Old and new imports add flavor to 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup

Jane Bracher
Old and new imports add flavor to 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup
Meet each of the 12 team's reinforcements here

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A healthy mixture of old and new faces will greet fans when the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup rolls along starting Friday, March 17.

Imports for the season’s second conference have a height limit of 6-foot-10.

Meet each of the 12 team’s reinforcements below.

1. Charles Rhodes (San Miguel Beermen)

American Charles Rhodes will anchor the newly crowned 2017 Philippine Cup champions when they try to fare better in the second conference coming off a title – unlike their disappointing showing a year ago.

Rhodes, 31, adds another layer of experience onto the battle-tested San Miguel, having played in a number of countries such as South Korea, Spain, and Turkey since 2008.

His career highlights include being part of the First-team All-Southeastern Conference in 2008 and also leading the Korean team Busan KT Sonicboom to first place in the regular season for the first time in their history in the 2010-11 season.

He graduated from Mississippi State and went undrafted in the NBA Draft of 2008. Rhodes is one of two Korean Basketball League imports this conference.

Check out some of his highights below.

2. Cory Jefferson (Alaska Aces) 

Alaska has locked in a replacement import in the nick of time as it has acquired the services of NBA D-League player Cory Jefferson for the Commissioner’s Cup. 

Jefferson, the 60th overall pick at the 2014 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs, will be taking the place of Octavius Ellis, who reportedly rushed back home to the US due to an urgent family matter. 

The 26-year-old forward suited up for the Brooklyn Nets on his rookie year, before spending the 2015-16 season with the Phoenix Suns and the organization’s D-League affiliate Bakersfield Jam. Jefferson was briefly signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers for training camp September last year, but was waived before regular season commenced. 

The 6-foot-9 Texas native last played for the Austin Spurs in the D-League, and averaged 16.1 points, 8.94 rebounds, and 1.1 assists, playing 29.8 minutes a game. 

3. Tony Mitchell (Star Hotshots)

Star, which bowed out of the Philippine Cup in game 7 of the semifinals, will tap the services of American Tony Mitchell.

Mitchell, 24, who stands at 6-foot-9, was drafted out of North Texas by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft. He went back and forth between the Pistons and D-League team Fort Wayne Mad Ants from 2013 to 2014.

By early 2015 he was traded to the Phoenix Suns and subsequently waived.

He then played in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, China and Israel. He briefly signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2015 but was also waived days after.

Mitchell was part of the 2010 American team that won gold in the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship.

4. Denzel Bowles (TNT KaTropa)

Denzel Bowles is one of the familiar faces making his way back to the PBA for the 5th time.

The 27-year-old is remembered well by Star Hotshots fans, having played with the franchise 4 times since 2012 and through 4 team name changes as well.

FAMILIAR FACE. Denzel Bowles returns to the PBA, this time playing for TNT. Photo from PBA Images

He is most notable for his 2012 Commissioner’s Cup run when he led the then B-Meg Llamados to the title and copping his own Best Import award to boot.

Bowles last played for Star in last season’s Commissioner’s Cup. He bolsters the TNT KaTropa this time around as the team aims for a finals run after reaching the semifinals last conference in Nash Racela’s rookie year as head coach.

Update: Bowles has been sent home due to a lack of fitness, according to a report on Spin.ph.

5. Sean Williams (GlobalPort Batang Pier)

Sean Williams, 30, reinforces GlobalPort this conference with a decade’s worth of experience in the NBA and in various leagues around the world.

Williams was drafted 17th overall by the then New Jersey Nets in 2007 and was eventually released in 2010. His time with the Nets included several arrests for various charges.

He played for several teams in the NBA D-League, including the Texas Legends and Delaware 87ers.

Williams’ career highlights include being a two-time All-NBA D-League Third Team member and a two-time NBA D-League All-Defensive First Team form 2011 to 2012.

6. Eugene Phelps (Phoenix Fuel Masters)

Phoenix brings back Los Angeles native Eugene Phelps just months after he helped the Fuel Masters to the quarterfinals in September 2016.

SWIFT RETURN. Eugene Phelps is back for more with Phoenix in the 2017 Commissioner's Cup. Photo from PBA Images

The athletic and energetic 27-year-old normed 36.1 points, 19.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 0.8 blocks per game in the 2016 Governors’ Cup. (LOOK BACK: The Destroyer: Bloodied Eugene Phelps wreaks havoc in PBA debut)

Phelps had previous stints in Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

7. Justin Brownlee (Barangay Ginebra San Miguel)

CHAMPIONSHIP 3-POINTER. Still not forgotten is Justin Brownlee's big 3-pointer for the win. File Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

The 28-year-old Justin Brownlee is currently the apple of the eye of Barangay Ginebra fans, just 5 months removed from his remarkable championship-winning 3-pointer in the 2016 Governors’ Cup.

(WATCH: Justin Brownlee hits 3-pointer to clinch championship for Ginebra)

Brownlee, who previously played in Europe, Mexico, and the NBA D-League, helped the Gin Kings end an 8-year title drought in October 2016.

He has since been tapped to reinforce Ginbera not just for the second conference but through to the third conference as well.

Brownlee, who also played for Philippines-Mighty Sports in the Dubai International Basketball Championship last month, had averages of 30.4 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks during last season’s Governors’ Cup.

8. Shawn Taggart (Rain or Shine Elasto Painters)

THE RETURN. Shawn Taggart will now suit up for Rain or Shine in the 2017 Commissioner's Cup. File Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

Also returning to the PBA is former GlobalPort import Shawn Taggart.

The 31-year-old Richmond, Virginia native averaged 34.4 points, 14.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.6 blocks in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup as the Batang Pier’s third import for that conference.

Globalport finished in last place then but now Taggart will try to rally Rain or Shine around him, pulling from playing experience in leagues in Israel, China, and Spain.

Taggart is tasked to anchor the Painters in their title defense of this conference.

9. Greg Smith (Blackwater Elite)

ELITE. Greg Smith will play for Blackwater. Photo from Smith's Twitter account/@Ju_Smith4

Blackwater’s import this conference is an ex-NBA player who played for the Houston Rockets.

Greg Smith, 26, went undrafted in 2011 but still managed to find his way into the NBA the following year. He then battled injury and went back and forth the D-League.

The Fresno State product signed a rest-of-season contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves March to June 2016, before playing 7 games in the Turkish League come October.

10. James White (Mahindra Floodbuster)

EMOTIONAL. Young import James White was emotional after Mahindra exited the 2016 PBA Governors' Cup. Photo from PBA Images

After an emotional farewell to Mahindra in the 2016 Governors’ Cup, where he led the Floodbuster to a franchise-first playoff berth.

Naturally athletic, White, 23, worked on his leadership during his time with the expansion team.

He intended to chase his NBA dream after the conference but will be returning with hopes of taking Mahindra deeper into the playoffs this time around.

At 6-foot-8, White came to the PBA fresh out of college (Georgia Tech) and averaged more than 24 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks in 12 PBA games played.

11. Alex Stephenson (Meralco Bolts)

At 29 years old, Alex Stephenson has piled up a number of accomplishments to his name, such as being named Slovenian Supercup MVP in 2013, a Turkish League All-Star two years later, and an NBA D-League All-Star and All-NBA D-League First Team member in 2016.

Hailing from Los Angeles, Stephenson will join the Bolts after going undrafted in 2011 and having since played in Europe and China.

There arguably is pressure on Stephenson to do well for Meralco after the team produced both of the Best Import winners last season (Arinze Onuaku and Allen Durham).

Having struggled once again in the all-Filipino conference, the Bolts will welcome the addition of a big man to plug in the holes beneath the rim.

With the help of Durham, Meralco soared to its first finals apperance in the 2016 Governors’ Cup.

12. Wayne Chism (NLEX Road Warriors)

A reunion takes place at NLEX as Wayne Chism joins forces once more with former coach Yeng Guiao.

Chism, 29, twice played for Rain or Shine since 2014 under the team’s then-coach Guiao.

REUNION. Former Rain or Shine import Wayne Chism reunites with coach Yeng Guiao at NLEX. File Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

He won the Best Import plum in the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup, after leading the Painters to the finals where they fell short against TNT.

Chism returned the following year in the same conference but was derailed by a hamstring injury, forcing him out of the tournament early. He then played in Mexico before making his PBA return. – Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.