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PBA: ‘Manila Clasico’ crucial for Star import

By Jerome Lagunzad

Perennial contender Star is off to an encouraging start in the 2017 PBA Governors Cup, but the jury is still out on offense-minded import Malcolm Hill.

First-year coach Chito Victolero and the Hotshots management will have a better idea of how far the 6-foot-4 Hill can steer them when Star renews its “Manila Clasico” rivalry with defending champion Barangay Ginebra this Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The youngest among the current crop of reinforcements at 21, Hill is in for his toughest test yet against the Gin Kings, who’s been on an offensive tear, winning their last four games with an average margin of 16.0 points.

More so, the defensive ability of Hill, known for his scoring prowess at the University of Illinois, will be put into a stern test by Ginebra’s imposing frontline built around import Justin Brownlee, Joe Devance, Japeth Aguilar and 7-footer Greg Slaughter.

“Kailangan mag-isip na tayo kung paano malulutas ‘yun,” said Victolero of the Gin Kings’ fearsome frontcourt which Tim Cone, his multi-titled Ginebra counterpart, utilized to the hilt in their easy 94-80 victory over the reeling Alaska Aces at the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu over the weekend.

What also gnaws at Victolero is how he will continue to integrate Hill into the Star’s offensive schemes without giving up much from his equally talented local unit, notably wingman Allein Maliksi.

After a breakout performance in the first two conferences of the pro league’s 42nd season, the former University of Santo Tomas standout is currently seeing limited action. However, Maliksi is making the most out of it, averaging 10.0 points, 2.2 boards and 1.0 steal so far.

In contrast, Hill, a perimeter-oriented import, continues to log heavy minutes, with his latest performance – 26 points, 20 rebounds, three assists and two blocks—being done in close to 40 minutes of play in an 88-92 loss to Rain or Shine last Sunday that snapped the Star’s 4-0 start.