So far, we’ve seen some jewels from the current batch of imports playing in the Fiesta Cup. Two (Rashon Turner and Jason Keep) were already given the pink slip after just two games, while two or three others are in danger of getting replaced, especially if their teams continue to struggle. So after two weeks, here are my observations on all the imports.
Jason Dixon (Coca-Cola) – he’s turning out to be a gem of a recruit for the Tigers. Dixon is already 35 but he doesn’t look like his age. Even without import partner Calvin Cage, Dixon has been magnificent, leading the Tigers to a perfect 3-0 W-L slate and the bragging rights as the best team in the tourney. Dixon has been a winner all his life and is using his vast experience in playing overseas to good use.
Calvin Cage (Coca-Cola) – he did good in his first game in the PBA, which was enough reason for Coca-Cola to re-consider replacing him with another import. They’re hiring Gee Gervin as an interim replacement while they wait for Cage to fully recover. A Dixon-Cage combo could help bring home the bacon for the Tigers for the first time since the ownership change.
Darius Rice (Purefoods) – Undoubtedly, the best import right now despite the late offensive struggles. He was awesome in his PBA debut (56 points) but looked ordinary in the last 2 games (37 and 14 points). Teams are beginning to understand how lethal this guy is. He’s a machine gun on the loose and will fire at any distance, whenever he feels like it. He can be defended – yes, but they also have to know that Purefoods has also one too many scorers on the team to worry about, too.
Jameel Watkins (Magnolia) – Watkins is obviously out of shape and Magnolia is still winless after 2 games. He gives the Beverage Masters, though, something that they don’t have last conference – a solid low-post presence. Once he regains his bearings, he could be that the same dominant interior operator who terrorized the PBA arena with Shell over 3 years ago.
Adam Parada (Red Bull) – At first glance, you probably didn’t think Parada would be this good. He has solid fundamentals and is super fit with the Barakos’ style of play because of his passing skills and great basketball IQ. With his size, he will create mismatches down low. Parada will not force shots and will pass the ball when needed, but he can also score when he wants to, wherever he wants to.
Wesley Wilson (Sta. Lucia) – has been doing what he does best – rebounding and providing defensive intimidation inside the shaded lane. He has not been scoring much, but Sta. Lucia can’t complain. They’re winning anyway and will continue to get better as the season goes along. The Realtors remain the best defensive team in the PBA and Wilson will make sure there will be no letup on the defensive end.
Randy Holcomb (Alaska) – The Aces, as in the past, didn’t need imports who dominate the offensive flow of the team. What coach Tim Cone likes about Holcomb is that while he doesn’t do anything specially well, he does all the right things. So far my observation on Holcomb is still split. For all we know, he could be the last import standing at the end of the Fiesta Cup just like what Rossell Ellis did for the team last season.
Aaron McGhee (Talk N Text) – McGhee had a breakout game last April 4, coming up with a double-double effort and leading a balanced Phonepals attack to cream the Dragons 131-95, probably the most lopsided game I’ve witnessed in quite a long time. McGhee is solid in my opinion and is reportedly tough (he did challenge the whole Air21 bench during a tuneup game in the preseason). Could stick around for some time if the Phonepals continue to rack up W after a W.
Steve Thomas (Air21) – Could the Express be better with Shawn Daniels instead of Steve Thomas? Well, we could see that soon happening, especially after the Express got shellacked by an all-filipino Purefoods crew. He was supposed to dominate the paint with Darius Rice’s absence in the last 6 minutes of the game but melted under pressure (or maybe he isn’t just up to task). He can rebound but lacks a decent offensive game worthy of defensive attention.
Cory Santee (Welcoat) – has shown flashes of brilliance, especially when he takes his man towards the hole. He’s lightning-fast and his handles are impressive but so far, it hasn’t yielded in the desired results for the Dragons. If Gainous continues to play an effective role at the frontline for the team, they could finally address their terrible losing skid. If not, some heads are gonna roll.
Marquise Gainous (Welcoat) – One thing positive about Gainous’ PBA debut last Wednesday was that the Dragons actually cared about winning. They almost won the game (if it was held in 3 quarters). He gives the Dragons a big fella down under and a resilient inside-outside threat (shades of UCLA’s Kevin Love) that import bust Jason Keep couldn’t provide.
Rashon Turner (Brgy. Ginebra) – The Gin Kings remained winless after two games with Turner unable to keep pace with other teams’ reinforcements. The team needs someone explosive who can ignite the crowd, ala Billy Ray Bates, and one who can control the paint and demand double teams from the low blocks, ala Mike Hackett. The team is hoping import replacement 7’0″ Ernest Brown is that guy but based on reports, he is not the energizer that they need. Still we’ll wait and see before we make a judgment.
Jason Keep (Welcoat) – Jason proved that he is not officially for keeps getting the early boot with his two lackluster performances. He didn’t break any backboards and didn’t show any toughness inside the paint. He couldn’t run and couldn’t stay in the game. Is there something this guy can do? Apparently, nothing special and Welcoat says you go.
I’m still anxious to see how Calvin Cage performs upon his return from injury (which could be long) but the Tigers have proven that they can win even without a second import. So far, I was right with my preseason observations about the imports. Their chances of sticking around would depend on how well their teams performs, and how well they blend with their local teammates.