From sub to certified Gilas star
Christian Standhardinger returns to the Southeast Asian Games this week as the biggest star of the Gilas Pilipinas team seeking a 13th straight basketball title in the 30th edition of the biennial sportsfest.
After powering NorthPort to the semifinals of the PBA Governors’ Cup by eliminating top quarterfinal seed NLEX recently, the 6-foot-eight Filipino-German is expected to draw the loudest cheer when the national five finally gets going against Singapore in a Group A preliminary game this Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Standhardinger, who is back in the SEA Games along with Kiefer Ravena of NLEX and Troy Rosario of TNT KaTropa, scattered a team-high 33 points while playing without relief in a 126-123 triple overtime decision of the Road Warriors last Wednesday.
The epic conquest marked only the fourth time that the eighth seed and lowest-ranked quarterfinalist took out the No. 1 team after the eliminations. NorthPort crashed the playoffs with a 5-6 win-loss card while NLEX finished on top with an 8-3 slate.
Standhardinger, who languished in the San Miguel Beer bench before he flashed his true deadly form after being traded to NorthPort early in October, was the top local with 24 points when the Batang Pier forced a deciding second game against the Road Warriors with a masterful 115-90 win two days earlier. NorthPort also downed NLEX, 102-94, in their last meeting in the eliminations and then hacked out a 98-96 win over a Barangay Ginebra that will be facing the Batang Pier in the semifinals starting on Dec. 16. The other semifinal pairing will pit TNT against Meralco.
June Mar Fajardo is also in the Gilas lineup along with San Miguel Beer teammates Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter but the 6-10 Beerman, with a record five straight PBA MVP awards, didn’t create as much impact as Standhardinger when it counted most in the Governors’ Cup.
Some experts feel swapping Standhardinger, who gamely played the role as mere backup for Fajardo despite his solid credentials as the No. 1 PBA draftee two years ago and main cog of the Hong Kong team in the Asean Basketball League, was one of the reasons why SMB again blew its bid for a title Grand Slam following a semifinal loss to Ginebra.
Handled by Ginebra mentor Tim Cone, the powerhouse Gilas five also boasts Gin Kings Japeth Aguilar, Stanley Pringle and LA Tenorio, Vic Manuel of Alaska and Matthew Wright of Phoenix. Cone is expected to name the replacement for the injured Roger Pogoy just before the team’s opening game. INQ