Will new import arrest Purefoods skid?
- Joaquin M. Henson () - May 1, 2004 - 12:00am
In a desperate bid to snap a five-game losing streak, Purefoods coach Ryan Gregorio is gambling on new import Tyrone Lamar Washington to end the Tender Juicy Hot Dogs’ slide.

Washington, 27, will make his Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Fiesta Conference debut against San Miguel Beer in the first game of a twinbill at the Araneta Coliseum starting at 4 this afternoon.

Alaska and Shell clash in the 6 p.m. main encounter.

It promises to be a baptism of fire for the former Mississippi State center who’ll be matched up against San Miguel’s fearsome import Art Long whom Gregorio described as "one of a kind."

Gregorio said Washington isn’t as athletic as Long but he’s an import who can get the job done for Purefoods. "He’s a straight post-up player with great upper body strength," continued Gregorio. "He’s replacing Eddie (Elisma) who isn’t bad but isn’t a good fit for us right now because of our injuries. Washington was Erick Dampier’s backup for a year at Mississippi State then became the team’s go-to guy."

Washington is listed 6-10 in US basketball media guidebooks but Gregorio said he’s 6-8 at most. US players usually exaggerate their heights for marketing purposes.

"His stats look good but stamina is a factor," noted Gregorio. "He’s still getting in shape." Washington is Purefoods’ fourth import this conference after Lenny Cooke, Reggie Butler and Elisma.

Gregorio said he’s not giving up on his team. "I still believe we’ve got a good team," he insisted. "If I lose it at this point, if I give up, then I lose the entire year. We’re a young team. We’re just on our first year of rebuilding and I can’t be impatient."

Gregorio pointed out that several of Purefoods’ losses were decided in the last three minutes. He cited lack of maturity and game poise as reasons for the collapse down the stretch.

"In our last six games, we limited our opponents to about 18 points in the third quarter then gave up about 30 in the fourth," he said. "We’ve been hit by a lot of injuries but we can’t use that as an excuse. We’ve been competing. We just need to get over the hump."

Gregorio said Jun Limpot’s absence has hurt. He’ll be out for three more games. Eddie Laure hasn’t played a game this year. Ervin Sotto, Rey Evangelista, Paul Artadi and James Yap are in and out of sick bay.

The situation puts a lot of pressure on Washington who’s fresh from playing for Galatasaray Istanbul in Turkey. But if there’s a player with the credentials to shake up Purefoods, it’s Washington.

The burly 275-pounder averaged 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots as a senior at Indianola Gentry High in Mississippi in 1994-95. He was the Gatorade boys Player of the Year and a fourth team Parade All-American.

"Washington is an outstanding shooter," said writer Lee Feinswog. "He can score either facing or with his back to the basket."

As a freshman at Mississippi State in 1995-96, Washington backed up Dampier — now a National Basketball Association (NBA) player — and came off the bench for the Bulldogs who made it to the NCAA Final Four. Washington averaged only 1.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 7.1 minutes.

The next season, Washington began to shine with Dampier gone to the NBA. He averaged nine points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots. Washington shot .427 from the field and .719 from the line. He posted four double-doubles in 30 starts.

Then as a junior, Washington blossomed. He averaged 12.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots. The St. Louis, Missouri, native hit a Southeastern Conference (SEC) high .531 from the floor and

.603 from the stripe. He registered nine double-doubles, 13 twin-digit games in rebounding and was an intimidating defensive force with at least three blocked shots in 13 outings. The showing prompted The Sporting News to describe Washington as "the SEC’s best center and one of the 20 best in the nation — at times last season, he took over games with his rebounding, defense and scoring." Chris Harry, writing in Dick Vitale’s College Basketball Yearbook, said he’s "the SEC’s most proven center (who) has touch from 15 feet and in."

As a senior, Washington averaged 12.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots. He hit .502 from the floor and .650 from the line. Washington finished his varsity career with 1,119 points, 847 rebounds and 198 blocked shots in a school record 123 games. He is one of only five Bulldogs in history to compile at least 1,000 points and 800 rebounds. Dampier is another.

Washington was the Houston Rockets second round pick in the 1999 NBA draft. He was the 44th overall choice of 58 and selected ahead of Alaska import Galen Young and San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili.

After failing to make it to the NBA, Washington played in Italy, Yugoslavia and Turkey. He also saw action for the Columbus Riverdragons in the National Basketball Development League, averaging 8.2 points and 4.4 rebounds. In 2000-01, Washington averaged 18.5 points and 8.7 rebounds for Popolare Ragusa in the Italian A-2 league.

Meanwhile, in conjunction with the Labor Day celebrations and in line with PBA’s offering to the Filipino workforce, the league is opening the gallery section of the Big Dome free to the public. Fans are requested to bring proof of purchase of any PBA team products or Gran Matador caps to avail themselves of the free entrance.

ALASKA AND SHELL ARANETA COLISEUM ART LONG DAMPIER GREGORIO MISSISSIPPI STATE POINTS PUREFOODS REBOUNDS WASHINGTON
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