Two-time Best Import awardee Justin Brownlee will be stacked against a rock-solid cast of competitors when he powers Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup starting Thursday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Thomas Robinson of San Miguel Beer, Earl Clark of NLEX, Johnny O’Bryant of Meralco, Quincy Miller of Converge, Cameron Oliver of TNT Tropang Giga and Andrew Nicholson of Bay Area Dragons banner the latest batch of imports that is said to be the strongest in recent memory.
Robinson, for one, is the fifth pick in the NBA Annual Rookie Draft in 2012 and served as a naturalized player for Lebanon – the team that dealt a painful 81-85 setback to Gilas Pilipinas in the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers two weeks ago.
The Lebanese, however, opted to deploy Jonathan Alredge for the fourth window, but Robinson is still expected to suit up since he is now a holder a Lebanese passport.
Robinson will be the highest-ranked NBA draftee to suit up as import in the PBA since Purefoods signed 1987 third overall pick Dennis Hopson in 1996.
Hopson, however, failed to see action as he suffered an injury in practice.
San Miguel assistant coach Gee Abanilla said Robinson arrived only last Friday and wanted to join their training right away.
“He tried to join us in Saturday’s practice, but he only had an hour of sleep,” said Abanilla in a text message to The Daily Tribune, referring to the former Kansas star who bounced around the NBA after playing for six teams.
“So, we decided not to include him in the practice.”
Also tipped to draw attention is 34-year-old Earl Clark, who played with the late superstar Kobe Bryant at the Los Angeles Lakers.
Clark, who played for five NBA teams in the Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, said he is looking forward to play in the PBA after getting rave reviews from his good friends in former imports Paul Harris and Terrence Jones, whom he played with in the Puerto Rican league.
O’Bryant is also tipped to make an impact for the Bolts.
After playing three seasons for the Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Hornets and the Denver Nuggets, the second-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft is expected to hit the ground running as he was the first to arrive among reinforcements. He even watched the Bolts compete in the Philippine Cup playoffs.
Not to be outdone, Miller, Oliver and Nicholson can also bring something to the table as they are armed with vast NBA experience.
Miller saw action for three NBA teams — the Denver Nuggets, the Sacramento Kings and the Detroit Pistons — and is being groomed to lead the FiberXers to their first title while the 6-foot-8 Oliver is said to be a rebounding machine who is also being considered to undergo naturalization for Gilas Pilipinas.
Oliver played four games for the Houston Rockets, averaging 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds to finish the 2020-2021 NBA season.
He signed with the Atlanta Hawks after a brief stint with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Meanwhile, the 6-foot-10 Nicholson had already made his presence felt as he powered the Dragons to a nine-game sweep of the preseason.
He was selected as the 19th overall pick of the Orlando Magic in 2012 and had significant stints with the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets before spending the last five years in Asian leagues.
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