Renaldo Balkman confident of victory
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 28, 2018 - 12:00am

NEW JERSEY – The Mills at Jersey Gardens outlet mall in Elizabeth was an unlikely place to bump into San Miguel Alab coaching consultant Danny Seigle but by a stroke of fate, our paths crossed the other day.

Seigle, 42, is on vacation in the US to visit family. He left Manila last month to join Alab coach Jimmy Alapag in scouting for players at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, watching games from morning to night over six days. Then, Seigle went to Florida for a reunion with his parents John and Blesylda and five siblings Merly, Andy, Sue and Mark whom he hadn’t seen in three years. Now, he’s in New York and New Jersey and will go to Pennsylvania where his parents live before returning to Manila late next month.

Seigle disclosed that after it was decided to replace Ivan Johnson early in the last ABL season, he thought of Renaldo Balkman. “He’s from Staten Island and that’s where I played college ball at Wagner,” said Seigle. “We’ve kept in touch. He was coming off an injury and when I asked if he could play for Alab, there was no hesitation. I knew his goal was to somehow make it back to the PBA and this was his window.”

With Balkman and Justin Brownlee, Alab overcame a poor start to eventually win the ABL championship. “I talked to Balk just last week,” said Seigle. “He told me after San Miguel Beer wins the PBA championship, we’ll talk about another contract with Alab. He’s that confident of winning. I’m not sure about Justin coming back for Alab because it might overlap with his Ginebra commitments since the PBA is pushing back its schedule for the FIBA qualifiers. Of course, it would be awesome if Balk and Justin could be with us to defend our title.”

Seigle said Brownlee would be perfect as a naturalized import for the Philippines. “Balk has played for Puerto Rico so he can’t play for Gilas,” he said.  “But I think Justin plans to settle in Manila. He loves the Philippines and the fans love him. He’s a wonderful guy, coachable, works hard, makes his teammates better. You couldn’t ask more from an import. If we’ve got big guys like JuneMar (Fajardo), Japeth (Aguilar) and Greg (Slaughter), maybe we don’t need a 6-11 or 7-foot import.”

Seigle said he’d like to retain the Alab nucleus for next season but the team won’t hold anyone back from moving forward. A prime example is Pao Javelona who went from Alab to the PBA with GlobalPort. Bobby Ray Parks will likely apply for the next PBA draft. “The dream is to play in the PBA so we won’t get in any player’s way of making that dream come true,” he said. “It’s possible we’ll be almost starting from scratch. But Lawrence (Domingo) will be back with us. He hasn’t played in the PBA D-League which is a requirement for eligibility in the draft. Personally, I’d like the PBA to make it easier for players, locals or Fil-Ams, to join the league. There are a lot of talented Fil-Ams in the ABL like Lawrence, McKinney and the others. It’s a great opportunity for Fil-Ams to play in the PBA. I was blessed with that opportunity in 1999 and a whole new life opened up for me.”

Seigle said he’s enjoying his work with Alab. “Jimmy and I would sometimes talk until 3 in the morning,” he said. “It was rough at the start but slowly, we got things going. I think it made a difference that Jimmy and I had played not too long ago and players could relate to us. We knew where they were coming from and gave them advice on how to win. Take Ray-Ray. He was inconsistent in the beginning. So we sat him down, talked to him and explained that with Balk and Justin around, they draw so much attention from the defense that he’ll get the chance to contribute in a big way if he lets the game come to him instead of forcing it. The key was winning as a team. I wasn’t surprised that Ray-Ray was named Finals MVP.”

Seigle said Domingo was another player who blossomed at Alab. “We told Lawrence he doesn’t need to be a big-time scorer to make an impact,” he said. “Lawrence is a hard-nosed defender and a terrific rebounder so we wanted him to focus on his strengths. We also worked on his basics and he developed into a tough all-around player. In teaching players to improve, a lot of it is mental. Coaches are teachers and if it takes going back to basics, then let’s do it. We’ve got a great pool of talent for the future with guys like Kai Sotto. It’s not often you get a pure Filipino who’s 7-1 so he’s got to be guided properly as he matures.”

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