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Asian imports make PBA debut

Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Blackwater vs Alaska
7 p.m. – Meralco vs GlobalPort

Imports from Iran and Palestine and a 7-foot former NBA first round draft pick make their debut in these shores today when the PBA Governors’ Cup, the third and last conference of the 40th season, fires off at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Blackwater Elite take on the Alaska Aces at 4:15 p.m., while the Meralco Bolts face the GlobalPort Batang Pier at 7 p.m.

On the initiative of PBA chairman Patrick Gregorio of Talk ‘N Text, ballclubs will be reinforcing their rosters with Asian players aside from the regular American imports in the hopes of expanding the league’s reach by tapping into the Asian fan base.

“We’re looking at ‘PBA Asia’ as a way of expanding our brand across the continent,” said Gregorio. “It just makes sense to think globally.”

While Blackwater is bringing back 7-foot naturalized player Marcus Douthit, who led Sinag Pilipinas to a five-game sweep of the SEABA tournament in Singapore a few days ago, Alaska has flown in 6-foot-7, 220-lb. power forward Romeo Travis, a high school teammate of NBA star LeBron James at St. Vincent-St Mary High in Akron, Ohio.

Douthit will be backstopped by homegrown Elite Brian Heruela, Eddie Laure, Gilbert Bulawan, Riego Gamalinda and Alex Nuyles, while Travis can bank on Aces regulars Sonny Thoss, Calvin Abueva, Cyrus Baguio, Jvee Casio, Dondon Hontiveros, Vic Manuel and Eric Menk for support in his baptism of fire against Douthit, a former Los Angeles Lakers center.

Meralco, on the other hand, is drawing the curtains on Iranian-born 6-foot-3 guard Benny Koochoie and veteran 6-foot-5, 230-pound forward Andre Emmet, selected 35th overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the 2004 draft, when it tangles with GlobalPort, powered by Palestinian Omar Krayem and 7-foot ex-Golden State Warrior first round pick Patrick O’Bryant.

Koochie, from California State U, wore the national colors for Iran in a number of international competitions and is a close friend of 7-foot-4 center Hamed Haddadi. He was brought in after the Bolts’ first choice, top Iran point guard Mahdi Kamrani, begged off to be with his pregnant wife.

The 28-year-old Krayem, meantime, is fresh from a stint in the Swedish Basketball League where he averaged 20.7 points, 7.1 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals for the Umea ballclub.

Commissioner’s Cup finalists Talk ‘N Text and Rain or Shine won’t be seeing action until next week when the champion TNT Tropang Texters clash with the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings in a marquee matchup on May 10 and the ROS Elasto Painters take on the San Miguel Beermen on May 12.