Meet the imports, Part 1

While two-time defending champion Talk ‘N Text and inspired Rain or Shine duke it out for the PBA Philippine Cup title, let’s take a closer look at the intriguing imports set to showcase their talent and skills in the coming Commissioner's Cup, starting with the imports of Petron Blaze, Barangay Ginebra, Rain or Shine, Meralco and Air21.
 
Renaldo Balkman, Power Forward – Petron Blaze

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 25: Renaldo Balkman #44 of the New York Knicks …
 
For the talent-laden Boosters, the rich just got richer.

Already imposing one of the league’s deepest rosters, Petron Blaze hooked up with highly-touted NBA veteran Renaldo Balkman in its bid for a needed bounce-back conference.

After failing to live up to lofty expectations in the Philippine Cup with a sorry quarterfinals stint, the Boosters are eager to redeem themselves and Balkman, 28, appears to be just equally determined to prove he still has what it takes.

Although one of the smaller imports at 6-foot-8, the Puerto Rican native is expected to provide added firepower, athleticism, and hustle at the 3- and 4-spots for Petron Blaze, with towering rookie June Mar Fajardo and burly Dorian Pena clogging the lane.

A contemporary of NBA stars Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Andrea Bargnani and Brandon Roy, Balkman was selected 20th overall by the New York Knicks in 2006.

ALSO READ: Philippine Cup Finals: It's best offense vs. best defense

Despite showing some signs of promise, the Knicks traded him to the Denver Nuggets in 2008. Two years after, Balkman was re-acquired by the Knicks in a blockbuster deal that included perennial All-Star Carmelo Anthony.

Unfortunately, he was then waived by New York in February 2012 to make room for streaky shooter J.R. Smith.

Once compared to defensive specialists Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest by league great Isiah Thomas, Balkman surely is all but fired-up to get it started with the Boosters.
 
Herbert Hill, Power Forward/Center – Barangay Ginebra San Miguel

Herbert Hill #35 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during the preseason …
 
With a relatively small and thin frontline, the Gin Kings seem to have just got what the doctors ordered with the addition of Herbert Hill.

Listed at 6-foot-10 and weighing at 240 pounds, Hill, 28, is a product of Providence College and has teamed up with Marcus Douthit, who became a naturalized import for the Philippine national basketball team.

During his senior stint with Providence in 2007, Hill averaged a career-best 18.06 points–only the third Friar to lead the Big East Conference after Eric Murdock and Ryan Gomes–on top of 8.84 rebounds and 2.94 blocks per game. With these exploits, he was selected as the Big East Most Improved Player and became a member of the All-Big East First Team.

Hill was then selected 55th overall (second round) by the Utah Jazz in the 2007 NBA Draft but was quickly sent to the Philadelphia 76ers for the rights of Ukrainian center Kyrylo Fesenko.

Hardly getting any chance to prove his worth in the world’s grandest stage, Hill recently suited up for the Incheon ET Land Elephants in the Korean Basketball League.

Now in the local pro league, Hill hopes to provide a mountain-like performance for the Gin Kings.
 
Bruno Sundov, Center – Rain or Shine

 
Talk about UNLIMITED height.

Utilizing the no-height-limit privilege to the hilt this conference, the Elasto Painters will parade 7-foot-3, 270-pound Croatian giant Bruno Sundov, who reportedly has a deft shooting stroke from the outside.

He first made a good account of himself with the Croatian national junior team in 1998, helping the team clinched the 1998 International Junior Tournament.

During that year, he was selected 35th overall (second round) by the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Draft before playing with four other teams–the Indiana Pacers (2000–2002), the Boston Celtics (2002–03), the Cleveland Cavaliers (2003–2004) and the New York Knicks (January 2004 and 2004–2005) in a seven-year stint.

ALSO READ: End of an era

Aside from helping Croatia bag the silver medal in the 2001 FIBA Under-21 World Championships with averages of 10.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, Sundov has traveled back and forth in several European circuits, the last with Bulgarian team PBC Lukoil Academic in 2011.

With coach Yeng Guiao known for using ‘long-range shooting’ big men in his offensive schemes, expect Sundov to quickly mesh with the pumped-up Painters.
 
Eric Dawson, Power Forward – Meralco

Eric Dawson #34 of the Austin Toros reaches for a rebound against …
 
In dire need of a steady force in the lane, the Bolts appear to have found the answer with the entry of Eric Dawson.

A 6-foot-9, 250-pound power forward, Dawson, 28, will most likely man the paint for the Meralco, which sorely misses the services of ageless center Asi Taulava.

A former Midwestern State standout who became a member of the All-American Second Team in the NCAA Division II, Dawson was undrafted in the NBA but has clearly stamped his class in the NBA Developmental League with the Austin Toros from 2011-1012.

Dawson was a force unleashed with the Toros, dominating with game-averages of 17.2 points and 10.7 rebounds on an efficient 56 percent clip from the field in 29 outings.

With Dawson providing the goods, the Toros compiled a win-loss record of 33-17–second-best– in the eliminations then upstaged the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the finals. His exploits was taken notice by the league, making him the D-League's Impact Player of the Year.

Intrigued by his performance, the San Antonio Spurs gave Dawson a back-to-back 10-day contract in March 2012, before being cut.

To give himself another crack in the NBA, a strong showing in the conference is a must for Dawson.
 
Michael Dunigan, Center – Air21

Michael Dunigan #21 of the Memphis Grizzlies takes instructions from …
 
Flourishing with its run-and-gun offense, Air21 brings in a young reinforcement who can keep pace with the Express.

Michael Dunigan, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound center, is tipped to emerge a steady force in the lane for Air21.

Described by coach Franz Pumaren as “energetic and offensive minded,” Dunigan is fresh off a productive stint in the Land Down Under, posting a nearly double-double averages of 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds in four games with the Perth Wildcats in the National Basketball League.

While the previous four imports have a lot to brag about, on paper Dunigan has yet to reach that point, having played with two European teams in 2010 with Israel’s Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem and BC Kalev/Cramo in Estonia.

He got signed by the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies in Sept. 2012, only to get waived nearly a month after.

Dunigan then ended up in Australia as a replacement import for the injured Matthew Knight, but was released January this year, paving the way for his entry to the Express.

The imports of Alaska, Talk ‘N Text, San Mig Coffee, Baraka Bull and GlobalPort will be discussed in Part 2.

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