By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE defending Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup champions San Miguel Beermen finally make their debut and they are doing it with a “big package” at hand in rookie Christian Standhardinger.
Selected number one overall in this season’s rookie draft, Mr. Standhardinger suits up for the Beermen for the first time when they take on the Meralco Bolts in the 7 p.m. main game today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Had his debut delayed as he honored his contract with the Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Team in the just-concluded ASEAN Basketball League season, Mr. Standhardinger now dons the red and white with many expecting him to further shore up what already is a solid crew.
Apart from him, also debuting for the Beermen is import Troy Gillenwater, a veteran in leagues in Korea, Japan and Russia.
But undeniably all eyes are on 6’8” Standhardinger and his “twin tower” tandem with San Miguel’s resident giant and league most valuable player June Mar Fajardo, which many are looking forward to since the Beermen drafted the former first in the draft.
Rival teams have made it known that the arrival of the Gilas Pilipinas player has fortified the Beermen’s hold as the team to beat, with NLEX Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao even quoted as saying that the rest of the field are “fighting for the second spot” because San Miguel is expected to take the top position.
But while they are welcoming Mr. Standhardinger with open arms and acknowledging that his arrival is a boon to them, the Beermen are choosing not to get ahead of themselves and instead taking a “wait-and-see” stand on their Commissioner’s Cup campaign.
“On paper we got stronger but we got to show up and play. So we’ll see,” said San Miguel gunner Marcio Lassiter in the run-up to their debut in the midseason PBA tournament.
“Christian will be of help to us but we have to do a good job in incorporating him in our system to make things work. But we’re confident it can be done,” San Miguel coach Leo Austria, for his part, said.
While Mr. Standhardinger is set to make his debut, it remains to be seen if San Miguel guard Chris Ross will be available for their first game after aggravating his thigh injury during their championship run in the Philippine Cup.
Taking first shot at the fortified Beermen are the Bolts (2-1) who are coming off a big 106-90 victory over NLEX on May 4.
Chris Newsome had a big offensive night last time around, finishing with 30 points.
Import Arinze Onuaku had a double-double of 15 points and 23 rebounds in the end-to-end win of Meralco with Mike Tolomia, Jared Dillinger, Baser Amer and Anjo Caram also finishing in double digits.
Meanwhile, playing in the 4:30 p.m. curtain-raiser are the undefeated Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (3-0) and Columbian Dyip (2-2).