<
>

Mighty Sports taps Balkman, Phelps for quest to reclaim Jones Cup crown

Eager to reclaim the title, Mighty Sports Philippines has put together another strong lineup for the Jones Cup in Taiwan.

Its 12-man roster is bannered by three former PBA imports in Renaldo Balkman, Eugene Phelps, and Hamady N'Diaye. Zach Graham will mark his return to the ball club, and international basketball veteran McKenzie Moore is also set to see action.

"I chose the players I've seen and know personally because I'm a believer in getting good character guys," said head coach Charles Tiu, who is currently with the Gilas Pilipinas Youth squad that will be competing in Greece for the 2019 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup.

"If we get imports who are talented but do not have great attitudes, it will mess up the team especially because we can't just change imports in the middle of the competitions. I got two imports who helped up the last time (N'Diaye and Graham) and two guys who we know can deliver in Balkman and Phelps. It wasn't all that hard to recruit those guys because they were more than excited to play for us and represent the Philippines."

Joining them are a handful of outstanding Filipino athletes who've already played for Mighty Sports before in Jason Brickman, Jeremiah Gray, and Roosevelt Adams.

Brickman has shown his ability to run the team even with minimal practice time with his outstanding playmaking, while Gray and Adams were huge for Mighty Sports in the Dubai and formed an awesome duo as they were both athletic players who can also shoot from the outside.

The multi-skilled wingman Gab Banal, who has already won a championship in the PBA D-League with Tiu, is also on the roster along with PBA veteran Joseph Yeo, and Angelo Wongchuking.

An exciting prospect for Mighty Sports will be Aaron Black, who decided to forego his final year of eligibility with the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP to jumpstart his professional basketball career.

"I'm confident in the game of Aaron that's why I got him. He was also training in the States on his own to just get better and I think the results can be seen now," Tiu said about the young guard. "But the challenge for him is that he's playing the same position with guys who have more experience and even our imports. He's going to have to earn his minutes for us but I do believe he can help our team."

It's a loaded lineup with the hopes of reclaiming the title they won in 2016 with reinforcements such as Al Thornton and Dewarick Spencer.

With Tiu fulfilling his duties as an assistant coach to Sandy Arespacochaga on the Gilas Youth U19 team, the management of Mighty Sports saw it fit to invite former national team head coach Rajko Toroman to oversee the team's preparations.

"Coach Rajko will be a great addition to our staff because our philosophies are very similar," Tiu said. "We've talked it over already for weeks and I've asked him to implement what our coaching staff wants."

Tiu had his first big break in coaching when he assisted Toroman nine years ago during his stint as head coach of Smart-Gilas Pilipinas. Now, he'll have his mentor assisting him with Mighty Sports.

"That's just the way things are in basketball," Tiu said. "The great thing is he really knows how to get guys disciplined and how to put them in a system. That's one of his strengths so that will help us a lot. Having him is a huge relief on my part especially since I'll be missing the first eight days of our 11-day camp. We scheduled two tune-up games; one with Gilas which I won't be able to attend due to commitments with our Youth team but I'm not worried about the transition that we will have when I get back."