Going Euro? We're waiting for the next great white hope

Prior to assuming office as PBA chairman, Red Bull governor Tony Chua proposed that PBA teams should hire European imports for the Fiesta Cup. His proposal did not reach first base as teams went on to hire colored African-American imports. That is bound to change in the coming weeks.

Seeing the success of Red Bull and Mexican-American Adam Parada‘s continued dominance inside the paint, teams are beginning to notice that it isn’t so bad after all to enlist ‘White’ imports contrary to what has been practised traditionally for so long in the PBA.

Reports have it that the Purefoods TJ Giants and the Alaska Aces will be replacing their imports with a pair of Euro slotmen.

Reda Rhalimi, a standout out of St. Mary’s will be arriving today to reinforce the Giants while the Aces are said to be negotiating with Puerto Rico’s starting center and NBA veteran Daniel Santiago. A couple of teams such as Magnolia and Sta. Lucia (yes, you are hearing it right) may be joining the fray and replace their defensive-minded imports. So why are teams suddenly so hot on ‘Whites’? Well, they can do a lot of things. They can shoot, they can post, they can rebound, and cost a lot cheaper. They’re notoriously poor on defense and on the blocks but with their size and the lack of big men in the PBA, that doesn’t figure to be a problem at all. Look at Parada, he was not known as a shotblocker but he’s putting up quite a show here. They’re not as flashy as their African-American counterparts, but they’re solid, consistent, more effective and plays team ball.

The 7’0″ 255-lb Rhalimi, 26, was never drafted by any NBA team. He played 3 uneventful seasons with St. Mary’s Gaels, a school not known for its basketball program. He was supposed to play for Georgetown University and in fact verbally committed to join the school but at the last minute changed his mind. Rhalimi saw limited playing time for the Gaels. His best performance was in his senior year in the 2005-06 season where he put together 4.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 15 blocks on 95% FT shooting. He suffered a torn ACL while playing for Dayton Beach Junior College after putting together averages of 17 points and 10 rebounds per game. According to his scouting reports, Rhalimi “has good quickness for a player his size and can face up from 15-18 feet and hit his shot with regularity”. Rhalimi has a very solid low post game and has ability to finish with power. He has been compared to LA Lakers power forward Roni Turiaf in terms of size and athleticism. With Rhalimi in tow, expect the Giants to improve their post game and provide more open looks for shooters such as James Yap and PJ Simon on the perimeter.

Daniel Santiago, 31, is the starting center of the Puerto Rico national team. He has played in the NBA, NCAA, NAIA, and the National Superior Basketball League of Puerto Rico (BSN) with Bayamón Cowboys, and overseas in Italy and Spain. Like Rhalimi, the 7’1″ 256-lb Santiago was not drafted by an NBA team although he saw action for the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks in 4 seasons in the league. Santiago played college at New Mexico and St. Vincent College till 1998 and decided to play professionally in Puerto Rico and in the Italian leagues after his collegiate stint. He was part of the Puerto Rican national team that captured the 2002 World basketball championship in Indianapolis. Santiago has great size, long arms and will block some shots. For a big man, he has a nice shooting touch, which will be very effective in the triangle offense. A Luc Longley reincarnate? Perhaps, if he makes it here, we will have an all-world selection from the countries of Mexico, US, Morocco and now Puerto Rico. Fascinating, isn’t it? I won’t be surprised at the end of the conference, we’ll see more ‘White’ imports than ever before in what was supposedly an African-American dominated conference.

Wait! Could we call on Arvydas Sabonis to come out of retirement?