PBA  FIESTA  CONFERENCE:  A  PITIFUL  SIGHT

MANILA, March 8, 2005 
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson  -  Sta. Lucia Realtyís interim import Richard Jeter was a pitiful sight on the floor against Coca-Cola in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Fiesta Conference opener at the PhilSports Arena last Friday.

Poor Jeter. He flew in the morning of his debut and had to wait several hours in the airport for his luggage which came on another flight. From the airport, Jeter was whisked to the Games and Amusements Board office in Makati to apply for his license then had a rubdown from a masseur to relax his body for the game.

Jeter, 21, said he had a chance to "run through" coach Alfrancis Chuaís basic plays.

"Iíll be fine," he said minutes before the tipoff. "Just a few pick-and-rolls, thatís all. Iíll try to convince Coach to keep me for the rest of the conference."

From the onset, Jeter knew he was brought in for just a game to fill in for Raheim Brown. So no hard feelings if he wouldnít play another game.

But Jeter was hopeful.

"Iím so blessed to be able to play this game," he said. "Iím a Christian and I believe in things happening for a purpose. I played junior college ball but never for a Division I school. Still, I got to play for the Memphis Grizzlies in the preseason and went up against guys like Desmond Mason and Jarvis Hayes."

With a sparkle in his eyes, Jeter said he never imagined the Philippines would be such a wonderful place.

"Iíve been trying to get a contract to play in the PBA but I could never get a break until (agent) Mike (Gonzalez) called," he said. "The Philippines is just like I expected it to be. The people are great, very friendly and they know how to speak English. I could live the rest of my life in a place like this. I love it in your country."

In the pre-game warm-ups, I watched Jeter closely, trying to figure out his style. I saw him sink eight jumpers from long range, close to the three-point arc. Then I saw him drive to the hole and bungle a layup. Clearly, a perimeter player, I thought.

But Jeter swore he could do more than just throw up howitzers.

"I know Iím a small import," said Jeter whoís listed 6-6. "But I donít care if Iím giving up two inches. Iíll post up anyone and score. I can make up for it in quickness."

In 2002-03, Jeter averaged 22.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists for the Metro Atlanta Junior College and was named Georgiaís Junior College player of the Year. Jeter didnít bother to enroll in a Division I school and tried his luck in the pros. He soon learned there was a world of difference playing in junior college and in the pros.

Jeter bounced from one tryout camp to another and eventually landed in the Ukraine but his first overseas stint lasted only a month.

Last year, Jeter had some success suiting up for the Brevard Blue Ducks in the United States Basketball League where he averaged 18.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals.

Last Friday, Jeter was a bundle of nerves. Because of his unfamiliarity with the PBA game, he looked lost on the floor, unable to disengage from his defender. He looked for his spot and never found it.

Jeter wasnít even doubled. He committed five turnovers, mostly on lapses of concentration. As the game progressed, it became evident he couldnít create his own shot and needed help. Worse, he was no go-to guy.

When the smoke cleared, Jeter walked off the court with only six points, four rebounds and two assists in 36 minutes. He was 2-of-12 from the field, 1-of-5 from three-point distance. Jeter knocked in only 1-of-6 free throws.

Sta. Lucia led most of the way and was on top, 52-47, at the start of the fourth period. As expected, Jeter lost his legs to jetlag down the stretch.

Marlou Aquino was a pleasant surprise for Chua as he tried courageously to fend off the Tigers. He wound up with 20 points on 9-of-25 field goals and 2-of-7 free throws. In all, Sta. Lucia missed 12 free throws and lost to Coca-Cola by 11.

"Galing ni Marlou, no?" said Chua after the match. "Sayang kinapos ang import. Lahat ng locals OK talaga. Free throws lang malas." Jeter left yesterday and Brown, accompanied by Gonzalez, planed in also yesterday.

Brown, 25, was in the wish list of several PBA teams. Chua said he was lucky to sign up the 6-10 forward from the University of San Francisco and Florida Atlantic.

A veteran of the Italian and Argentinian leagues, Brown averaged 16.4 points and 8.4 rebounds for Florida Atlantic in 2001-02. He hit at a 25.7 clip for Forrecarril Oeste, an Argentinian club, in 2002-03.

Before the conference is through, more imports are expected to get the pink slip and follow in Jeterís footsteps.

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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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