Barako tests Dubai waters

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Barako Bull left Manila yesterday to play in an international invitation basketball tournament in Dubai starting tomorrow as coach Rajko Toroman said he hopes to use the competition as a testing ground for import Mike Singletary and newly acquired forward Keith Jensen.

Singletary, 24, is Barako’s early choice to play in the PBA Governors Cup which has a height limit of 6-5 for imports. Barako previously offered NBA veteran Othyus Jeffers a contract but the parties couldn’t come to terms. Another option was Rodney Carney who played in five NBA seasons but negotiations screeched to a halt when the Chicago Bulls 2006 first round draft pick came down with an injury. Luckily, Singletary was available to fly over last week and will be closely watched in Dubai.

“Mike is not bad,” said Toroman. “He’s working hard, he has a good attitude. We’ll see in the tournament if he’s good enough.” Singletary played four years with the Texas Tech varsity, averaging in double figure points in his last three seasons. As a senior in 2010-11, he hit at a 12.7 clip, shooting .442 from the field and .743 from the line. Singletary also grabbed 5.8 rebounds and issued 2.4 assists an outing. A eurobasket.com scouting report described Singletary as “a scoring wing who when hot, is virtually unstoppable...can score from the outside or post up, (has) strong frame and a great rebounder.”

Toroman said Barako will play a 12-man roster in Dubai. Aside from Singletary, the others in the cast are J. C. Intal, Danny Seigle, Mick Pennisi, Allein Maliksi, Eman Monfort, Jonas Villanueva, Mark Macapagal, Doug Kramer, Jensen, Celino Cruz and Dave Marcelo. Don Allado is in Los Angeles and will arrive in Manila on Friday, too late to catch up. Sean Anthony was left behind to recover from injury. Shawn Weinstein’s contract is still under negotiation. Jojo Duncil and Jason Ballesteros are staying in Manila because organizers limited each team to 12 players.

“It’s a good opportunity to test Jensen and we want to give minutes to guys like Kramer, Intal, Maliksi and Marcelo,” said Toroman. Jensen came via a trade with Ginebra San Miguel while Kramer played sparingly behind import Evan Brock and DJ Mbenga in the Commissioner’s Cup. Marcelo saw action in six games in the Philippine Cup but never checked in the second conference.

Toroman said the tournament will allow teams to play two imports apiece so that’s a handicap for Barako. A top favorite is the Russian club Krasnie Krylya Samara of coach Sergey Bazarevich. Samara lists six Americans in its roster but only two will be permitted to play in Dubai. Samara’s Russian stalwarts are 6-10 Anton Pushkov and 6-6 Dmitry Kulagin. Other teams competing in Dubai are two clubs from the Emirates, two clubs from Libya, a club from Lebanon, a club from Egypt and a selection of Middle East All-Stars.

Toroman will fly to Belgrade from Dubai for a brief vacation with his family then return to Manila on June 22. The Serbian mentor will be in town for the FIBA-Asia Championships on Aug. 1-11 and cheer for the Gilas squad which he coached to fourth place at the meet in Wuhan two years ago. Gilas came close to bagging the bronze medal and lost a 70-68 heartbreaker to South Korea in the battle for third place. Gilas’ naturalized player Marcus Douthit compiled 27 points and 22 rebounds in a courageous effort. Douthit will be back in harness for Gilas in August as Manila hosts the FIBA-Asia Championships for the third time since 1960 and the first since 1973.

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