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MANILA, Philippines – Whisked to Manila in 2019 as an emergency import replacement, John Holland suited up for San Miguel to help save its Grand Slam bid in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
But it turned out to be a short stint as Barangay Ginebra ended those plans and Holland left after three games with averages of 18.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists.
This time, Holland returned as a winner, helping Puerto Rico carve out a grueling 102-97 win over the Dominican Republic in the FIBA World Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, incidentally the site of his final PBA game.
“It’s great to be back. I spent a little, short time here. It’s great to be back,” said Holland.
“The people are so welcoming. They’ve been always one of the most friendly and welcoming people. You see them riding in the bus saying, ‘Hello.’ It’s really nice to be here,” he added.
“It’s a great experience. It really is.”
Holland shared he had already met with former San Miguel veteran Alex Cabagnot, and had been watching the games of Gilas Pilipinas that features another former teammate in six-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo.
But focus, of course, had been on the game as Puerto Rico stayed in the hunt for a quarterfinal spot with all teams in their group winding up tied with 3-1 records.
Holland scored 6 points in the Puerto Ricans’ crucial tiff against the Dominicans, and half of them proved the most crucial when he connected on a three that gave them a 98-95 advantage with just 31.1 seconds left in the game.
Tremont Waters, who had the hot hand all night with 35 points by that point, dished out his 11th assist to Holland, who had not hit a three all game.
“He made the right decision. I’m happy he did it, I’m happy he trusted me and like I said, that’s the growth of our team,” said Holland.
“We [in the team] trusting each other and playing together, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.”
Although they were a hastily formed team, Holland said they’re slowly finding their stride.
“It’s a short time that we could come together, we’re not a team like Serbia that’s been together for years or like these other teams but we’re doing it,” said Holland.
“We’re coming together at the right time, and I think we just got to keep going.”
Quarterfinal spots will be on the line when Puerto Rico battles Italy on Sunday, September 3, as fellow Group I teams Serbia and Dominican Republic also tangle.
“I think we’re a better team (now), we’ve been growing a lot in this tournament, so I mean, I just… I can’t even think about it right now,” said Holland.
“One step at a time, now we got to focus and get a game plan going. I expect a tough game, a battle. Of course, this is what it’s all about.” – Rappler.com