The B-MEG Llamados were still in the midst of the Commissioner’s Cup finals when they began taking the initial steps in preparation for their upcoming Governors’ Cup campaign.
Import Marqus Blakely, a former star at the University of Vermont and the NBA D-League, arrived on the night of Game Five, and joined the Llamados in their final two practices to wrap up their championship series against the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters.
“I had a rule that I would personally pick up all my imports from the airport,” said B-MEG coach Tim Cone. “But I wasn’t able to do that with Marqus because we were playing Game Five.”
At B-MEG practice prior to the pivotal Game Seven, Blakely joined the team on the court, playing the part of the Talk ‘N Text offensive players as the Llamados practiced their different defensive schemes.
“It just feels so good to be out there on the court,” said Blakely, who added he also came with a few tips for Cone.
“You know, I played in the NBA, so I came in and suggested some defensive tricks we could use.”
While it remained unclear if the B-MEG coaching staff took those suggestions into consideration, Blakely was all praises for Cone, whose reputation as a winner preceded him in his import’s eyes.
“I mean, all those championships, they speak for themselves, don’t they?” said Blakely.
The 6-foot-5 Blakely, who has been described by Cone as like “Pingris times two,” said he’s aware of the heavy load that PBA imports are asked to carry, just like Denzel Bowles, the Llamados’ reinforcement who won Best Import honors in the just-concluded tournament.
“I’m used to playing heavy minutes in the D-League and in college,” said Blakely.
Cone said that it’s usually his strategy to bring in players who have come from less popular American universities.
“I like to recruit imports from smaller schools, because they’re used to playing big minutes and carrying a big load. The guys from bigger schools, they’re usually good athletes, but they’re usually just role players, and in the PBA, you’d rarely win with imports who are role players,” said Cone.
He noted, as an example, former Duke forward Chris Carrawell, whom Cone brought in at Alaska in 2002. “Good player, great guy, but strictly a role player.”
Cone’s last two championships came in import-laced tournaments, and both of his reinforcements came from smaller American universities. Bowles was a product of James Madison University, while Diamon Simpson, who led Cone’s Aces to the 2010 Fiesta Conference title, came out of St. Mary’s.
Front row seat
Blakely, meanwhile, enjoyed his front row seat to the last two games in the PBA finals. He said he’s looking to make the same impact as Bowles. “Knock on wood, I hope I’m able to stay healthy,” he said with a smile.
He said that being at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum in front of the mammoth crowds made him restless.
“I couldn’t wait to play,” he said. “I love the crowd. I love the atmosphere.”
Blakely has a chance to take in that same atmosphere, this time in uniform; all he has to do is lead the Llamados back to the finals.
» San Mig Coffee to bring back Marqus Blakely for Governors’ Cup
» From the stands, Tim Cone watches old team Alaska demolish Ginebra in Game Two of finals
» Ahead of finals, Luigi Trillo gets encouragement from old Alaska coach Tim Cone