‘Terrific’ time to save face
Battered and bruised as doormat in the 2019 Fiba World Cup that ended with the Spain-Argentina finals last night, the Philippines gets a chance for some international face-saving in the East Asia Super League Terrific 12 tournament that starts tomorrow in Macau.
San Miguel Beer, again knocking on the Philippine Basketball Association Grand Slam door with two titles this season, 2019 Commissioner’s Cup runner-up TNT KaTropa and Blackwater Elite go up against top clubs from China, Japan and South Korea in a short six-day tournament that also rewards the champion team $150,000.
Defending champion Ryukyu Golden Kings of Japan and Zhejiang Guangsha Lions of China lead this year’s field. Completing the roster are the Chiba Jets, Niigata Albirex and Utsunomiya Brex of Japan, the Shenzhen Aviators and Liaoning Flying Leopards of China and the Seoul SK Knights and Jeonju KCC Egis of South Korea.
Competition is expected to be super tough with 11 veterans of the World Cup whose teams failed to survive the classification round now back with their respective clubs. Among them are June Mar Fajardo of SMB and TNT’s Troy Rosario and Roger Pogoy, who were helpless as Gilas Pilipinas placed dead last with five losses in the 32-team World Cup field. Eight former NBA players are also in the fold.
For the Beermen, KaTropa and Elite, the tournament also serves as a tough workout and warmup for the coming Governors’ Cup, which is scheduled to kick off this Friday. With teams allowed to field two imports, the Terrific 12 will be a good test for the 6-foot-5 reinforcements of SMB (Dez Wells), TNT (McKenzie Moore) and Blackwater (Alex Stepheson) for the PBA’s third and final conference for the year.
Under the Terrific 12 format, the teams are bracketed into four groups of three each with the top squad after a single-round elimination advancing to the knockout semifinals. The semifinal winners then clash for the title with the losers earlier colliding for third. The runner-up picks up $100,000 with the third placer bagging $50,000.
SMB has been drawn with Ryukyu and Shenzhen in Group B while TNT is with Niigata and Liaoning in Group D. Blackwater is in Group A with Seoul and Chiba. Making up Group C are Zhejiang, Utsunomiya and Jeonju.
The Asian league held its first tournament for clubs in the offseason with the Summer Super 8 in 2017 with the NLEX Road Warriors joining the roster. Now recognized by Fiba, the Terrific 12 was launched last year with a selection from the PBA D-League called the iECO Green Warriors seeing action with little success.