promise in basketball esports and we’re happy that supporters such as the LausGroup are giving us the means to better our game and excel in the professional leagues.”
When he’s not busy running the LausGroup from their headquarters in Pampanga, Laus joins the team and plays with them during training. “I see firsthand how determined these guys are to better their play every single game. The level of skill that they have now, as proven by the wins they have clinched for the country in regional contests, only inspires the LausGroup and the rest of their supporters to keep our commitment to make esports in the Philippines something that the whole nation can be truly proud of,” Laus declares.
With the inclusion of esports in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games and as a global industry worth over USD 470 billion, esports is the next frontier that the Philippines can conquer. The increasing recognition gained by Filipino esports players, as headlined by the E-Gilas team’s recent win, can only spell brighter days ahead which the LausGroup hopes to help foster.
“We share in the pride of the Philippine basketball community for the E-Gilas team’s recent victory and they can continue to rely on us for future tournaments. We are in this together,” Laus says.
The LausGroup is a diversified Pampanga-based conglomerate whose main interests lie in the automotive business. It is the owner of the Carworld brand, Central Luzon’s leading dealer of Mitsubishi vehicles. It also has 65 dealerships that operate in Central Luzon, North Luzon, and Metro Manila, carrying brands such as Ford, Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan, Suzuki, BMW, Volkswagen, MINI, and Peugeot. It has interests in insurance, construction materials, media, food, and hospitality industries.