In the last installment of SLAM PH’s import profiles of the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, we take a look at the return of a popular reinforcement as well as three newcomers raring to get their feet wet and strut their stuff. By the way, a couple of them balled in the NBA just a few seasons ago, providing a quality match-up for the locals and also as treat for Pinoy hoops fans.
Justin Brownlee – Barangay Ginebra Kings
In less than a year after getting acquainted to the Filipino style of basketball, Justin Brownlee has endeared himself to local fans of the game. Of course, it helped a ton that he donned the colors of the country’s most popular ballclub while towing them to a championship after an eight-year title drought.
Having suited up for the Barangay Ginebra Kings in the 2016 edition of the PBA Governors’ Cup in which he averaged 28.6 points, 11.3 boards, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals in 22 matches, his final three points of the conference no doubt are forever etched in Philippine hoops lore as this catapulted his squad to the crown of the season-ending conference. Now, Brownlee returns in the red and white jersey of the Kings as the squad’s reinforcement for the 2017 Commissioners’ Cup.
At 6’5”, Brownlee is one of the smaller imports to suit up in this year’s Commissioners’ Cup as the ceiling handicap is pegged at 6’10”. But the guy is a proven scorer and is able to utilize his 219-lbs. frame to create opportunities on offense, both on the perimeter and in the paint wherein he’ll be able to impose his will on local frontliners, especially if Greg Slaughter makes his return to active duty. That will enable Brownlee to play the three or even the four position, while Slaughter and Aguilar take turns in manning the slot.
Given that the squad is still reeling from its bridesmaid finish in the Philippine Cup, the Barangay Ginebra faithful is pinning their hopes on Brownlee to work his magic once more, similar to what he did a few months ago
Before enlisting on another tour of duty with the Gin Kings, Brownlee was tapped by the Mighty Sports PH club that saw action in the 2017 Dubai International Basketball Tournament last February. Brownlee emerged as one of the team’s leading scorers on a roster that included former NBA cagers Hasheem Thabeet and Dominic McGuire as well as pros Gary David, JC Intal, Willie Miller and amateur standouts Kiefer Ravena and Jeron Teng.
Charles Rhodes – San Miguel Beer
The recent championship runs by the Beermen were keyed in by their solid inside play. Whether it be the bull-strong game of reigning Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, the athleticism and toughness of Arwind Santos or the grit and grind mentality of Gabby Espinas, the San Miguel side has been defined by their power in the paint.
As it prepares for the Commissioners’ Cup wars, the recently-crowned Philippine Cup champions look to add another weapon to this arsenal with the objective of copping another PBA diadem in the process. And an inside presence from the Deep South might just be the key piece to solve the puzzle as to why the Beermen have not yet won a crown in the mid-conference tourney during the Fajardo era.
Coming from the Mississippi State Bulldogs program in which he was named to the All-Southeastern Conference as a senior in 2008, Rhodes went on to play for Latvian side BK Barons/LDz after graduating from college, posting averages of 22.6 markers, 5.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals in 6 games.
That would be the start of his jet-setting career as he made stops with several teams in South Korea, Spain and Turkey. The 6’8”, 240-lbs. Rhodes last suited for Korean Basketball League (KBL) side Ulsan Mobis Phoebus before heading over to the Philippines. Seeing action in 33 matches, Rhodes had per-game numbers of 23.8 points, 11.2 boards and 1.5 dimes for Phoebus, wherein one of his teammates was Star Hotshots old hand Marqus Blakely.
Tony Mitchell – Star Hotshots
A namesake of an ex-PBA import from a few years back, this Tony Mitchell signed by the Star Hotshots is a different player altogether. Whereas the Tony Mitchell that balled for the Talk N’ Text franchise back in 2013 was a scoring machine capable of producing buckets at will, the PBA’s 2017 version of Tony Mitchell is a proven presence in the low block, if his amateur and pro stats are to serve as basis.
During his prep career at L.G. Pinkston High School in Dallas, the 6’8” Mitchell turned in 20.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 4.1 blocks as a senior, while towing the varsity to a 26-10 record and a postseason slot in the Class 4A Region II Tournament.
Playing for the North Texas Mean Green in the US NCAA Division I, Mitchell had the distinction of being one of two freshmen to average a double-double with 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest during the 2011-12 season, the other being Kentucky slotman and future top draft pick Anthony Davis. This effort helped him to be named as the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Sun Belt. In his sophomore and final season in Division I, Mitchell became part of the Second Team All-Sun Belt after registering numbers of 13 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 1 steal per game.
Selected 37th overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 2013 NBA Draft, Mitchell saw action for 21 games that season, averaging 1.0 points, 1.2 rebounds, 0.3 steals and 0.1 blocks. The following season in 2014-15, Mitchell stayed on the Pistons roster despite not seeing action on an NBA hardwood. Instead, he was assigned to the D-League’s Grand Rapids Drive on several occasions during the 2013-14 season. Mitchell would go on to play for Atleticos de San German, Cocodrillos de Caracas, Guangxi Weizhuang and Maccabi Haifa, his last squad before heading to the Star Hotshots’ camp, where he put up 10.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 blocks
Filling in the shoes of Denzel Bowles and Ricardo Ratliffe, both of whom were successful in past campaigns for the Star Hotshots, Mitchell looks to sustain this drive as he prepares for his inaugural pro season in the Philippines.
Cory Jefferson – Alaska Aces
The Aces originally had a different selection. However, former Cincinnati Bearcat Octavius Ellis was forced to go back to the United States days before the team’s opening assignment due to a family emergency.
By some stroke of luck, however, Alaska managed to land a replacement at the 11th hour, signing ex-NBA cager Cory Jefferson as the squad’s reinforcement for this conference.
Starring for the Baylor in the NCAA’s Division I from 2009-14, the 6’9” Jefferson tallied 13.7 markers, 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as he started all 38 games for the Bears as a senior in 2013-14. Possessing an impressive outside game as he owns a deft touch from the perimeter to compliment his athleticism, this performance earned him a 2014 All-Big 12 Third Team selection. He was also part of the Baylor squad that captured the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) crown back in 2013.
Upon graduation, Jefferson was nabbed with the final selection of the 2014 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs. Traded to the Brooklyn Nets on the same night, Jefferson would go on to suit up in 50 contests for the New York-based franchise during the 2014-15 season, registering per game numbers of 3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds.
The following year, Jefferson signed with the Phoenix Suns but was waived after appearing in six games. His NBA career spanning two seasons, with averages of 3.5 points and 2.8 boards in 58 games played from 2014-16. Spending time in the D-League afterwards, Jefferson split his time between the Bakersfield Jam and Austin Spurs. In the latter, he was named to the Western Conference All-Star team for the 2017 NBA D-League All-Star game, before getting the call-up from the Alaska camp.