By Jonas Terrado
Renaldo Balkman and Ray Parks Jr. felt a great sense of accomplishment after playing major roles in San Miguel Alab Pilipinas’ improbable run to the ASEAN Basketball League crown.
Balkman led the charge in Alab’s 102-92 title-clinching win over Thailand’s Mono Vampire two nights ago in Sta. Rosa, Laguna while Parks was hailed as the Finals Most Valuable Player for his exploits earlier in the series.
No one savor the triumph that made Alab the third Philippine team to capture the ABL championship more than Balkman and Parks, who had a chip on their shoulders after enduring different adversities.
Five years after being handed a lifetime ban for choking Petron teammate Arwind Santos in the PBA, Balkman redeemed himself with his dominant plays and patience enduring rugged plays and inconsistent officiating to emerge champion in his second Philippine stint.
“Balkmania” – the term coined to Balkman’s impressive showing – was running wild immediately after the final buzzer, with the ex-NBA player finishing with 32 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals.
“That was a dream come true for me,” said Balkman. “I didn’t think I was coming back. I was still contemplating on my career. I got a phone call one day, and it was Jimmy. Out of the blue.”
That Jimmy was Alab coach Jimmy Alapag, who was searching for new imports during the Christmas season after the team started the campaign at 0-3 with reinforcements Ivan Johnson and Reggie Okosa.
“(Jimmy was) like, ‘Come play, man.’ I’m like, ‘I’m on my way’,” said Balkman, who praised Alapag for making good on his promise of possibly joining forces after Gilas Pilipinas lost to Puerto Rico in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Winning championships is a rarity for Parks, who for years have been maligned for falling short in big games despite his status as a premier high school prospect in the US and two-time UAAP MVP for National University.
Parks played the supporting role in Alab’s Game 5 victory, fouling out after concentrating on defending Mono’s Fil-American playmaker Jason Brickman. But he had been a major contributor throughout the finals, highlighted by his a string of clutch shots in the 99-93 victory in the series’ third match in Nonthaburi.
“Y’all been grilling me about not winning championships. Hey, we here now,” Parks told reporters. “We got what we came for. Got the net, got the trophy, MVP, c’mon man. I don’t know what to say.”
Parks was also reflective with the victory that may serve as his final act before his likely jump to the PBA next season.
“Dad, we did it,” said Parks, who completed the job that his father, Bobby Parks, failed to complete as coach of the San Miguel Beermen in the 2012 ABL Finals loss to the Indonesia Warriors.