By JONAS TERRADO
Renaldo Balkman, whose PBA stint in 2013 ended on a controversial note, is back in the country to team up with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel hero Justin Brownlee to play as new imports of Tanduay Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League.
Team owner Charlie Dy and agent Sheryl Reyes, representing both imports, made the announcement on their social media accounts yesterday, just in time for the resumption of Alab’s ABL campaign tomorrow night against the Westports Malaysia Dragons at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
The 6-foot-8 Balkman and 6-foot-7 Brownlee replaced leading scorer Reggie Okosa and former PBA import Ivan Johnson, whose dealing with a back injury, as they look to help Alab improve its dismal 1-3 record.
The ABL stint will also give the 33-year-old Balkman a chance to redeem himself in front of Filipino fans after he was meted a lifetime ban by the PBA for choking then-Petron teammate Arwind Santos in a 2013 Commissioner’s Cup game against Alaska at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Balkman, who once played for the New York Knicks, has since represented his native Puerto Rico in numerous FIBA tournaments, even leading his country to a win over Gilas Pilipinas in the 2014 World Cup in Spain.
Brownlee was well-renowned for helping Ginebra win back-to-back PBA Governors’ Cup titles, the first ending on buzzer-beating three that clinched the crown against Meralco in Game 6 of their 2016 finals showdown.
The 29-year-old forward also played for Mighty Sports Philippines last year in the Dubai Invitational Tournament.
He will be tasked to bring his winning ways to the Jimmy Alapag-coached Alab groping for form after opening the ABL season with three straight losses before ending 2017 with a road win over the Formosa Dreamers in Changhua City, Taiwan.
Balkman’s signing turned out to be a surprise one after rumors swirled that former Knick Henry Walker, who played for Blackwater in last season’s Governors’ Cup, will join Brownlee as new Alab imports.
Reyes on New Year’s Eve denied that Walker was one of the imports tapped by Alab management though added that the new additions were her clients.