Petron Blaze is frantically in search of an import to replace Renaldo Balkman, who was banned for life by the PBA last Monday for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Petron coach Olsen Racela said they hope to find a replacement before Saturday’s Commissioner’s Cup game against Rain or Shine in Panabo City, Davao del Norte but added that his team is ready to play without an import.
“We still don’t have an import. Still waiting for reply from agents,” Racela said in a text message to the Bulletin.
The Boosters have been practicing without an import since Monday, the day Balkman was asked to appear at the PBA office to shed light on the incident when his team played Alaska where he had a meltdown during which he pushed his fellow Blazers and coach, chased referees and choked team star Arwind Santos.
Later that day, the PBA issued the ban and also asked Balkman to pay a fine of P250,000.
Former PBA commissioner Noli Eala, San Miguel Corp.’s (SMC) director for Sports Development, said rumors that said the company will hire Balkman as import of the San Miguel Beermen in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) are not true.
He said San Miguel will keep their current ABL imports Brian Williams and former Globalport reinforcement Justin Williams, who is filling in for the injured Gabe Freeman.
League sources said Petron is eyeing Samardo Samuels or Rodney White to replace Balkman. They said the Boosters prefer White but that the player’s rights are still held by Barako Bull where he played last season.
Barako, on the other hand, may rehire White in case it decided to replace their own import, Evan Brock.
Samuels is a 6-foor-9 Jamaican who played center at University of Louisville. He last played in the NBA Developmental League for the Reno Big Horns, averaging 20.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 blocks in 21 games.
Another league insider said that Petron considered tapping Freeman, a two-time Best Import winner who helped San Miguel capture the Fiesta Cup back in 2009, but the 6-foot-6 forward suffered an injury recently.