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I was happy former FEU and Smart-Gilas standout JR Cawaling withdrew his application for the 2012 PBA Draft. I thought it was premature and an almost season-long hiatus from nationwide television would make it difficult for him to even claim a second round spot.
Although if you look at it… Barako Bull did pick Woody Co and Talk N Text did pick Jaypee Belencion (now with Meralco) in the draft. They are both Cawaling’s play alikes. Meanwhile, San Mig Coffee used their second round selection to claim Jewel Ponferada even if their guard-forward spot is a bit thin at the moment.
Anyway, testing the waters of the ASEAN Basketball League could be Cawaling’s starting point for the rest of his career.
Unlike past incarnation of Philippine rosters, the San Miguel Beermen can actually defeat the less-talented PBA squads. Aside from claiming many-time PBA Best Import Gabe Freeman and regional veteran Brian Williams, the team have locked in former PBA MVPs Asi Taulava and Eric Menk. These two might be old (or as my tita tells me “experienced”) but they are hungry – plain and simple. Their presence alone will attract audiences and this is good especially since the ABL doesn’t stand out well as a viewing pleasure (please give the ABL a better channel and timeslot). Other names locked in are former Gin Rob Labagala, former Blaze Booster RJ Rizada, former Ace Hans Thiele, former Express Paolo Hubalde, Khasim Mirza, and Bryan Faundo, former Llamado Val Acuna and Mike Burtscher, and former Powerade Tiger Norman Gonzales. These guys will join Cawaling and last season ABL campaigners Christian Luanzon, Chris Banchero, and reigning ABL MVP Leo Avenido.
The scary thing for Cawaling though is that Mirza and Acuna used the ABL as stepping stone to “broaden their horizon” (aside from Mirza and Acuna, Gonzales, Rizada, and Faundo are also balik-ABL players). Years later, they are trying their luck to return to the PBA via the same league they set on dominating.
Funny thing though… with the possible exception of Junmar Fajardo, none of the players that went from college to the ABL to the PBA have made massive career leaps.
What Cawaling needs to do is take this ABL season seriously. He needs to get to Coach Bobby Parks’ good side so he needs to do whatever possible way to get noticed. It will be hard to play behind vets Avenido, Rizada, and Mirza though. Cawaling has this knack to get lost in the shuffle the moment he begins to share the spotlight – as what happened when the emergence of RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo in FEU instantly took out his time and scoring opportunities.
Cawaling’s Smart-Gilas stint is both a blessing and a curse for those who follow his career. Because he made the list, that means he’s good but that also means that he can’t fail in the PBA.
And playing in a league where he is dealing against a lot of players also trying their luck in the ABL so they can return to the PBA, JR Cawaling is facing an extremely tough order. We root for him though.
This just in, looks like San Miguel Beer already has one of two imports signed up (or at least, confirmed to play). Their first import is 29 year old Richard Jeter. Check out his highlight, I know these are select plays, but still. He can create his own shots and he knows how to free himself up too. Looks like he can really shoot. They’ll be looking for a bigger partner import to complement Jeter’s outside game.
Here’s another clip.
Oh, another news that Noli Eala shared, they’ll build a new practice facility for SMC teams. Tweeted, “SMC will finally be building our own practice facilities very soon for our teams. RSA already approved our reco. Best part, facility will be centrally located in the SMC compound in Ortigas.”
Hat tip to @nolieala for the updates. Follow him if you want BMEG, Ginebra, Petron, SMB updates and P90X tips!