Commish Cup: Imports take charge

By Nelson Beltran, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 05 2014 08:46 AM | Updated as of Mar 06 2014 03:01 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Alaska Milk starts its Commissioner’s Cup title defense versus Talk n Text tonight even as Globalport plays its first game under coach Pido Jarencio against Air21 in the opener of the import-laced mid-season PBA tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The Batang Pier and the Express clash at 5:45 p.m. then the Aces and the Tropang Texters collide at 8 p.m. as the pro league reopens shop just a week after the conclusion of the all-Filipino tourney topped by the San Mig Coffee Mixers.

The initial double-header in the Commissioner’s Cup features four of the early casualties in the Philippine Cup, each one raring to go and hoping to make a big turnaround this conference.

“I’m excited for our guys. I’m sure they miss playing,” said Alaska coach Luigi Trillo, though, expecting his team to have their hands full against the Texters and their topnotch import Richard Howell. (Related story on A-27)

“Talk n Text is a tough opponent. Every time we play them, our game is usually decided in the last play. Then they have an import with good credentials in the NBA D-League,” Trillo pointed out.

The Aces barely made the Philippine Cup playoffs and were eliminated by the Barangay Ginebra Kings in the quarterfinals, but have high hopes for a turnaround with Best Import awardee Rob Dozier back in harness.

The Texters also made it a point to look for a high-profiled import after an early exit in the all-Filipino, beaten by the eventual champions, the Mixers, in the round of eight.

“We are looking forward to getting off to a good start. This is an import-laced conference so we need Richard Howell to be productive especially on the defensive end,” said Talk n Text coach Norman Black.

The 6-foot-8 forward was a first team of all-ACC selection during his senior year with North Carolina State, averaging 12.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 31.6 minutes in the 2012-13 season. At the end of his collegiate career, he ranked fifth all-time in school history with 1,055 rebounds.

He was signed by the Portland Trail Blazers on Sept. 13, 2013.

The Globalport-Air21 match features the matchup between ABL champion import Evan Brock and Cote d’Ivoire national player Herve Lamizana.

On the sidelines, former UAAP champion coaches Franz Pumaren and Jarencio figure in a duel of wits.

Jarencio debuts as PBA head coach after serving as assistant for a long while with San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra.

“The whole team is excited for tomorrow (today),” said Jarencio.

The Batang Pier return to action with an overhauled lineup and coaching staff after a mere seventh-place in the Philippine Cup. The Express also tweaked their lineup after finishing 10th and last for the fifth time in the last seven conferences.