CANADIANS, U.S. FIVE DUE FOR FIESTA CUP

MANILA, June 8, 2004
 
(STAR)
Guest teams from the United States and Canada, bidding to duplicate what only two others before them have done in the Philippine Basketball Association, will arrive this week to complete the quarterfinal cast of the Gran Matador-PBA Fiesta Conference.

Not since 1985 with the Northern Consolidated side backstopped by naturalized Filipinos Jeff Moore, Dennis Still and Chip Engelland has a guest team ruled a tournament in the pro league — a feat a crack selection of Americans and the British Columbia T-Birds will try to mirror starting next week.

Six regular PBA teams have made it to the quarterfinal roster with San Miguel, Red Bull and Talk N Text making up the fearsome Group A together with the Americans.

The T-Birds, who have in their roster a 5-foot-3 Filipino point guard who can dunk with the best of them, have been bracketed in Group B together with Barangay Ginebra, Coca-Cola and Alaska.

Karlo Villanueva has been earning raves from sportswriters in Canada, having started at the point for the T-Birds in all but one of 36 games last season and averaging 11.4 points and 9.6 assists. Villanueva’s parents Lerito and Leila, are natural born Filipinos.

Villanueva steered the T-Birds to a 15-5 record in his first season and led the entire Canadian collegiate league in assists with 8.1 a game, earning a place in the Canada West all-second team.

The Americans, on the other hand, or some of them at least, will be using this tournament to showcase their wares and maybe earn stints in the PBA as imports in the future. Former national coach Larry Albano assembled this crack group made up of former USBL, CBA and collegiate stars.

Before the Northern selection, which also represented the Philippines in numerous international events under the ‘godfather program’ headed by Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco, Nicholas Stoodley was the only other guest team that pulled off the distinction.

Nicholas Stoodley defeated Toyota, 2-0, in the best-of-three Finals of the Invitational Conference in 1980, while another foreign team, Adidas from France, wound up third.

"I honestly think that we have a good quarterfinal and an exciting finish to the tournament in our hands," said PBA commissioner Noli Eala. "The teams that will be coming in are very competitive."

Format calls for each team to play the members of their group once, with the top two teams from each bracket advancing to the cross-over semifinals where No. 1 in Group A meets No. 2 in Group B in a short series and vice versa, for seats in the title series.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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