PBA Commissioner’s Cup

Close call: Johnathan Williams tops Tyler Bey in tight Best Import race 

Delfin Dioquino

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Close call: Johnathan Williams tops Tyler Bey in tight Best Import race 

BATTLE. Tyler Bey of the Magnolia Hotshots (left) and Johnathan Williams of the Phoenix Fuel Masters in action in the 2023-24 PBA Commissioner's Cup.

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Johnathan Williams III becomes the first Phoenix import to win the Best Import award as he beats out Magnolia counterpart Tyler Bey

MANILA, Philippines – Phoenix ticked another milestone off the list following a conference to remember.

Johnathan Williams earned the Best Import honors in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday, February 9, after powering the Fuel Masters to their first semifinal appearance in an import conference.

Williams became the first Phoenix import to win the award as he bested Magnolia counterpart Tyler Bey following a nip-and-tuck race that could have gone either way.

An all-around workhorse, Williams averaged 24.5 points, 16.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.6 blocks in 17 games through the semifinals, helping the Fuel Masters survive a pair of do-or-die games in the playoffs before they bowed out.

Dragged to a sudden death quarterfinal by No. 5 seed Meralco, fourth seed Phoenix punched its semifinal ticket as the former NBA player posted 21 points and 16 rebounds in the knockout match.

The Fuel Masters once again faced elimination when the Hotshots nailed a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five semifinals, but Williams delivered anew with 19 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks in Game 3 to keep his side alive.

Although Phoenix eventually got the boot the following game, its campaign marked a stark improvement for the franchise after being 0-9 in do-or-die games prior to the conference.

Bey missed out on the award even after steering Magnolia to the top spot at the end of the elimination round on the way to the finals as he averaged 26.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 16 games.

Also a former NBA player like Williams, Bey fell short of becoming the first player from the Purefoods franchise to win Best Import since Marqus Blakely achieved the feat for the San Mig Coffee Mixers in the 2013 Governors’ Cup.

With Bey in tow, the Hotshots won 13 of their 16 games through the semifinals.

Meanwhile, San Miguel reinforcement Bennie Boatwright could have easily won as he posted monster numbers and turned the Beermen into a wrecking machine, but his late entry doomed his chances for the award.

Boatwright topped the statistical battle among imports with averages of 35.6 points, 12 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1 block, helping San Miguel win all of its games en route to the championship round since he replaced Ivan Aska.

However, Boatwright played just seven matches through the semifinals – less than half of the games Williams and Bey saw action in. – Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.