Cariaso pinning hopes on Ashaolu’s grit, leadership qualities
At one point during his previous tour of duty in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) with NLEX, Ola Ashaolu defied doctors’ orders and suited up despite an injured patella tendon.
That alone would have booked him a return trip to the country.
For Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso, however, Ashaolu is more than just a tenacious warrior ready to do battle even when he’s hurting.
“The reason why we picked him is because he’ll give us a solid presence inside,” Cariaso told the Inquirer on Thursday.
“And he’s a natural leader,” he added.
Ashaolu, a 6-foot-6 Canadian who is of Nigerian descent, has been practicing with the Aces already to gear up for the Governors’ Cup, and having played for the Road Warriors under coach Yeng Guiao in the past means Alaska will need very little guess work as to how to make the most of Ashaolu’s presence.
Bolster front line
“We also like the fact that he’s been here before so playing in the PBA will not be too big of an adjustment,” Cariaso said of his reinforcement, who averaged 24.7 points and 15 rebounds over three matches before he was eventually replaced because of his injury. NLEX finished the tournament with scoring dynamo Manny Harris in tow, but there was little doubt Ashaolu would return to the country and showcase his inside muscle.
Ashaolu is set to bolster Alaska’s front line manned by Yousef Taha, Rodney Brondial, Abu Tratter and rookie center Ben Adamos.
His veteran presence should also come in handy as the club enters its first-ever tournament without JVee Casio, its former skipper who was package with the promising Barkley Eboña in a trade to Blackwater last October, one that netted the Aces playmaker Mike Tolomia.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic and the oft-changing health restrictions applied to foreigners flying into the country, teams would rather bring in a familiar name than roll the dice with a new import.
Cariaso knows that imports take centerstage in this season-ending showcase, and he is hoping Ashaolu will give his squad a little edge against the rest of the field, which will be fielding a lot of familiar names, too.
“Most imports in this conference are very athletic and really good players,” he said.
“[So] it means our defense [also] needs to be solid and constantly be on the same page,” he added.
Meanwhile, the league’s inaugural three-a-side showcase gets going this Saturday, 2 p.m., at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Limitless Appmasters, bannered by Filipino-American Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser, will take the lid off the PBA’s newest attraction in a Pool A contest against Purefoods TJ Titans led by Val Acuña, according to the official scheduled released by the league also on Thursday.
Guest team Zamboanga Valientes, which features Mac Cardona, will tangle with TNT Tropang Giga and Jeremiah Gray in the nightcap set at 8:40 p.m.
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