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.
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Junthy now finally a Gin King

When it looked like the deal wouldn’t materialize, the Brgy. Ginebra Kings reached an agreement with the Red Bull Barakos to acquire spitfire Junthy Valenzuela in exchange for multiple draft picks. The Gin Kings originally offered shooter Sunday Salvacion for the crack Red Bull guard but in the end, the Barakos settled for a 2009 2nd round and a 2010 1st round picks.  
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The Imports: First Impressions

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.
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Darius proves there is no rice shortage in the country

He was good as advertised. Scouting reports pegged him as a cold-blooded scorer, one of the best pure shooting strokes outside of the NBA, and they were right. Darius Rice‘s 56 points on 6 of 17 shooting from deep 3 was reminiscement of his 52-point outburst in the NBDL championship game last year. Rice scored the marginal basket – a breakaway side-stepping move – to give the Giants a 127-126 double OT win over the new-look Magnolia Beverage Masters.
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Ho-hum, these imports are boring!

Wesley Wilson’s shotblocking skills will come in handy for the Realtors

Unless Darius Rice, Wesley Wilson, Jameel Watkins and Randy Holcomb can put on a performance that can blow me off, this conference will be destined for the pits. Ok I have relatively high expectations. Coca-Cola and Welcoat have been given a privilege to recruit two imports and ended up with lemons (ok maybe a “lemon” is too harsh a word). Jason Dixon is good. Aaron McGhee is average. Calvin Cage and Cory Santee are quick and nothing else. Steve Thomas is the CBA’s leading rebounder but can’t get 20 rebounds in his PBA debut. Rashon Turner, despite getting 19 rebounds last Sunday, looked ordinary. Adam Parada is ok with a 28-point, 21-rebound, 5-block performance but he did it because he is 7’0″ and utilized his vast experience. And no, he didn’t make me jump for joy either. With this present batch, I expect majority to be given the pink slip in April.
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Can the young Dragons spew fire?

welcoat_dragons.gifIt was only recently that the Welcoat Dragons lost their top player and coach. Coach Leo Austria couldn’t understand what direction the team is heading after management traded top player Nic Belasco to Coca-Cola for seldom-used Mark Isip. Belasco led the team in scoring and rebounding, and most importantly, provided the one-year old team with veteran leadership and mental toughness. Austria quit, out of frustration. Management was frustrated, too, with the team’s dismal performance last conference after enlisting crack amateurs Joe Devance and Ryan Arana from the draft and getting Belasco from Alaska. Erstwhile assistant coach Caloy Garcia takes over the team in an interim basis but he gets the job if the Dragons suddenly makes a splash in the coming conference. Don’t bet on that!
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Phonepals get some beef

talk-n-text_phonepals.gifThe Phonepals are in the doldrums and are searching for an identity after a series of bad management moves made them the league’s newest cry baby. Gone is coach Derrick Pumaren who was exiled to the land of the unknown and the never before heard. In comes former National team mentor Chot Reyes and the huge expectations that accompanies his leadership ledger.

They’ve added Jec Chia and Gilbert Lao – two old Chot Reyes reliables back at the old Coca-Cola days. While their contributions are expected to be minimal, they both make Reyes feel comfortable especially when the going gets tough for him taking control of ultra-talented players in the roster. The trade of Asi Taulava was a thing that would make the team later on regret but Reyes did attempt to bring back the prodigal son but he was nixed. Coca-Cola claimed finders’ keepers, and losers’ weepers.
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Sta. Lucia dreaming of a sweep

sta-lucia_realtors.gifAmid the wheeling and dealing of almost all teams, the Realtors stood pat and kept themselves away from various trade overtures. There’s some sense into it. If it ain’t broke, why fix it. The bad news around the league is that former Shell import – Wesley Wilson – is in shape and will add rebounding and shotblocking power to the team’s already suffocating post and perimeter defense. How good is Wilson? Well, during his stint with Shell three years ago, he did not only make an impression among various coaches, he totally dominated the competition! The only thing alarming was that he didn’t finish the conference because of a rumored contractual dispute.
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Barakos no longer an underdog

red-bull_barakos.gifThe Red Bull Barakos (now known as Barako Energy Coffee Mix) made a lot of believers with their inspired plays last conference. Losing stalwarts Enrico Villanueva and Larry Fonacier from last season would have made a devastating impact on a franchise, but the Barakos are no ordinary team. They’re made of sterner stuff.

Overcoming tremendous odds, the Barakos finished third in the conference, falling only one game short of a championship appearance. Cyrus Baguio took over the team and played like a man possessed. He was the team’s do-it-all guy, leading the team in scoring (17.72 ppg), assists (4.12 apg) and steals (1.2 spg), often wowing the viewing public with his vast array of acrobatic shots and daredevil plays.
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Giant steps for Purefoods

purefoods_tj-giants.gifThe fanatics of the Purefoods TJ Giants received quite a jolt in the offseason involving its two top frontcourt stars. Rommel Adducul will be sidelined for the remainder of the season to undergo treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer while energetic forward Jean Marc Pingris has been traded to Magnolia for Enrico Villanueva to fill the void at the center position. As of presstime, the Giants have been trying to lure Rich Alvarez out of Red Bull to replace Pingris’ slot but it appears that the Barakos have other plans (at least not in exchange for Richard Yee).
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