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PBA: Get to know the imports of the 2013 Commissioner's Cup

February 7, 2013 3:23pm

The upcoming 2013 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, which kicks off Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, boasts of a lack of a height limit for their imports, and all 10 of the teams have opted to go big, with none standing less than 6'8" tall.

Who did your favorite team bring in, and how does he fit with the players already on the roster? Read on:

Air21 Express: Michael Dunigan (6’10”, Center)

The Air21 Express are adding size in their frontcourt with young center Michael Dunigan. The 23 year-old Chicago native, the youngest import for this conference, played two seasons of college ball for the University of Oregon Ducks, before leaving college to go pro in Israel. He later joined leagues around Europe, with stints in Estonia (where he led his team to the league title in 2011), Italy, and Ukraine, where he averaged 12.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks.

The NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies added Dunigan to their training camp roster in September 2012, but he was waived a month later before the start of the NBA 2012-13 season. He most recently played for about a month as an injury replacement for the Perth Wildcats in the Australian league from December 2012 to January 5 of this year. In his time in Australia, he averaged 13.8 points, 9.8 rebounds (leading the league) and added 1.8 blocks a game.

While still young, Dunigan has extensive foreign experience, which ought to prepare him for the rigors of the PBA. His averages in his previous leagues have been startlingly consistent – he’s normed nearly a double-double and adds nearly 2 blocks a game in most of his pro career, so Air21 can expect something along the same lines.

Alaska Aces: Robert Dozier, Jr. (6’9”, Forward)

Alaska adds a versatile forward in Robert Dozier, a former University of Memphis Tiger who was teammates with NBA players Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, and was part of the Memphis team that lost to the Kansas Jayhawks in the 2008 US NCAA finals.

Dozier was drafted in the 2009 NBA draft by the Miami Heat, but did not play for them and instead signed with Greek club Kolossus Rodou. He joined another Greek club, Paok Thessaloniki, the next season, before going to France to play for Cholet Basket in 2011-12, where he averaged 9.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists, while helping the team to the semifinals.

Dozier retraced his NBA beginnings when he was invited to join the Miami Heat’s Summer League team in 2012, but was cut before the season started. He subsequently signed a one month contract as an injury replacement with Cajasol of the Spanish league in November 2012. He played three games in the Eurocup, averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 block a game, as well as four games in the Liga ACB, the top tier league in Spain, where he normed 8.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game.

Dozier left Spain in December after his contract was up to return to the United States, before being tapped by Alaska to join their squad for the upcoming Commissioner’s Cup. Dozier sports a 7’3” wingspan, and will add to the deep frontcourt of the Aces.

Barako Bull Energy Cola: Evan Brock (6’9”, Forward)

Barako Bull gets a high-flying forward with Evan Brock. Brock will be familiar to some hoops fans as he was one of the key players for the Indonesia Warriors team that beat the two Philippine squad (the Philippine Patriots and San Miguel Beermen) en route to a title in the 2012 ASEAN Basketball League. Brock was nearly a nightly double-double, averaging 23.2 points and 9.4 rebounds that season. In three ABL Finals games, Brock averaged a double-double of 21.7 points (49% from the field, but only 51% from the line) and 13.7 rebounds, and added 2.7 assists and 1.3 blocks, resulting in his being named the Finals MVP.

Brock played college ball at the University of Alabama, and played in a small pro league in the US before heading abroad, with stints in Venezuela (where he was a two-time All-Star in three seasons) and South Korea. In 2010, Brock tried his fortunes once again in the NBA, but was cut from the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks training camp in the 2010 offseason, settling for a year with the NBA D-League’s Utah Flash. He returned to Venezuela in 2011, and played for various Latin American teams (Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Mexico), before playing in the ASEAN Basketball League.

After his stint in the ABL, Brock played out the rest of 2012 in the Dominican Republic before going to the PBA. He may shoot poorly from the free throw line, but his experience playing against Filipinos might give him a better comfort level in terms of adjusting to the PBA. His high-scoring act for his previous teams will surely be a welcome addition to Barako Bull as well.

Barangay Ginebra San Miguel: Herbert Hill (6’10”, Forward/Center)

Herbert Hill was drafted in the second round of the 2007 NBA draft, at 55th overall by the Utah Jazz, and was subsequently traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, though he did not play any games with them. Hill had two consecutive surgeries on his left knee, one in October 2007, and another in February 2008 during his rookie season, which led to the Sixers opting not to renew his contract for the next season.

Hill eventually played in the NBA D-League in 2009 for the Bakersfield Jam and Tulsa 66ers, before moving to Asia to play in the Korean Basketball League in 2010, for the Goyang Orions and Incheon ET Land Elephants. In his most recent stint for the Elephants, Hill averaged 21.8 points on 60% shooting, 11.0 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game in 36 games. His presence will add a stronger interior dimension to the Barangay, balancing out the guard-heavy rotation that the team utilizes.

GlobalPort Batang Pier: Justin Williams (6’10”, Forward/Center)

A shot-blocking specialist, Justin Williams went undrafted in the 2006 NBA Draft and played a season with the NBA D-League’s Dakota Wizards, notching 12.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks to garner the notice of NBA teams. Williams was called up from the D-League and signed by the Sacramento Kings to a couple of 10-day contracts in early 2007, and eventually stayed with them until February 2008 when the Kings put him on waivers. Williams bounced around the NBA, signing a 10-day contract with the Houston Rockets and playing a single game for them, before joining the preseason training camp teams of the Golden State Warriors and Charlotte Bobcats during the 2008 offseason.

Williams would move on to the Los Angeles D-Fenders in March 2012, but would be waived due to injury. He has since recovered and will now provide a strong defensive presence for GlobalPort, as his playing style since his college days has always been defense-first. While he lacks the extensive foreign league experience of some of his fellow imports, Williams has shown that he can bang with the big boys. He'll now team-up with new acquisition Japeth Aguilar to form one very imposing front court.

Meralco Bolts: Eric Dawson (6’9”, Forward)

Meralco brings in a player with extensive NBA D-League experience, as forward Eric Dawson has played in multiple seasons for the Austin Toros. In the D-League offseasons, Dawson has played for other teams in the Dominican Republic, Japan, and South Korea. In 2010-11, Dawson normed 8.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in 16.7 minutes a game for Jeonju KCC Egis, and helped that team win the championship of the Korean Basketball League.

Dawson had a stellar run with the Austin Toros in the 2011-12 season, averaging a double-double with 17.2 points and 10.6 rebounds a game, while adding 1.2 steals and 1.6 blocks. Because of his solid performance, he got called up to the San Antonio Spurs twice in 2012, but only averaged 9.8 minutes in 4 games with the team before returning to the Toros. Dawson got named Impact Player of the Year that season, and was also named to the All D-League 2nd Team.

Dawson may not grab the headlines or have a ton of highlight dunks, but the numbers speak for themselves. His NBA D-League experience shows that he is a workhorse who can come in and get a double-double every night, making him the perfect complement to Cliff Hodge up front.

Petron Blaze Boosters: Renaldo Balkman (6’8”, Forward)

Forward Renaldo Balkman may be familiar to hoops fans as the member of the Puerto Rican national team played six seasons in the NBA. Balkman was drafted in the first round, 20th overall, by the New York Knicks in the 2006 NBA Draft and played two seasons with them before being traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2008. He played another two seasons with the Nuggets, including making the Western Conference Finals in the 2008-09 season, before being traded back to the team that drafted him in the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony deal in 2011. He was eventually released in February 2012 as the Knicks waived him to make room for J.R. Smith.

Balkman averaged 4.0 points and 3.5 rebounds, along with 0.7 steals and 0.5 blocks in 13.9 minutes per game of NBA action, and was known for being a high-energy, high-flying defensive player who did the dirty work – he averages nearly a double-double per 36 minutes with 10.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 1.2 blocks.

He might be the shortest import among this bunch, but Balkman has shown that his work ethic can be an asset to any team, even if it doesn’t show up on the box score. The highlight dunks and alley-oops are sure to be a crowd-pleaser as well.

Rain or Shine Elasto Painters: Bruno Sundov (7’2”, Center)

Rain or Shine will sport the tallest (and oldest, at 33 years of age) import in this conference with the addition of 7’2” Bruno Sundov. The Croatian veteran has extensive experience across the globe, and was formerly a second round draft pick of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, drafted 35th overall in the 1998 NBA Draft when he was only 18 years old. Sundov moved around the NBA in a seven-year career, playing with five teams in that span. His most recent NBA season was in 2004-05, when he played 21 games for the New York Knicks.

He took his talents to Europe after that, playing in top leagues in Europe, including in Spain, Ukraine, Greece, Bulgaria, and his native Croatia. In his last Spanish stint in the top tier Liga ACB, Sundov played a minor role on Power Electronics Valencia, which fell short of capturing the title in the 2010-11 season.

In the 2011-12 season, Sundov played in Bulgaria for Lukoil Academic, where he averaged 11.7 points 5.5 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks in 44 games. In 2012, he played for Croatia KK Osječki sokol where he averaged 18.8 points 9.6 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks in five games, before signing up for the Elasto Painters in December. Based on his recent statistics, Sundov is not known for his shot-blocking, but he has a solid inside-outside game – he not only shoots decently from the free throw line and from 15 feet, but is likely to take and make some three-pointers as well. In addition to his imposing height, Sundov will add a complementary dimension to the outside game of the Elasto Painter stars.

San Mig Coffee Mixers: Matt Rogers (6’11”, Forward/Center)

San Mig Coffee’s Matt Rogers was a former All-American for Southwest Baptist University. Rogers had averaged 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks in his collegiate career, and was ranked in the top four in blocks in the entire US NCAA during his last three campaigns. Rogers was signed in 2010 by the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats for their training camp team, but was waived before the season started.  

Rogers sandwiched an unguaranteed contract with the Indiana Pacers in 2011 in between stints for the NBA D-League’s Texas Legends in 2010-11 and 2011-12. He averaged 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 79 games for the Legends, but was waived in March 2012 after suffering an injury, and subsequently asking to be released to try his luck overseas.

Rogers headed to Lebanon to play for Byblos Jbeil but did not stay long before returning to the US to put in some action for the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Summer League, averaging 4.3 points and 1.2 steals in only 11.8 minutes. Rogers’ play in the league enabled him to sign a contract with Coruña of the Spanish second-tier Liga Española de Baloncesto (LEB). He played there for three months before signing with San Mig Coffee, where he looks to showcase his shot blocking skills and integrate himself into Coach Tim Cone’s triangle offense.

Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters: Keith Benson (6’11”, Forward/Center)

The second-youngest import in this cup, Keith Benson was drafted with the 18th pick in the second round (48th overall) of the 2011 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. The Oakland University product averaged 14.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks in a solid collegiate career, including norming a double-double of more than 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks in each of his last two seasons.

Benson spent the last two seasons in the NBA D-League. In 2011-12, he played for the Sioux Falls Skyforce where he normed 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks a game, earning him a call-up with the Golden State Warriors. He returned to the Atlanta Hawks’ training camp team in the 2012 offseason, but didn’t make it and rejoined the D-League. The Skyforce then traded him in November 2012 to the Erie BayHawks, where Benson averaged 10.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks a game. Despite getting fewer minutes, his rebounding and shot-blocking numbers did not dip, showing his inside defensive prowess.

He left the Bayhawks in January to sign with Talk ‘N Text, and significantly beefs up Norman Black’s front court. Black is known for his big man coaching, so the young center should benefit from his tutelage, along with being one of the defensive anchors of the the Tropang Texters. - AMD, GMA News
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