The PBA recently just wrapped up its midseason tournament, but three squads will soon spring back into action to take on some of the best club teams Asia has to offer.
Commissioner’s Cup finalists San Miguel Beermen and TNT Katropa, along with the much-improved Blackwater Elite will test their mettle in the Terrific 12 East Asia Super League tournament, slated on September 17 to 22 in Macau, China.
Apart from the locals, each team is allowed to bring in two reinforcements for the esteemed tournament — which will also feature Chinese squads Shenzhen Aviators, Liaoning Flying Leopards and the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions, the Chiba Jets, Ryukyu Golden Kings, Niigata Albirex, and the Utsunomiya Brex from Japan, and South Korea’s Jeonju KCC Egis and Seoul SK Knights.
Let’s take a look at the experienced basketball mercenaries set to bolster each PBA team.
Blackwater Elite — Alex Stepheson and Aaron Fuller
After another serious stomach ailment cut his stint short for the Elite in the PBA’s midseason tournament, Alex Stepheson is back and healthy for coach Aris Dimaunahan’s troops. With the bruising double-double machine anchoring the paint, Blackwater raced to a 4-0 start in the Commissioner’s Cup.
His heft and physicality posed major problems even for the PBA’s best big men, while his presence down low gave Blackwater’s young star Bobby Ray Parks Jr. more room to operate on offense. Stepheson averaged 22.17 points, 22.0 rebounds, and 2.17 blocks in six games for the Elite.
Like Stephson, Aaron Fuller also needs no introduction to the Filipino masses. The 6’6 forward is a hard-nosed, well-rounded player who brings his A-game every second he is on the floor. After two tours of duty for the NLEX Road Warriors, the 29-year-old Fuller will get a chance to gel with his new teammates in the Terrific 12, before suiting up for Blackwater in the Governors’ Cup.
San Miguel Beermen — Dez Wells and Lester Prosper
Chris McCullough won’t be able to join the Beermen in the Terrific 12, but they will still be in good hands with the arrival of G-League veteran Dez Wells. A smooth operator who plays off-ball but still can score from anywhere on the court, Wells perfectly compliments SMB’s M.O. of team basketball.
With Marcio Lassiter expected to be out due to a knee injury, Wells’ size and versatility at the wings will play a major factor on how they will match-up against Asia’s top club teams.
San Miguel’s prized big June Mar Fajardo will just be coming off from his participation for the national team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup prior to the start of the Terrific 12. With his availability in question, SMB made sure to tap a proven slotman to pick-up the slack. Enter Lester Prosper, a little-known import who made a splash for the Columbian Dyip in the Commissioner’s Cup.
The lefty, well-built big showcased an appealing inside-outside game on offense, paired with frenzied ferocity on the defensive end. He averaged 36.5 points, 17.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in four games for the Dyip.
TNT Katropa — KJ McDaniels and McKenzie Moore
Same as McCullough, reigning BIC winner Terrence Jones won’t be around for the Katropa in the Terrific 12. Still, the Commissioner’s Cup runners-up acquired the services of another high-profile player in KJ McDaniels, who will play both in the Macau tournament and the Governors’ Cup.
A walking highlight waiting to happen, McDaniels is a supreme athlete who uses his gifts wisely on both ends of the floor. His NBA experience will certainly give him an edge, especially with other Asian clubs also set to bring in impressive imports of their own.
McDaniels’ athleticism will be quite an asset for TNT, but they still need another big body to help man the interior. They addressed the need by picking up former NBL MVP McKenzie Moore. Although he naturally plays both guard positions, the 6’6 Moore has the size and skillset to help shore up the Katropa’s needs upfront.
Although he is without PBA experience, Moore has built a reputation in Greece, New Zealand, Belgium, and Russia and has racked up multiple individual awards in his overseas career.
(Photos from PBA/Getty Images)