Thrilling action awaits in the double-header opening of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup set at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday, September 21.
Games start at 3 p.m. pitting the Blackwater Bossings against the Bay Area Dragons while the main event pits NorthPort Batang Pier against the Phoenix Fuel Masters at 5:45 p.m.
Blackwater aims to bounce back from its dismal PBA Philippine Cup performance when it battles the guest team Bay Area Dragons, which consists of players from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
Bossing coach Ariel Vanguardia said on the eve of the match that they have played the Bay AreaDragons in three tune-up games.
He said, “Factor lang, we don’t know kung sino dapat mga locals nila. Madami silang Canadian and American passport holders, mga dual citizens, so hindi namin alam kung sino ia-allow under PBA rules, kung sino eligible sa kanila. Pero definitely dapat isa lang American nila (It’s just a factor, we don’t know who their locals should be. There are many Canadian and American passport holders, dual citizens, so we do not know who will be allowed under PBA rules, or who is eligible among them. But they should definitely have only one American).”
Vanguardia, however, expects his wards to put up a good fight against their opponents in a bid to start strong in the new conference following a quarterfinals loss in the last PBA Philippine Cup, registering the worst league record of a 29-game losing streak.
He cited the Dragons as a “very strong ang team” with the size, speed, and prolific shooters who are a cut above the PBA brand of game.
The Dragons will be bannered by 2012 NBA Draft Orlando Magic 19th overall pick Andrew Nicholson, who also had a stint with Washington and Brooklyn. The 32-year-old Canadian averaged six points per game in 285 NBA games that he played before seeing action in China and then in Korea. He was also a US NCAA standout for St. Bonaventure.
Australian-American Bay Area head coach Brian Goorjian, Australia NBL’s most successful tactician, also coaches the country’s national team Boomers.
Newly-acquired Troy Rosario (TNT) and Gab Banal (NLEX), in exchange for Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser and two future second-round draft picks, will still have to gel with their new teammates but are still expected to give their best performance after giving them a wealth of playoff experience.
“We’d like to stay positive. We are moving forward from now on. Part naman ng challenge as a coach (it’s part of the challenge for a coach), to make it work,” said Vanguardia.
The Blackwater, he said, will build the much-needed chemistry as a team through time.
Their import Cameron Krutwig, a former Loyola Chicago standout who last played in Belgium, is experienced in the European way of basketball and can be a formidable force not just in scoring but also in other departments.
Meanwhile, NorthPort and Phoenix Fuel will each try to start their redemption journeys in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Prince Ibeh is back
NorthPort is bringing back its British-Rwadan import Prince Ibeh while the Fuel Masters will parade the services of Kaleb Wesson in the league’s mid-season tournament.
It can be recalled that Ibeh steered Batang Pier to a breakthrough second-seeding in the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup where they were pitted against San Miguel Beermen’s powerhouse cast in the quarterfinals. The Beermen eventually claimed the championship after Batang Pier squandered their twice-to-beat advantage.
The 28-year-old Ibeh is joined by Robert Bolick, Arwind Santos, Kevin Ferrer, and Roi Sumang in the Pido Jarencio-coached Batang Pier.
The Fuel Masters are also eyeing redemption without its top star Matthew Wright. Jason Perkins and Sean Anthony are expected to step up with the youngest import Wesson (23 years old), a native of Westernville, Ohio native. He earlier played this year for the Maccabi Rishon LeZion team in the Israeli Basketball Premier League.