Going down this afternoon is the opening of the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup, which means the teams will be playing with towering reinforcements who make us wish we gobbled up boxes of Cherifer back then.
Read on to get more familiar with the imports who'll spice up the upcoming conference!
Tyler Wilkerson (San Miguel Beermen)
Physicals: 6’8”, 240 lbs
2011 Eurocup stats: 10.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg
From Europe to the United States to South America all the way to Asia, this agile big man has been all over the world playing ball. This time, he’ll bring his versatility and size to the already stacked San Miguel roster.
Wilkerson's vast experience playing overseas means he won't really have a big problem adjusting to the PBA game. The biggest contribution T-Wil can offer the Grand Slam seekers, aside from his scoring, is his willingness to play off of his teammates. His scouting report says it all, the guy's a team player.
PBA Comparison: A more consistent Japeth Aguilar with good passing skills
Brian Williams (Globalport Batang Pier)
Physicals: 6’10”, 270 lbs
2012 ABL season stats: 20 ppg, 14.3 rpg
Former ABL star Williams will bring his heft and unique playmaking ability to Globalport. Williams is a solid center who has a knack for handling point guard chores at certain moments of the game.
At 6'10", he’ll give the Batang Pier the inside presence they need. Let's see if his freewheeling style will blend in nicely with the team's guard-oriented (Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle say hello) and fast-paced offensive game.
PBA comparison: Greg Slaughter with handles
Arinze Onuaku (Meralco Bolts)
Physicals: 6’9”, 275 lbs
2014 NBA D-League stats: 14.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg
Onuaku will be a major force in the PBA. He probably has the largest frame among the imports, a physical attribute he'll use to grab boards, score buckets, and be an intimidating presence inside. When he gets the ball near the basket, chances are he'll score or get an and-1 opportunity. Opposing teams will have to get extra creative when defending this mammoth of a man. Maybe Mark "Asshole Poker" Yee has an idea or two on how to stop this behemoth...
PBA comparison: A taller and wider Eric Menk at his peak minus the midrange jump shot
Othyus Jeffers (Barangay Ginebra Kings)
Physicals: 6’5”, 200lbs
2014 PBA Governor's Cup stats: 38.0 ppg, 13 rpg, 2 spg
Because of an NBA contract dispute, Jeffers played only a single game in the PBA back in the 2014 Governor's Cup. In that game, he showed why he’s an NBA veteran and a former NBA D-League co-MVP, leading Talk 'N Text to a 105-99 win over Meralco with his 38-point output. His tremendous scoring prowess and spectacular athleticism obviously impressed Tim Cone enough for him to pick an import well below the 6'9" height limit.
The 30-year-old Jeffers will get Ginebra the buckets they need, especially during scoring droughts we've seen the team go through. His aerial moves should also ignite waves of "HEE-NE-BRAA!" chants. Jeffers' play at the small forward slot will complement the team's towering frontline, making Ginebra a more complete team.
PBA comparison: A more offensively polished and ultra-aggressive version of Gabe Norwood
Ivan Johnson (Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters)
Physicals: 6’8”, 255 lbs.
2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup stats: 26. 8 ppg, 12.7 ppg, 1.9 spg
Ivan The Terrible returns, bringing with him the same scowl that endeared him to people like Yeng Guiao. The man's a terrific baller, which is why years back, when Johnson was still with the Atlanta Hawks, he was a pretty nice pick-up in NBA Fantasy leagues. His last stint here brought Talk 'N Text a championship (and a few fines along the way).
And it looks like his aggressiveness hasn't waned one bit. In fact, at the moment, he’s already suspended for one game and has been ordered to pay P50,000 for hitting Blackwater’s JP Erram and Frank Golla in a tune-up match last week. If Johnson was just another import, that kind of behavior would have sent him packing, but Talk 'N Text is sticking with him knowing that this bad boy’s strong two-way game will help the team defend the title.
Wayne Chism (Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters)
Physicals: 6’9”, 245 lbs
2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup stats: 24.7 ppg, 14.8 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.8 bpg
The 2015 Commissioner’s Cup Best Import is back in town!
Coach Guiao is once again banking on Chism’s length to man the paint and the Tennessee product’s silky smooth offensive game to take the Elasto Painters all the way this time (Rain Or Shine lost to Talk 'N Text in last season's Commissioner's Cup Finals). Once June Mar Fajardo fully heals from his injury, a showdown between him and Chism will be one of the best things to look forward to this conference.
PBA comparison: Think Vic Manuel, just way taller and without the Filipino action movie villain look
Denzel Bowles (Star Hotshots)
Physicals: 6’9”, 255 lbs
2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup stats: 26.3 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 2.1 bpg
You know what this former Best Import awardee can do. He’s a rebounding machine and a potent inside scorer with a decent jumper. Simply put, Bowles is a power forward prototype. Plus, he’s clutch. Remember those free throws he nailed with no time left in the clock that sent Game 7 of the 2012 Commissioner's Cup Finals to overtime? Bowles’ court cred is legit. The only question now is, can the 26-year-old stud be the leader of a Hotshots team that’s still struggling for form with its new system under Coach Jason Webb?
PBA comparison: A slightly shorter and quicker June Mar Fajardo with more hops.
Al Thornton (NLEX Road Warriors)
Physicals: 6’8”, 235 lbs
2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup stats: 30.8 ppg, 12.4 rpg
Another import doing an encore is NLEX’s Al Thornton. The Road Warriors knew they found a gem in the former L.A. Clipper and Washington Wizard, so bringing him back was a no-brainer.
Thornton was an all-around contributor for his squad last season. With his wide and active body running and scrambling all over the floor again for NLEX, the Road Warriors will make some noise in the Commissioner’s Cup. We predict a reprise of the 50-point game he dropped last year against Ginebra in his second tour of duty.
PBA comparison: He somehow reminds us of the very talented but ultimately not-a-Pinoy Sonny Alvarado of the early 2000s.
Robert Dozier (Alaska Aces)
Physicals: 6’9”, 215 lbs
2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup stats: 20.2 ppg, 16.3 rpg, 2.7 bpg
Making his third trip to the PBA is Robert Dozier of the Aces. Coach Alex Compton is hoping that Dozier can deliver the same end-to-end effort he provided when Alaska won the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup plum under Coach Luigi Trillo's watch.
One of the more reliable and consistent imports we’ve seen in recent years, the monolithic forward is expected to take care of the Aces’ interior defense and provide them a significant boost in rebounding. He’s not really an explosive scorer but his presence and hustle are more than enough to make any team better.
PBA Comparison: A more athletic Jerry Codinera
Kenny Adeleke (Phoenix Fuel Masters formerly Barako Bull Energy)
Physicals: 6’9”, 240 lbs
2014 Liga Uruguaya de Basquetbol stats: 17.3 ppg, 13.9 rpg
Phoenix will be parading Nigerian big man Adeleke. The former NBA D-Leaguer is a known hustle player who likes to lurk around the rim to crash the boards or receive drop passes for easy inside points. Compared to the other imports, Adeleke won't be hogging the scoring spotlight, although he'll be doing a bit of everything else, from getting rebounds, diving for loose balls, and providing defense in the shaded lane.
PBA comparison: A bigger Arwind Santos who can bang bodies inside
Augustus Gilchrist (Mahindra Enforcers)
Physicals: 6’10”, 240 lbs
2014 NBA D-League stats: 8.2 ppg, 5 rpg, 1.22 bpg
Manny Pacquiao’s team has been known to employ humongous imports who terrorize the shaded lane. They have yet to veer away from that strategy. In hiring the services of Gilchrist, the Enforcers will once again have the tallest import in the tournament.
Gilchrist is a steady slotman who can produce high percentage buckets for his team every game. With him manning the paint, Mahindra's shooters will have the confidence to let the ball fly more frequently, knowing that they have a tall, dependable center who will take care of the boards.
PBA comparison: A leaner, taller Ali Peek
MJ Rhett (Blackwater Elite)
Physicals: 6’9”, 240lbs
2015-2016 LBL stats: 13.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.0 bpg
Blackwater is in dire need of someone to be their ace player. Someone who can get them points and fans. Because who watches the PBA because of Blackwater? The players' kin, perhaps?
Their new import, MJ Rhett, might just be that guy. He’s an exuberant young man (23 years old) who loves running up and down the floor. Just like Ginebra’s Jeffers, Rhett is an explosive athlete who can dunk with the best of them. His athletic ability should bring flair to Blackwater, both on offense and defense.
PBA comparison: A taller Troy Rosario who loves to run and produce rim-rattlers
Note: The Mahindra Enforcers are the only team allowed to bring in an import taller than 6'9" this conference. The first playing day of the 2016 Commissioner's Cup pits the Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters against the Blackwater Elite, followed by the Star Hotshots vs. the Meralco Bolts in the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.