By Jonas Terrado
The beloved Justin Brownlee leads a group of imports who are back for another tour of duty in the PBA Commisioner’s Cup which starts on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Brownlee returns for Barangay Ginebra San Miguel which is out to rebound from losing to the San Miguel Beermen in the recent Philippine Cup finals and repeat the success they tasted in the successful title run in last season’s Governors’ Cup.
Ginebra is going with the 6-foot-7 Brownlee, whose buzzer-beating three against Meralco in Game 6 of that Governors’ Cup finals ended the team’s eight-year title drought, despite having the luxury of tapping an import with a maximum height of 6-foot-10.
The Gin Kings still won’t be having 7-foot center Greg Slaughter because of his knee injury, but coach Tim Cone is content on playing small ball with the former St. John’s Red Storm around.
“We’re gonna be small but we have some ideas at how we’re gonna play and we’ll work it through, see how it works,” Cone said.
Also returning to his old team is 23-year-old James White, who is going to suit up for the Mahindra Floodbuster.
While also suited up in last season’s Governors’ Cup, leading Mahindra to its first-ever playoff appearance in the pro league.
The lanky 6-foot-8 from Georgia Tech averaged 24.3 points and 13.1 rebounds in 13 games.
Two imports who have been used to playing in the PBA are also back, albeit for different teams this time.
Denzel Bowles has joined TNT KaTropa following a memorable run with the Purefoods franchise while Wayne Chism is suiting up for NLEX to reunite with coach Yeng Guiao.
The irony is Bowles now plays for the team he denied of the title in the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup when his two free throws late in regulation of Game 7 allowed B-Meg (now Star Hotshots) to force overtime and eventually capture the crown.
Bowles played four more times for the franchise under different names in 2013 (San Mig Coffee), 2015 (Purefoods Star Hotshots) and 2016 (Star Hotshots). But his last stop ended abruptly when Bowles was released in lieu of Ricardo Ratcliffe.
Chism, on the other hand, played with Rain or Shine in 2015 and 2016 under Guiao – the first run leading to a runner-up finish with a seven-game defeat to Talk ‘N Text. His 2016 stint ended early after the Elasto Painters decided to hire a replacement.
Phoenix is also going with a returnee in Eugene Phelps, who led the Fuel Masters to the playoffs in the Governors’ Cup. However, coach Ariel Vanguardia said the Phelps is a standby import as they negotiate for a permanent reinforcement.