Import Rob Dozier is still a force to reckon with when Alaska starts defense of the crown against Talk ‘N Text while Globalport will plunge into battle against Air 21 Express with new head coach Pido Jarencio today in the opening of the 39th Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Alaska, which swept the best-of-five finals vs. Ginebra last year, will collide with the Tropang Texters at 8 p.m. following the Batang Pier vs. Express encounter at 5:45 p.m.
The 6’9 Dozier, the reigning best import, will be pitted against 6’8 former New Carolina State University forward Richard Howell, who was recruited by the Portland Trail Blazers last year. The 22-year-old Howell averaged 12.7 points on 51.8 percent field goal shooting, 10.9 rebounds and 31.6 minutes in his senior year with North Carolina.
Coach Luigi Trillo sees a tough campaign for the Aces despite having back Dozier, who helped the Aces captured their first title after the departure of coach Tim Cone. He named San Miguel Beer, Ginebra, San Mig Coffee, Rain or Shine and Talk ‘N Text as the favorites in the current conference that allowed the entry of 6’11 imports in the two bottom teams and 6’9 for the rest.
“It’s already different today in this conference. There are lots of big men already. Each team has found ways to get stronger and better through the draft and player movements. Rob Dozier is in shape,” said Trillo referring to Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, Raymund Almazan and Ian Sangalang.
In their quest to retain the crown, Trillo would still rely on Sonny Thoss, Cyrus Baguio, Jayvee Casio, Calvin Abueva, Gabby Espinas, Dondon Hontiveros, RJ Jazul, Tony dela Cruz, Aldrich Ramos, Nic Belasco, Ryan Buenafe and Sam Eman.
The other imports expected to display prowess are Josh Boone (San Miguel Beer), Joshua Dollard (Barako Bull), Leon Rodgers (Barangay Ginebra), Herve Lamizana (Air21), Evan Brock (GlobalPort), Alexander McLean (Rain or Shine), James Mays (San Mig Super Coffee) and Brian Butch (Meralco).
“Dozier led us to an 18-4 record last year, which is the second best in franchise history in 26 years. It’s not only that he’s a good player but he’s a good person. It’s an advantage having him back because he knows the system and he knows the players,” Trillo said.
Except for their import Howell and the acquisition of Danny Seigle and Nino Canaleta in the last Philippine Cup, there’s not much change for the Tropang Texters and coach Norman Black is still expected to lean on the talents of Jason Castro, Kelly Williams, Ranidel de Ocampo, Larry Fonacier, Jimmy Alapag, Ryan Reyes, Noy Baclao, Aaron Aban and Harvey Carey.