PBA imports set for return in Reinforced Conference

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FOUR-TIME PBA champion import Justin Brownlee is set to return to play for the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings in the Reinforced Conference this season. — ALVIN S. GO

DEFERRED last season because of the pandemic, an import-laced tournament is set to make its return in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Set for late this month, the league’s Reinforced Conference will see foreign reinforcements taking the PBA floor anew to add flavor to the competition.

Height limit for imports has been set at 6’6″.

As of this writing, all 12 competing teams have identified the reinforcements that will banner their campaigns and are currently finalizing their papers to make it all official.

It will be a mixed bag of old and new faces as far as the imports go.

Newly minted Philippine Cup champions TnT Tropang Giga try to go for back-to-back titles with import McKenzie Moore, who is in his first tour of duty in the PBA.

A native of Santa Rosa, California, Mr. Moore, 29, has played for TnT as reinforcement but in the 2019 edition of the East Asia Super League held in Macau, China.

He also saw action for the Mighty Sports squad that swept its way to the 2019 Jones Cup title in Chinese Taipei. In the team, he was teammates with now-TnT star Mikey Williams.

Mr. Moore also had stints in leagues in New Zealand, Belgium, Greece, Russia, Turkey and Poland.

Joining Mr. Moore in the new batch of PBA reinforcements are former National Basketball Association (NBA) campaigner Shabazz Muhammad of the Meralco Bolts, Antonio Hester of the Terrafirma Dyip, Jaylen Bond of the Blackwater Bossing and Cameron Forte of the Northport Batang Pier.

The Bolts’ Mr. Muhammad, 28, carries with him much credentials after being selected 14th overall pick by the Utah Jazz in the 2013 draft before his draft rights were traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In six seasons in the NBA, which included a year with the Milwaukee Bucks, he averaged nine points and 2.8 rebounds.

He spent the last two years playing in the Chinese basketball league.

The rest of the reinforcements seeing action in the second conference of the PBA this season are composed of returning imports, led by Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings’ Justin Brownlee.

Mr. Brownlee is looking to sustain the success he has had in the PBA, where he has led the Kings to a championship each year since coming on board in 2016.

He helped Barangay Ginebra to the Governors’ Cup championship in 2016, 2017 and 2019 and the Commissioner’s Cup in 2018.

Former best import awardee Mike Harris is also set for a return, but this time for the Magnolia Hotshots after playing for the Alaska Aces in 2018.

Many-time PBA import Henry Walker is to play for the Rain or Shine Elastopainters while league champion Paul Harris will see action for the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters.

The San Miguel Beermen will have Brandon Brown, formerly of Phoenix. Former TnT import KJ McDaniels will now play for the NLEX Road Warriors while Alaska will parade ex-Road Warriors import Olu Ashaolu.

All imports seeing action in the Reinforced Conference must be fully vaccinated.

The PBA is currently in talks with pertinent government agencies, particularly the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), regarding the staging of the second conference.

But reports have that the league has also secured permits from the Foreign Affairs department for the above-mentioned imports to travel to the country while the league awaits government approval for the import-laced tournament.

The staging of the second conference is in line with the PBA’s push to have at least two tournaments this season as opposed to the lone conference held in 2020 because of the pandemic.

It is angling to have the action back in the National Capital Region after finishing the Philippine Cup in a semi-bubble in Bacolor, Pampanga. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo