2014 PBA Commish Cup Import Lowdown: Alex McLean & Richard Howell


Now that the 2014 Philippine Cup has been handed to the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers, the attention of all ten (soon to be twelve?) teams is going to be diverted to the season’s second conference — the Commissioner’s Cup. The unique feature of this conference, of course, is that teams are allowed to employ “big” imports. This is in contrast to the third conference, or the Governors’ Cup, where teams are allowed only the services of “small” imports. 

In this particular conference, unlike in the Commissioner’s Cups of 2012 and 2013, there will be a height limit imposed on the teams’ imports, and this limit is based on how well each team fared in the previous conference. Because they finished in the bottom two spots of the team standings, the Air 21 Express and the Meralco Bolts have the luxury to choose imports who can be as tall as 6’11 (around 210cm), while the rest of the field can employ imports who are, at most, 6’9 (around 205cm).

I’m here to look at the ten imports who will show their wares in the 2014 Commish Cup. Traditionally, PBA teams rely heavily on their imports for practically everything, from scoring, to rebounding, to defending, and, in some cases, even playmaking. The expectations are extremely high (which explains their skyrocketing salaries), and the pressure can really take its toll.

In this fourth part of this series, we will look at the imports of both Rain or Shine and Talk N Text. These are, respectively, Asian hoops journeyman Alex McLean and D-League standout Richard Howell.


Alex McLean (L) and Richard Howell (R) look to be
good fits for their respective PBA clubs.
(composite image by Enzo Flojo/Hoop Nut)


Rain or Shine Elasto-Painters import: Alexander O’Neal McLean
Home country: USA 
Born: Oct. 20, 1985 in New York, USA (28 y.o.)
Listed height: 6’8 (203cm)
US College: Liberty University
NBA Draft: 2008 — Undrafted
Has played in: Poland, Paraguay, Argentina, Lebanon, Iraq, Qatar, Egypt, and China
Last played for: Nift Al-Janoub (Iraq)
Latest Available Averages: (Sichuan Blue Whales in 2011) 22.4ppg, 14.6rpg, 1.6spg, .525 FG%, .400 3pt%, 31.3 EFF

Notes:
Despite having no NBA, D-league, or even top-tier US NCAA Division1 experience, McLean seems to be a promising import, mainly because, at least based on his latest available averages (granted these are from 3 years ago), he looks to be a productive two-way big guy with a decent perimeter game. At just 6’8, he won’t be the biggest import out there, but that’s just fine for a team that’s not built around size anyway.

If he can approximate the numbers he put up in the CBA way back in 2011, then maybe McLean can add even more flexibility and versatility to an already formidable ROS frontline. This they will need, especially since main pivot Beau Belga will be splitting time between the Painters and the national team. With a healthy McLean manning the middle, coach Yeng Guiao can continue to give his productive platoon PFs — Jervy Cruz, Larry Rodriguez, and JR Quiñahan — balanced playing time, with Raymond Almazan backstopping both McLean and Belga in the slot.

What I expect from this Liberty University alum is that he will be a solid post presence and a legitimate three-point threat. This means things should open up for the plethora of shooters coach Yeng has at his disposal — Jeff Chan, Chris Tiu, Paul Lee, and Gabe Norwood — and it should also make it easier for Cruz and Belga to take and make their 16-20 footers. What I don’t expect, though, is for McLean to be a great defensive stopper around the rim.


On paper, it looks like Alex McLean has a versatile offensive skill-set
that could make Rain or Shine all the more dangerous.
(image from PSBSports)


Talk N Text import: Richard Howell
Home country: USA
Born: Sept. 26, 1990 in the USA (23 y.o.)
Listed height: 6’8 (203cm)
US College: North Carolina State University
NBA Draft: 2013 - Undrafted
Has played in: France
Last played for: Idaho Stampede (NBA D-League)
Latest Averages: 18.0ppg, 10.6rpg, 2.6apg, 1.4spg, .565 FG%, 19.2 EFF

Notes:
When no less than former Team USA and current Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski describes you as “… the unsung great player in our league (Atlantic Coast Conference in the US NCAA Division 1),” and “… just absolutely terrific,” you know you’re doing something right. And even if the projected second round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft was actually overlooked by all 30 NBA teams, he is still something of a hot commodity, especially after averaging a double-double for the Idaho Stampede in the D-League. 

That doesn’t come as a big surprise for US NCAA hoop nuts, of course, especially since he normed about 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Wolfpack in his final collegiate season. He was, in fact, the ACC’s league leader in rebounding, the only ACC player to average a double-double the entire season, and led all ACC players in recorded double-doubles. Basically put, he’s a daily double-double demon.

And this he showcased right off the bat when TNT beat the defending champion Aces two days ago. In that game, Howell scored just 15 points — pretty pedestrian by PBA import standards — but he did grab a herculean THIRTY rebounds (including 10 on the offensive glass alone)! He also helped limit 2013 Commish Cup Best Import awardee Rob Dozier to just 16 markers. 

By far the best thing about Howell, however, is that he’s the youngest import out there. I mean, he’s just 23 years old (Kevin Jones, the impending replacement for Josh Boone at SMB, is the second-youngest at 24)! That means it’s reasonable to expect that his motor shouldn’t be an issue, and that he should be good to go for the entire conference.

Richard Howell promises to be a monstrous rebounder for the Tropang Texters.
(image from Pack Insider)

In the next post, we will discuss the imports of San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra — Kevin Jones and Leon Rodgers.


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