San Miguel up against tough imports in maiden Terrific 12 stint

Multi-titled PBA squad San Miguel Beer will have its hands full in the group stage of the 2019 East Asia Super League Terrific 12 after being bracketed with reigning champion Ryukyu Golden Kings and Chinese pro club Shenzhen Aviators in Macau.

Both Asian squads have enlisted the services of former NBA players.

The Beermen kick off their maiden participation in the tournament on Sept. 17 against the Shenzhen Aviators, who will have former Dallas Mavericks guard Pierre Jackson and another NBA veteran in Shabazz Muhammad as their reinforcements.

San Miguel takes a break the following day, before closing its brief group stage assignment against Ryukyu, which will have former Utah Jazz backup big man Jack Cooley, American big man Josh Scott and European league veteran De'Mon Brooks.

Tournament format allows each team to field 14 players on game day, with two foreign reinforcements allowed to play simultaneously.

Jackson, listed at 5-11, was selected 42nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2013 NBA Draft. He went on to play for the Dallas Mavericks in the 2017 season, playing eight games where he averaged 4.4 points, 2.4 assists and 1.1 rebounds in 10.5 minutes.

The 28-year-old Jackson also saw action for the Idaho Stampede in the NBA D-League and the Texas Legends, along with stops in Turkey and Israel before finally hooking up with the Shenzen Aviators.

Muhammad, meanwhile, is a veteran of five NBA seasons after playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Milwaukee Bucks from 2014 to 2018.

The 26-year-old former UCLA standout owns NBA averages of 9.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 278 career games played.

As far as Ryukyu's imports are concerned, the 6-10 Cooley will give the Golden Kings much-needed ceiling.

The 28-year-old Cooley owned NBA career averages of 2.9 points and 2.3 rebounds in 23 games after playing for the Utah Jazz in 2015 and the Sacramento Kings in 2018.

The former Notre Dame standout also set an NBA D-League record of 29 rebounds while playing for the Los Angeles D-Fenders on March 13, 2015.

Ryukyu's two other reinforcements Scott and Brooks went undrafted in the NBA, but both American imports played professional basketball in Macedonia and Israel, respectively.

Coach Leo Austria admits the opposition will be tough, but the Beermen are not backing down as they use the Macau tourney to toughen up in its quest for a rare PBA Grand Slam this season.

"Playing in the tournament will be an advantage for us because at least, we play two games there compared to just playing PBA teams," Austria said.

"The tournament also gives us a chance to see what caliber our import has," added the eight-time PBA champion.

The Beermen are bringing in two imports in Dez Wells and Lester Prosper, who played for the Columbian Dyip in the recent 2019 Commissioner's Cup.

Wells went undrafted in 2015 but eventually played for the Oklahoma City Blue in the 2019 NBA G-League season, posting averages of 13.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and the same number of assists in 40 games played.

Austria said Wells will have at least one week to practice with the team as he is scheduled to arrive early next week.

SMB might start the tournament shorthanded as Austria said he's isn't sure if top slotman June Mar Fajardo could join the team shortly after the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Austria said the five-time PBA Most Valuable Player might rest for a few days after his Gilas stint, which is why the Beermen opted to sign up Prosper as their second import for the Terrific 12.