Another 7-footer to invade PBA
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 4, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A third 7-footer may be coming in to play in the PBA, joining Kia’s 7-4 Peter John Ramos and Blackwater’s 7-1 Chris Charles. Barako Bull coach Koy Banal said yesterday the Energy is close to signing up 7-1, 240-pound Solomon Alabi of Nigeria as import in the Commissioner’s Cup starting Jan. 27.

The last four placers of the Philippine Cup – No. 9 Barako Bull, No. 10 NLEX, No. 11 Kia and No. 12 Blackwater – are allowed to recruit an import with no height limit. The ceiling for imports of the other teams is 6-9.

“We haven’t decided (on our import) yet,” said Banal. “We actually have a short list. We considered Dan Gadruric and Brian Cook but they were hired in Lebanon. We’re looking at DeVon Hardin, Liam McMorrow, Kevinn Pinkney and Alabi. We hope to bring in our import by Jan. 15.” Banal said Pinkney and Alabi share the same agent.

Alabi, 26, was the Dallas Mavericks’ second round draft pick in 2010 and played two seasons with the Toronto Raptors, earning a salary of $1.6 Million. He compiled 39 points and 61 rebounds in 26 total games. The gangling Nigerian center saw action in three seasons with the Florida State varsity. In his third year, he averaged 11.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots. Alabi shot 53.4 percent from the field and 79.4 percent from the line. As an import with Yulon Luxgen in the Taiwan league last season, he averaged 12.8 points, 13.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots in 26 games.

“Our focus has and will always be on defense,” said Banal. “Alabi looks like a strong rim protector. He plays solid interior defense, gets rebounds and is a shot blocker. We lacked inside presence in the Philippine Cup so we think he’ll be able to solve our problem. We like his attitude. Right now, he’s at the top of our list.”

The other option is 6-10, 244-pound Pinkney who played alongside former PBA import Nick Fazekas with the University of Nevada at Reno varsity. Pinkney, 31, played four years at Reno and as a senior in 2004-05, averaged 12.5 points and 7.7 rebounds, shooting 54.3 percent from the field, 74.4 percent from the stripe and 21.4 percent from beyond the arc. He was undrafted in the NBA but managed to play six games with the Boston Celtics in 2006-07.

Pinkney is a well-traveled veteran with stops in France, Poland, Italy, Israel, Russia, Slovenia, Turkey, Puerto Rico and China. He averaged 27.7 points, 14 rebounds and 2.3 assists with Heilongjiang Zhaozhou Feng Shen in the Chinese league. While Alabi is known for his defense, Pinkney is a offensive machine.

Another candidate is Hardin who was Seattle’s second round draft pick in 2008. The 6-11, 235-pound center played four years with the University of California at Berkeley varsity, averaging 9.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots as a senior in 2007-08. Hardin, 28, never got to play in the NBA but like Pinkney, has gone around the world to suit up in Greece, China, Israel, Turkey, Belarus, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Hong Kong.

Also in the list is the 7-2, 275-pound McMorrow. The Vancouver native played two years with the Tennessee Tech varsity and last season, averaged 16.5 points and 13.0 rebounds in the Taiwan league. McMorrow, 27, had no significant numbers in the NCAA and wasn’t drafted. He averaged 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in his second year with Tennessee Tech in 2011-12.

In the Philippine Cup, Barako posted a 4-7 record in the eliminations then lost to Talk ‘N’ Text, 105-76, in the first stage of the quarterfinals to bow out of contention. The Energy got off to a lowly 0-5 start as Banal took over from Siot Tanquingcen a day before the season opened. In his first game on the job, Banal came close to notching a win as Barako lost a 112-108 double overtime decision to Meralco. One of Barako’s victims was Alaska, an indication of the Energy’s potential.

During the conference, Barako brought in Paolo Hubalde for Jeric Fortuna and Isaac Holstein and Ronnie Matias for Mick Pennisi in separate trades. “I waited 10 years for the opportunity to become a PBA head coach and I’m grateful for this break,” said Banal. “What I’ve learned in the league is if you can’t change a situation, then change your attitude. As I always advise my players, they should enjoy the moment, this chance to play the game they love. It’s a rare privilege to coach or play in the PBA. As for me, I can’t complain. I’ve decided that whomever I have on our team, we’ll just find ways to win.”

Banal said former Barako coaches Bong Ramos and Tanquingcen should be happy with the way things are working out for the Energy. “I want our players to be motivated to play their best, to win for the team,” he said. “Maybe, it’s a way for them to find better teams in the future. Look at Jeric’s case. I’m happy for him that he’ll be playing in the Finals with San Miguel.”

Banal said right after Barako was eliminated, he called for practice. “No vacation mode for us,” he said. “We need to improve, to get better every day, every game. We took a holiday break from Dec. 24 and we get back to practice tomorrow (Monday). We’ll do oval at 6 a.m. then practice from 9 to 12 noon at Green Meadows.”

Banal wouldn’t confirm an impending trade between Barako and Globalport. “I’ve been advised of a possible trade,” he said. “As I’ve always told our players, be ready for any eventuality. With our team, we’re just out there fighting, finding ways to win. We work with what we’ve got. It’s a blessing that we’re working in the PBA. We want to make the most of it and do our best for management and the fans.”


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