Durham eyes ultimate prize
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — With Meralco assured of a twice-to-beat advantage in the coming PBA Governors Cup quarterfinals, Allen Durham said the other day what’s driving him to excel this conference is the goal to win the championship, no more, no less.

Durham, 31, is in his fifth PBA season, fourth with the Bolts. Twice, he was named Best Import. Twice, he led the Bolts to the Governors Cup Finals and twice, Meralco wound up the bridesmaid. “We’re all just hungry,” said Durham. “We got a taste of the championship when we went to the Finals twice but never took it home. We’re going all the way this time. It’s a tough conference, for sure. We’re seeing a transition of the type of imports in the Governors Cup from guard-oriented to big inside guys like (Eugene) Phelps and now back to guard-oriented with a lot of NBA veterans in town. It’s a challenge but with defense as our focus, we’ll get it done.”

Meralco has zoomed to an 8-2 record, second in the standings behind NLEX. In eight wins, the Bolts held their opponents to an average of 87.5 points. In two losses, opponents averaged 110.5. When Meralco plays lock-down defense, there’s no shortage of power. Durham is averaging a PBA career-high 30.3 points, 14.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 39.8 minutes while hitting at a 43.8 clip from beyond the arc and 75.4 percent from the line. His percentage numbers are also career highs.

“Coach Norman (Black) knows what we need to do to win and it’s about defense,” he said. “I’ve played in Romania, Finland, Uruguay, Israel, France and Japan. I enjoyed France and wish I had more time to travel around Japan. But the Philippines, by far, is the best place for me. In other countries, basketball isn’t the No. 1 sport. In the Philippines, it is and the fans are wonderful. I’ve heard about imports getting pinched, undercut and punched on the court but luckily, none of that has ever happened to me. The PBA is a physical and competitive league. That’s how I like it. I’m also fortunate that coach Norman is with us. He’s a great coach and with his knowledge of the PBA, he always gives me tips on how to be more effective. I’m from Michigan and coach Norman once played for the Detroit Pistons in the NBA so I’m a fan.”

Durham said his fiercest rival in the PBA is Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee and the local player he finds the most impressive is San Miguel Beer’s Terrence Romeo. “I’ve faced Brownlee so many times and off the top of my mind, I think Romeo’s an exciting guard,” he said. “In the NBA, I like the San Antonio Spurs and I’ve always been a Tim Duncan fan. I had tryouts with the Pistons and Dallas Mavericks but never got to play even in the NBA Summer League. In the NBA D-League, I played for the Texas Legends and two of my teammates were Ray Parks and (NLEX import) Manny Harris. I played for a Division II school, Grace Bible College in Grand Rapids and before my senior season, I had offers from several Division I schools to transfer, like Iowa State, Central Michigan and Miami at Ohio. But it didn’t make sense for me to move. I had one more year to play at Grace Bible so I stayed.” Durham was a three-time MVP at Grace Bible and led the varsity to three National Christian College Athletic Association championships.

Durham and wife Krista are parents of a two-month-old boy Boston Isiah. His father works for GM in Detroit and his mother is involved in real estate in Las Vegas. Durham is one of 10 children. In his hometown, Durham runs a foundation and owns a team called the Grand Rapids Danger in a semi-pro league. “It’s my way of giving back,” he said. “The foundation is for young kids to be exposed to sports so we do basketball, baseball and football camps. The Danger is for older players to get the chance to go to the next level. So far, we’ve brought seven of our Danger players overseas as imports. This year, the Danger is on hold. It’s complicated to operate a team and we’re sorting things out for the moment.” A celebrated athlete from Grand Rapids is boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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