Anybody’s trophy in Macau
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 17, 2019 - 12:00am

Blackwater team owner Dioceldo Sy isn’t putting money down on any team in the Terrific 12 basketball tournament that starts with a four-game schedule at the Tap Seac Multi-Sports Pavilion in Macau today. That’s because each of the 12 competing teams – three from the PBA, four from Japan, three from China and two from South Korea – is capable of claiming the $150,000 first prize so Sy expects a mad scramble for the crown.

“Even Steven,” says Sy who left for Macau with the Elite yesterday afternoon. “All the teams have equal chances to win the championship. It should be a great basketball week in Macau.” Four games will be played today, tomorrow and Thursday to determine the top finishers of the four brackets. Friday will be a rest day. The semifinals are scheduled on Saturday then on Sunday, the third place playoff will be at 5 p.m. and the final at 7 p.m.

The 12 teams are split into four brackets. Group A consists of Blackwater, Seoul SK Knights of South Korea and Chiba Jets of Japan. Group B is made up of San Miguel Beer, Shenzhen Aviators of China and defending champion Ryukyu Golden Kings of Japan. In Group C are the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions of China, Utsunomiya Brex of Japan and Jeonju KCC Egis of South Korea. TNT, Liaoning Flying Leopards of China and Niigata Albirex of Japan comprise Group D.

Last year, East Asia Super League CEO Matt Beyer and CFO Henry Kerins introduced the Terrific 12 concept in Macau with each team allowed to enlist two imports. Beyer and Kerins broke ground in their basketball venture with the Summer Super 8 tournament in Macau in 2017. Another Summer Super 8 event was held last year with Blackwater and NLEX brandishing all-Filipino lineups. The Summer Super 8 excluded imports. Beyer and Kerins also staged the inaugural Terrific 12 last year with the Philippines represented by a PBA D-League selection called the iECO Green Warriors.

This year’s Terrific 12 promises to be a slam-bang affair with 11 players fresh from competing in the FIBA World Cup in China and eight NBA veterans among the 24 imports. Additionally, Japan’s first-ever NBA player Yuta Tabuse will suit up for Utsunomiya. At least 22 networks will air and stream the games around the world.

The three PBA teams are raring to go. Sy says the Elite will be reinforced by hulking 6-10 Alex Stepheson and Marqus Blakely. Aaron Fuller was earlier tapped to play with Stepheson but went down with an ankle injury that will take three weeks to heal. Blakely, 30, has led the Star/Purefoods franchise to two PBA titles and was the PBA’s Best Import in the 2013 Governors Cup.  He played for TNT last year. Blakely arrived last Sunday to take over Fuller’s spot. Blakely will see action for Blackwater in the Governors Cup. When Fuller is fully recovered, Blackwater will decide whether to stick with Blakely or not.

Blackwater finished third in the last Commissioner’s Cup eliminations with a 7-4 record and wound up sixth overall after the playoffs. Elite rookie Bobby Ray Parks was sensational in the conference, finishing No. 2 in local scoring (22.1 points), No. 2 in defensive rebounds (5.9), No. 1 in free throws made (85 in 14 games), No. 8 in steals (1.43), No. 7 in triples made (31) and No. 9 in minutes played (35.7). Mac Belo ranked No. 2 in three-point field goal percentage (.417) and Allein Maliksi No. 3 (.414), making the Elite a serious perimeter threat. Point guard Roi Sumang also figured prominently in the statistical ladder, ranking No. 2 in assist-to-turnover ratio at 64:17 or 3.8 and No. 10 in assists (4.57).

Stepheson is expected to dominate the interior in Macau. He staked Blackwater to a 5-1 record in the Commissioner’s Cup, averaging 22.2 points and 22 rebounds, then was sidelined by a stomach virus and left for the US. Now that he’s back in harness, Stepheson says he has unfinished business to take care of. Combining forces with a tested warrior in Blakely gives Blackwater a major advantage in the import department. 

Adding Carl Bryan Cruz to the Elite roster is another plus, says Sy. Cruz came in via a trade for Abu Tratter with Alaska. “Carl’s doing very good,” says Sy. “He’s a great addition to our team, both defensively and offensively.” Cruz is a stretch four, an import defender and a workhorse off the boards. 

San Miguel Beer and TNT are checking in after finishing 1-2 in the Commissioner’s Cup. The Beermen will be reinforced by 6-10 Lester Prosper and 6-5 Dez Wells while the KaTropa will be bannered by 6-5 K. J. McDaniels and 6-5 McKenzie Moore. McDaniels played for Philadelphia, Houston and Brooklyn in 148 NBA games, including 16 starts over three seasons.  

Making a comeback to the international scene is San Miguel guard Terrence Romeo who shot 14 points and issued six assists in Gilas’ 93-71 win over Chinese-Taipei in the third window of the FIBA Asia/Oceania World Cup Qualifiers in June last year. “I really feel like I’m on my game and the experience with San Miguel enhanced my skills and confidence,” says Romeo who joined the Beermen from TNT this season. “Ryuichi Kishimoto is good so it will be an interesting matchup individually and a team basis.” Kishimoto, a 5-10 spitfire who led Ryukyu to the Terrific 12 title and took MVP honors last year, will try to make it two championships in a row for the Golden Kings. Ryukyu has three imports on its roster – 6-9 Jack Cooley of Notre Dame, 6-8 DeMon Brooks of Davidson and 6-10 Josh Scott of Colorado – but only two may play in a game.

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