When Renaldo Balkman’s name was called by the PA announcer prior to tip-off of Alab Pilipinas’ game against the Westsports Malaysia Dragons, the jampacked Filoil Flying V Centre drowned him with cheers. It was the exact opposite of what he had received 1759 days ago.
The last time the 6-foot-8 forward was playing in the Philippines, he figured in one of the most talked-about moments in the history of the PBA.
The Petron Blaze Boosters had been up against the Alaska Aces during that night. Petron had been down 73-80 with 21.6 seconds left when Balkman was not able to get a call that favored him. Arwind Santos tried to calm him down, but Balkman did not take kindly of it, choking, shoving, and slapping his teammate’s hands away.
This resulted in him being slapped with a lifetime ban by the PBA.
But with Alab Pilipinas struggling, coach Jimmy Alapag needed a player that could help them in their campaign. And he immediately had one person in mind: Balkman.
“When I saw him in Spain (during the 2014 FIBA World Cup), he said, ‘If you ever get to coaching and the doors open for me to come back to Manila, I’m willing’,” Alapag shared.
“We’re thankful to GAB (Games and Amusement Board) for approving his license.”
Balkman did not disappoint. Even if he had just arrived earlier in the day, the now-33 year old dropped 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds, four steals, and two blocks. Conniving with Justin Brownlee, they were able to lift Alab to a 90-79 win to open the new year in style.
And he was immensely grateful to the Filipino crowd who welcomed him back with open arms.
“It felt good. I didn’t expect it, but the past is the past,” Balkman expressed. “I did lots of things since then and tonight, it wasn’t on my mind, it wasn’t on my head. I just went out there to play basketball.
“It’s been a long time.”
His last stint in the country did not end up well, as he did not have a championship to boot — and he was slapped with a huge fine that definitely hurt his savings. This time around, the 20th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft is a man on a mission: to win an ABL championship and return to the PBA.
“That’s the goal,” he remarked about a potential return to the big league, “But right now, we’re gonna finish the ABL first. We’re gonna finish this and see where it goes.
“Right now, it’s about the ABL and we can talk about the PBA later. Right now, our goal is to win a championship in the ABL.”
Blistering Mikey Williams takes home Heritage Import of the Week honor
The resurgent Saigon Heat have been the thorn to topflight clubs teams Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club and Nanhai Kung Fu, handing both squads their first losses in the eighth season of the ASEAN Basketball League. The Heat would not have done it without Filipino-American import Mikey Williams.
Williams, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Cal State Fullerton, dropped 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and nine assists in Saigon’s 121-115 overtime win over Hong Kong.
The former NBA G-Leaguer followed it up with a sensational 24-point, five-rebound, and seven-assist outing in their 96-93 win over Kung Fu.
Overall, the 26-year-old guard averaged 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.0 steals to edge out fellow Filipino AJ Mandani of the Singapore Slingers for the weekly award.
For the Local Player of the Week, two Alab Pilipinas stalwarts were the runners-up for the crown.
Reigning local Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and his floor general Josh Urbiztondo had stellar weeks that earned them honorable mentions.
Urbiztondo, on the other hand, had norms of 14.5 points on a hot 9-for-17 clip from downtown.
Ray Parks, Josh Urbiztondo torch Mono, lead Alab to bounce back win
Coming off a frustrating home loss to the Singapore Slingers last Wednesday, skipper Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and Tanduay Alab Pilipinas vented their ire with a huge statement win at the expense of the streaking Mono Vampire Basketball Club, 114-87, Sunday evening at Stadium 29 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The win lifted Alab’s slate to an even 4-4, a full game behind the fourth-running Saigon Heat. Moreover, Alab was able to snap Mono’s three game winning streak.
After scoring 16 points in their 80-90 loss to the Slingers, Parks, Jr. was able to follow it up with a sensational 19 point outing. The reigning Local Most Valuable Player added seven rebounds, six assists, and a block to his statline.
The second generation cager provided the spark in the opening frame, scoring 10 points in the opening frame to give the road team a strong start.
Josh Urbiztondo followed it up in the second frame, dropping nine points in the second quarter. He finished the game with 17 markers, spiked by five triples.
Alab never looked back, leading by as much as 33 points, 104-71, after a Justin Brownlee bucket with 6:58 left.
Brownlee flirted with a triple-double, tallying a game-high 29 points to go along with eight rebounds and nine assists. Fellow World Import Renaldo Balkman had an efficent outing with 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting, seven rebounds, and five assists in just 23 minutes of game time.
As a team, Alab knocked down 14 triples with the troika of Parks, Urbiztondo, and Brownlee combining for 11.
Filipino export Paul Zamar paced Mono with 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting. The same could not be said for Filipino-American Jason Brickman, as he played his worst outing so far, ending the game with just seven points and a personal-low of three assists.
Former Mighty Sports-Philippines player Mike Singletary had 24 points on 22 attempts and 11 rebounds.
Alab will visit Indonesia for the first time this season on Saturday, January 20, to take on the CLS Knights.
Tanduay Alab 114 — Brownlee 29, Parks 19, Urbiztondo 17, Balkman 14, Raymundo 10, Maierhofer 7, Javelona 6, Alabanza 4, Domingo 4, Celiz 2, Hontiveros 2, Sumalinog 0.
Mono 87 — Singletary 24, Zamar 20, Deguara 17, Brickman 7, Boonyai 5, Ananti 4, Chanthachon 3, Apiromvilaichai 2, Khukhandhin 2, Phuangla 2, Samerjai 1, Kruatiwa 0.
Quarterscores: 32-22, 54-37, 88-62, 114-87.
Joshua Munzon picks up first win since returning to Westsports
It took three games before Joshua Munzon picked up his first win in his second stint with the Westsports Malaysia Dragons
The Dragons snapped their four-game losing streak after hammering the struggling Formosa Dreamers, 84-74, Sunday afternoon at the MABA Stadium in Malaysia.
Munzon, who returned to Westsports Malaysia last January 3, finished with 17 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Moreover, the title-holder for most steals in a season was able to force five turnovers in the contest in 37 minutes of action.
The 22-year-old averaged 26.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists prior to this game.
As he struggled from the field in the final frame, the versatile Filipino-American forward did the little things to help Westsports pull away late.
A three-pointer Marcus Marshall with 7:19 left proved to be the go-ahead bucket for Westsports. The Dragons led by as much as 10 points, 69-59, in the contest.
Behind Lenny Williams and the debuting Ronnie Aguilar, Formosa was able to slice the lead to as low as three points, 75-71, with 1:07 remaining. Free throws by AJ West and Marshall in the end game however held off the Dreamers.
With the win, Westsports raised their slate to 2-4. Formosa dropped to 1-7.
Mikey Williams outduels Mikh McKinney as Saigon ends another streak
It looks like there’s a new powerhouse on the rise
Ever since they tapped Filipino-American Mikey Williams, the Saigon Heat ended two undefeated runs in the ASEAN Basketball League. After the Heat ended Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club’s unbeaten run, they took down Chongson Kung Fu Basketball Club, 96-93, Saturday night at home in CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Their win over Kung Fu serves as a perfect follow-up to their impressive showing against another previously-unbeaten team in Hong Kong Eastern, 121-115, last Tuesday at the Southorn Stadium in Wanchai City.
The foreign reinforcements continue to deliver the goods for the now-4-2 Saigon.
Williams had 24 points, five boards, and seven dimes, while World Import Maxie Esho top-billed with 35 points and 12 rebounds.
The neophyte Chinese ball club had actually been on the cusp of maintaining their win-loss slate intact after World Import Anthony Tucker swished in a three-pointer to put his team up, 93-92, with just 21 seconds remaining.
But Saigon displayed more will and did not show any sign of crumbling. Moses Morgan hit a jumper with 18 ticks left, and Akeem Scott scored off a lay-up moments later to put the Heat up three with 14 seconds left to play.
Kung Fu tried to save their immaculate record, but Fil-Am cager Mikh McKinney’s shot missed and sealed the deal for Saigon.
Scott finished with 16 points for the storied Vietnamese ball club, who had another impressive offensive night, as they made 52 percent of their shots from the floor. David Viet Arnold supplied 11 markers and six caroms.
Fil-Am Caelan Tiongson led Chongson with 23 points on 58 percent shooting and seven rebounds in a losing effort. Tucker and Justin Howard finished with 22 points each and combined for 24 of the team’s 40 boards.
McKinney rounded up Kung Fu’s scoring leaders with 20 markers on 15 shots.
Chongson dropped to 4-1.