Games Today (Puerto Princesa City Coliseum, Palawan)
4 p.m. – Skills Challenge
7 p.m. – Rookies vs Sophomores
Purefoods Star’s high-leaping guard Justin Melton said that even without former champion Chris Ellis of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, the field remains strong in the Slam Dunk contest in the PBA All-Star Weekend Skills Events today at the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum in Palawan.
Melton, who stands 5-foot-9, was adjudged co-champion with Rey Guevarra of Meralco last year and remains a favorite to win the event that gathers the ‘Sultan of Slams’ of the league.
Ellis, however, has decided to pull out from the event he won in 2013 in Digos City, Davao del Sur because of a right ankle injury.
“I know the important thing for him right now is to take care of his injury, his health,” said Melton. “He’s still young, he can look forward to next year’s event and compete for the title.”
“But even without Chris, man, it’s going to be tough battling those guys… guys who can really put on a show for the fans. It’s a competition, but friendly competition, so it’s going to be fun,” added Melton.
The Skills Events, which likewise include the Three-Point competition and the Obstacle Challenge, is scheduled at 4 p.m., while the game between the Rookies-Sophomores encounter will be played at 7 p.m.
Both the 6-foot-3 Guevarra and Melton displayed their high-wire acts in this event last year at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena, where they received perfect scores of 40 points each in their dunks in the first and second rounds, and also in the championship round.
Guevarra will also vie for the title, together with former Slam Dun winner (2009) Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine, Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Abueva of Alaska, Barako Bull’s JC Intal, and Talk ’N Text rookie Matt Ganuelas-Rosser.
As for his preparation for the contest, Melton said it’s the same situation for him as last year.
“Honestly no, I haven’t been physically practicing my dunks. It’s the same as last year. Yeah in my head, I know the things I’ll try to do. I’ve watched some of videos on YouTube during the last NBA All-Star,” said Melton.
“Let’s just see. It’s going to be fun, as I’ve said. I’ll just go out there and have some fun,” added Melton, who has been voted by fans as a starter for the North Team for Sunday’s PBA All-Star Game.
Meanwhile, already a record-holder four-time champion in the Three-Point shootout, including three straight from 2010 to 2012, Mark Macapagal of Meralco will try to retain the title he reclaimed last year when he edged Rain or Shine guard Chris Tiu.
“Kumbaga, kahit paano medyo confident ng konti, alam ko nagawa ko na,” said Macapagal. “Yung iba naman na competitors nothing to lose sila, ako kahit paano marami rin na uma-asa. Yun lang ang medyo pressure.”
Tiu is doubtful to join because of a nose injury and another onetime winner in Dondon Hontiveros (2007) of Alaska out with a sprained ankle, the roster in this event looks formidable as it include two former champions in James Yap (2009) and Jimmy Alapag (2003 and 2005).
Alapag recently retired from playing in the PBA with Talk ’N Text but the league – due to insistent public demand – made an exception on the 5-foot-10 guard, who is also in the South All-Star Team.
Other participants are Nino Canaleta of NLEX, Ginebra’s LA Tenorio, Globalport’s Terrence Romeo, Kia’s LA Revilla, San Miguel Beer’s Arwind Santos, Blackwater’s Brian Heruela and Intal.
In the Obstacle Challenge, Mark Barroca of Purefoods is the defending champion.