SLAM PH takes a look at this season’s batch by profiling the imports of the Meralco Bolts, Alaska Aces, Globalport Batang Pier, NLEX Road Warriors, Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, San Miguel Beermen and Barangay Ginebra in the second of this two-part series.
Arinze Onuaku, Meralco Bolts
Inasmuch as the “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” cliche is as old as time itself, Meralco coach Norman Black is probably a staunch believer of this adage hence the reason as to why old hand Arinze Onuaku is back on the Bolts’ roster for the 2nd time.
A former Best Import awardee in the same conference two seasons ago, Onuaku is a proven beast in the shaded lane thanks to his 18.7 points, 17.3 boards and 1.5 blocks in 17 games for the Bolts during the 2015-16 season. He also saw action for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic, but it was in the G-League in which he made the most damage especially during his time with the Canton Charge especially in the 2014-15 season.
During that period, the 6’9″ Syracuse product tallied numbers of 17.5 markers and 12.2 rebounds in 41 games for the Charge. This earned him a spot in the G-League’s All-Second Team and a call-up to the NBA. After his last appearance in the League with the Magic a season ago in 2016-17, Onuaku settled momentarily in China wherein he played for Hunan in the Chinese National Basketball League and later on with Zhejiang Golden Bulls of the CBA. Onuaku’s return should be a welcome sight for the Bolts given their ageing as well as undersized frontline.
Reggie Johnson, Rain or Shine Elasto Painters
The arrival of Reggie Johnson to help the team’s campaign in the Commissioners’ Cup, “Extra Rice” has been reborn in Rain or Shine thanks to the hulking specimen which is Johnson.
Standing 6’10” at 290 lbs., Johnson is a certified low-post threat able to carve his own space inside as well as provide bone-crushing picks and box-outs to teammates needing that extra space to make plays. Undrafted out of the University of Miami in the 2013 NBA Draft, Johnson played for the Delaware 87ers for one season in the G-League before heading over to the Netherlands wherein he would play for SPM Shoeters Den Bosch. Splitting 42 games for Bosch in both the Dutch Basketball League (DBL) and Euroleague, Johnson averaged 10.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per.
But it was in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) in which he would make his mark in international hoops. During the 2015-16 ABL season,Johnson tallied a double-double average of 21 points and 12 rebounds a contest while leading the Westports Malaysia Dragons to the 2016 ABL crown. Johnson would also be named as World Heritage Import MVP in the same season as well. The burly North Carolinian last played for Mono Vampire in this season’s ABL tournament in which he tallied 22.7 markers and 14 boards in 6 games. With him and Belga expected to be paired alongside each other, Rain or Shine management hopes that that the glory days of the team’s famed interior tandem be replicated, at least in this conference.
Antonio Campbell, Alaska Aces
One of this conference’s younger reinforcements, Antonio Campbell’s signing with the Alaska Aces marks a personal milestone as this is the Ohio University alumnus first-ever stint in foreign soil.
Exhausting all of his four-year eligibility with the Bobcats, Campbell averaged 11 points , 7 boards and a block in 114 career matches in Division 1 basketball. His best year was during his junior season in 2015-16 in which he tallied 17 markers, 10 boards and almost 2 blocks while starting all 35 matches for Ohio.
Passed by teams in the 2017 NBA Draft, Campbell was signed by the Lakeland Magic of the G-League. In 20 games for the Magic, the 6’9″ Campbell put in numbers of 6.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per. Given that the Aces have only a couple of players standing above 6’5″ in Sonny Thoss and Marion Magat, Campbell will definitely be an integral piece of coach Alex Compton’s interior gameplan in the Commissioners’ Cup.
Malcolm White, Globalport Batang Pier
He may have only played in 5 games during his first stint in the PBA a year ago, but that made a lasting impression for the Globalport Batang Pier to bring back Malcolm White to serve as the team’s import anew in this season’s Commissoners’ Cup.
In his inaugural foray in the league, the 6’9″ White powered his way to the tune of 21.8 markers, 14.8 caroms, 2.4 blocks and 1.2 assists every night before being replaced by Justin Harper.
Despite this short run, White’s dominance in the middle was more than enough for his old team to enlist the former Louisiana State University (LSU) banger for another stint in the conference. Globalport bigs Kelly Nabong and newly-acquired Moala Tautuaa will also be looking to thrive from White’s presence as the two would be able to concentrate more on defense, allowing the import to assert his offensive might against opposing big men.
Adrian Forbes, NLEX Road Warriors
Talk about tough luck. The NLEX Road Warriors were supposed to get an NBA-caliber player in Arnett Moultrie only to find out that there were problems securing his release from his Bahraini club. With the opening of the Commissioners’ Cup a mere few days away, the Road Warriors decided to tap the services of Adrian Forbes, a 6’10” slotman from Jamaica.
A product of Auburn University, Forbes was the 26th pick in the 2015 NBA G-League Draft by the Grand Rapids Drive. He would later player in the Japanese Basketball League (JBL) for the Mitsubishi DD and Kagawa FA squads from 2015-17 before settling with the Al Muharraq of Bahrain and Dominican Republic club Pueblo Nuevo in 2018. It was with these two ballclubs that Forbes unleashed his true potential as a pro, hitting off for 15.3 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per in his stint with Al Muharraq and 21.2 markers, 9.8 boards and 2.8 blocks for Nuevo in which he was named as Defensive Player of the Year as well.
With coach Yeng Guiao putting premium on the defensive end of the floor, Forbes looks to shine under the multi-titled taskmaster’s system especially with the team looking to sustain its consistency from last conference which resulted in the franchise’s first-ever semifinal appearance in the PBA.
Troy Gillenwater, San Miguel Beermen
Unable to re-acquire the services of Charles Rhodes, as the reigning Best Import of the Commissioners’ Cup is tied to his contractual obligations in the Hermit Kingdom, the San Miguel Beermen will now try to defend their conference title thru New Mexico product Troy Gillenwater.
A 6’8″ banger for the Lobos, Gillenwater averaged 15.2 points, 5.5 boards and 1.2 blocks in 70 career games in the NCAA Division 1 from 2007-2011. Passed on by teams in the NBA Draft the following year, Gillenwater went on to embark on a pro journey worldwide that saw him landing stints with in Cyprus, Israel, Russia, Turkey, South Korea, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Japan.
While Gillenwater’s last pro stint which was with Turkish squad Eskishehir Basket didn’t produce eye-boggling stats as he only churned 10.8 points and 3,4 boards in 5 games, his addition to the Beermen’s roster makes them already more lethal as he is set to join forces with reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo and rookie big Christian Standhardinger in a menacing three-headed frontline posed to give problems to the rest of the league.
Charles Garcia, Barangay Ginebra
As Justin Brownlee has yet to finish his assignment with Alab Pilipinas and replacement Shane Edwards might not do the trick due to depleted interior of the squad with Greg Slaughter still recovering from injury, Barangay Ginebra has decided to consider a third choice for their Commissioners’ Cup campaign this season.
Heavily tattooed at 6’10” and 230 lbs.,Charles Garcia aims to address Ginebra’s lack of post presence due to Slaughter’s absence. Coming from Seattle University in which he averaged 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in his lone season back in 2009-10, the Los Angeles native is well-traveled around the global basketball circuit having played for clubs in Turkey, Spain, Puerto Rico, South Korea and even Iceland.
He also suited up for a handful of G-League teams such as Utah Flash, Iowa Energy, Sioux Falls Skyforce, Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Austin Spurs, the team he last played for before getting recruited to play in the PBA. In 49 games for the Spurs during the 2016-17 season, Garcia was a key man off the bench by contributing 13.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest. Among the highlights of his G-League include being part of the Iowa Energy champion squad in 2011 and a member of the All-Star selection back in 2012.