Blackwater recruits Bosh play-alike
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - He may not be Chris Bosh in person but Blackwater import Malcolm J. Rhett of the University of Mississippi is touted to be a play-alike replica of the Miami Heat lefthander and for team owner Dioceldo Sy, that’s a convincing reason to enlist him in for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup starting Feb. 10.

“We’re excited to bring him in,” said Sy. “We made franchise history by making it to the playoffs for the first time in the Philippine Cup. We want to ride the momentum and we think M. J. is the perfect import for us.” Rhett is due to fly in Saturday midnight from the US.

Rhett, 23, is a 6-9, 240-pound center who’s fresh out of the Italian Serie A2 and Latvian leagues. He played three years at Tennessee State, graduated with a degree in human performance and sports science then transferred for his last season of varsity eligibility as a student in the criminal justice Master’s program at Mississippi in 2014-15. Rhett chose to move to Mississippi over Connecticut, Miami and the University of Southern California.

“M. J.’s left-handed which I think is a natural advantage for a post,” said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy. “He’s athletic vertically. Don’t be surprised to see him knocking down a trailer three. We can run offense through him, reverse the ball and play in space. He’s a guy that from an experience standpoint, should make an immediate impact on the frontline.” At Mississippi, Rhett averaged 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds, shooting 57.1 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the line. He started in 31 of 34 contests and averaged 22.2 minutes. In two NCAA Tournament contests, Rhett averaged 16 points.

Rhett’s shot selection was an indication of his high level of maturity. In a win over Brigham Young, he hit 9-of-11 from the floor and scored 20 points. He netted 18 points on 8-of-9 from the field against Vanderbilt and 16 on 8-of-9 field goals against Arkansas. In 34 games, Rhett knocked down 110 of 192 shots from the field.

Rhett, whose father Joseph played at South Carolina, started his collegiate career at Tennessee State. As a junior in 2013-14, he ranked No. 8 in the entire US collegiate circuit with 14 double-doubles and led the varsity with 9.1 boards a game. Rhett averaged 10.9 points, hitting 20 twice. He pulled down double-figure rebounds in 16 of 28 games, including a career-high 19 boards against Belmont. Rhett compiled 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots against Wichita State. In the last six games of the season, he averaged 17.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.

Blackwater finished last in the Second Conference last season with a 3-8 mark. Marcus Douthit was the Elite’s import. A consolation was Blackwater ended the Commissioner’s Cup with an 84-72 win over Meralco and one of its three victories was an 80-77 upset of San Miguel Beer.

Sy said there are plans to change the team’s moniker to the Cologne Kings or Soap Masters or Face Washers or Shampoo Kings, depending on the Blackwater product that suits the PBA’s mass market. The preference is Cologne Kings at the moment.

“Blackwater is a five to six-year-old brand and because of the exposure in the PBA, it has become widely-known,” said Sy. “It would’ve taken us another five to six years to reach that level of awareness without the PBA. We’ve registered strong growth with an increase of 20 to 30 percent in sales. Now that Blackwater is well-known, we want to zero in on a product that we could promote to the PBA’s market.”

Sy said the PBA is an economical and efficient marketing vehicle. “We can’t go head on against Unilever or Proctor and Gamble when they do TV ads because our budgets aren’t so big,” he said. “We’ve always known the PBA to be a valuable marketing tool so when the opportunity came to buy a franchise, we didn’t hesitate. We decided to buy in before we lost the chance. We shifted our annual marketing budget of P200 Million to set aside 30 to 35 percent or P70 Million to maintain our team. We’re amortizing it over 10 years even as our commitment to the PBA is to stay for a minimum of five. We’re happy with our experience in the PBA. In our ads, we use some of our popular players, including those who’ve been with us even before the PBA. We’re tapping players like Carlo Latimosa and Art de la Cruz. We want to maximize our mileage through the PBA.”

Sy said other teams have profited from the PBA exposure. “Rain Or Shine, for instance, is No. 1 in roofing paints and No. 2 in house paints while San Miguel Beer and Ginebra San Miguel are market leaders,” he said. “Other teams are in the PBA for their Corporate Social Responsibility programs. In the PBA, we’ll maintain our Blackwater brand and just shift from product to product. It’s like Shell from before when they went from Helix to Azodrin, Azocord, Rimula X and Diesel Oilers. What we’d like to build is team loyalty like in the UAAP, the NBA or during the Toyota-Crispa era. Fans should live and die with their teams. Players come and go but fans should continue to support their favorite teams like the Los Angeles Lakers or San Antonio Spurs.”

ACIRC ANDY KENNEDY AT MISSISSIPPI BLACKWATER BRIGHAM YOUNG CARLO LATIMOSA AND ART COLOGNE KINGS PBA RHETT SY TENNESSEE STATE
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