The Imports of the 2018 PBA Commissioner’s Cup (Part 1)

With the San Miguel Beermen etching their mark in PBA history with a fourth straight conference title in closing out this year’s Philippine Cup, the league now shifts its focus on the mid-season tournament, the Commissioner’s Cup.

Unlike in previous versions, this season’s tournament has no special handicap for teams that finished at the bottom rung of the standings from the previous conference. All teams are allowed to tap the services of a foreign reinforcement within the 6’10” height requirement set by the PBA.

SLAM PH takes a look at this season’s batch by profiling the imports of Columbian Dyip, Blackwater Elite, Magnolia Hotshots, Phoenix Fuelmasters and TNT KaTropa in the first of this two-part series.

CJ Aiken, Columbian Dyip

Parading their nth team moniker which could be a PBA record of sorts given their tenure in the league, the Columbian Dyip side will also be showcasing a new reinforcement for the Commissioner’s Cup in former Saint Joseph’s forward C. J. Aiken.

During his three-years with the Hawks from 2010-13, Aiken averaged 9.6 points and 5 boards. But it was on the defensive end that the 6’9″ Aiken made his mark in the collegiate basketball scene, as he swatted 3.3 shots per night owing to his 7’1.5″ wingspan. This has led him to being named as the Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year during the 2011-12 season.

Passed by teams in the 2013 NBA Draft, he then began his professional journey in the NBA G-League with the hometown Erie BayHawks. By 2015, Aiken begun his international hoops career by signing with Wilki Morskie Szczecin then later on with Energa Czarni Slupsk, both in the Polish Basketball League. He would then return to North America and play across the border for the Niagara River Lions of Canada’s National Basketball League on which he averaged 7.2 points, 4.4 boards and 1.3 blocks in 9 games during the 2017-18 season.

The Columbia franchise has had success with past reinforcements in the midseason conference which includes Puerto Rican giant PJ Ramos and the athletically-gifted James White. If this trend continues, then Aiken may just be the solution for Manny Dandan’s squad that accounted for only a lone win in the recently concluded Philippine Cup.

Jarrid Famous, Blackwater Elite

Given the plethora of talented players on the backcourt and on the wings led by Mac Belo, Michale DiGregorio, Roi Sumang and Allein Maliksi, the Elite needed a legitimate presence in the middle to compliment their solid perimeter game.

Enter Jarrid Famous. Having traveled around the global circuit since becoming a pro basketball player in 2011, the South Florida product is well-versed on how the game has been played internationally as he suited up for teams in the Dominican Republic, Chinese, Philippine, Venezuelan, Israeli, Puerto Rican, Argentine and Lebanese leagues. His stint in Lebanon also made him a naturalized player of the National Team that saw action in the 2012 Jones Cup. In between his international stops, the Bronx-born slotman also saw action in the NBA G-League for the Iowa Energy, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Los Angeles D-Fenders and Texas Legends.

Now on his fourth tour of duty in the PBA with Blackwater, the Elite are anchoring on Famous to help them return to the playoffs after missing the bus last conference. If his last stint in the league back in 2015 is any indication as he averaged 30 markers, 23 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1.4 assists in 9 games for the Globalport Batang Pier, then a Blackwater appearance in the conference’s post-season is not far-fetched at all.

Vernon Macklin, Magnolia Hotshots

While his return to the PBA didn’t meant a comeback with crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra, in which he helped to a Finals appearance five years ago, Vernon Macklin nonetheless had the next best thing in line by enlisting with another multi-titled club in the Magnolia Hotshots.

With his new team’s glaring dearth in the post, Macklin’s arrival gives the Hotshots a legitimate presence in the paint on both ends of the floor. That’ll give Ian Sangalang the opportunity to slide down to the four position and earn his paycheck while not really worrying about guarding the likes of June Mar Fajardo down low.

He may not have been a consistent scoring option during his run in the NBA as a member of the Detroit Pistons as well as in the G-League, but Macklin is a handful when it comes to playing abroad. The 6’10” slotman is fresh coming off a stint with the Goyang Onions in South Korea, in which he averaged nearly 23 points and 10 rebounds in 54 matches. Prior to the KBL stint, he also had runs in the Chinese, Puerto Rican and Turkish domestic leagues as well.

Exposed to their weakness during the last Philippine Cup Finals, the Hotshots are hoping that the former Florida State Seminole would be the answer to the gaping hole in the middle as the team look to sustain its run from the last conference.

James White, Phoenix Fuel Masters

Relatively unknown after graduating from Georgia Tech in 2016, little did James White knew that KIA’s gamble on him would put him in the consciousness of the basketball world, at least in the PBA level.

In his rookie season as a pro and also a first-timer overseas, White did not disappoint when KIA enlisted him for the Commissioners’ Cup that same year.  Starting all 13 games for the franchise in the elimination round, the 6’8″ White had numbers of 24.3 points, 13 boards and 2 blocks, not bad for someone who moved several thousand miles from home just to start his professional career. His strong play got him another nod to play for the team a season later.  But KIA, being KIA, gave White the boot four games into the conference despite improving his statistics to 30.5 points, 18.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.

Returning anew to the PBA for the 2018 Commissioners’ Cup, White is now with a new team in the Phoenix Fuelmasters. Aside from giving the Fuelmasters ceiling as they’re one of the smallest teams in the recent Philippine Cup, White gives them added athleticism which is perfect for the uptempo style of coach Louie Alas. Just like the team’s franchise name, White will be looking to rise from the ashes after a bitter ending from his last PBA run a year ago.

Jeremy Tyler, TNT KaTropa

Almost two decades ago, a once-prep phenom from the States which was Lenny Cooke brought his act to the PBA as an electrifying scoring-machine for the Purefoods franchise. While TNT KaTropa’s Jeremy Tyler may not be in the same billing as the Rucker Park legend, there are similarities between the two given that they were stars of their respective HS squads and went pro after HS or in Tyler’s case, his junior year in HS.

Leaving San Diego HS in 2009 after averaging 28.7 points per game during his junior year, Tyler marked his foray in international ball by signing with Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Super League. He would soon jettison to Japan with the Tokyo Apache before making himself eligible for the 2011 NBA Draft.

Selected by the then-Charlotte Bobcats, Tyler’s draft rights were later traded to Golden State. During his freshman year in the NBA, Tyler averaged 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds in 42 games. He would play another 20 matches for the Warriors the following season before making stops in Atlanta and New York. In four seasons played in the NBA, Tyler raked in numbers of 3.8 points and 2.7 boards in 80 career games.

The 6’10” Californian also suited up in the G-League for the Dakota Wizards, Santa Cruz Warriors and Erie BayHawks. Before being enlisted by TNT, Tyler made a round of the Asia-Pacific region wherein he played for the Shanxi Zhongyu, Fujian Sturgeons and Tianjin Ronggang in the Chinese Basketball Association and the Sydney Kings of Australia’s National Basketball League. In 11 games for the Kings, the last team he played for before flying over to Manila, Tyler averaged 13.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game.

Tyler’s arrival at the TNT camp is fitting as he fills the void left by big Moala Tautuaa.  The former first overall pick in the 2015 PBA Draft, Tautuaa was traded to the Globalport Batang Pier in exchange for Terrence Romeo and Yousef Taha earlier this month.

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