by Jonas Terrado
Manila, Philippines – The Alaska Aces and Phoenix Fuel Masters were glad to hurdle their opening assignments in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup with victories last Saturday after having difficult securing the services of an import for the midseason tournament.
Alaska capitalized on the absence of the league’s top scorer Terrence Romeo with a 107-79 victory over the GlobalPort Batang Pier, thanks in large part to the 28-point, 14-rebound performance of import Cory Jefferson, a last-minute replacement for Octavius Ellis.
While the Aces seem to be okay with their import, Phoenix has yet to find a permanent one.
However, they were glad to get some needed help from a familiar friend in Eugene Phelps, who erupted for 53 points and 21 rebounds in the 118-116 double overtime win past the Blackwater Elite.
Phelps is in town as a stand-in import as the Fuel Masters await the arrival of their regular import for the conference. Phoenix was supposed to have Jarrid Famous as import but failed to secure a release from Globalport, thus prompting the team to scour for another import.
Expected to play in the Governors’ Cup, Phelps got a call from Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia after his stint in Taiwan, asking if he would be interested to have a short stop in Manila before he starts his campaign in Puerto Rico. The man known as “El Destructor” immediately said yes.
And El Destructor seemed like a typhoon just quickly left a destruction on the Elite, who despite having close chances of winning the game were unable to stop the 6-foot-6 Phelps.
“I already signed but coach Ariel hit me up right after Taiwan and asked me if I could come in for like a game or two. That’s my guy so I told him I got no problem and I’m here. Thank God we got the win,” said Phelps.
Whether it’s one and done at least until the next conference, or at least another game, Phelps left a lasting impression by shattering his previous high of 52 set in his maiden appearance in last season’s Governors’ Cup.
Jefferson, on the other hand, came in after Ellis had to go back to the United States to attend a family matter. The former Brooklyn Net showed that the hardships the Aces endured in finding an import was well worth it, providing presence inside while shooting a bit of an outside shooting in the one-sided affair.
“I think he’s pretty good,” said Aces coach Alex Compton. “It’s been a crazy adventure this conference in terms of imports. This past month after we lost to Ginebra, I felt like I aged about 4-5 years, coz getting an import is not the easiest thing in the world.
“We got one, he signed, he backed out of the contract at the last minute. Then we got Octavius who we liked. The kid plays hard, then he had a family emergency. And we got Cory, who honestly is probably the best of the three. So all that stress and grey hair, not sleeping, too much food keeping me up at night it was well worth it, especially Cory playing this way.”
Jefferson not only endeared himself with Compton, but also the Alaska fans, who shouted “Cory! Cory! Cory!” as if it was the people cheering for a former Philippine president. He hopes to be here for the long haul.
“I feel I’m here for good,” Jefferson said. “I don’t plan on flying away right now, so I might as well win a championship.”