MAYOR  BELMONTE  GIVES  CITY  KEYS  TO  NBA  STARS
 
MANILA, July 22, 2006 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Mayor Sonny Belmonte gave the keys to Quezon City to visiting National Basketball Association (NBA) players Andre Iguodala of the Philadelphia 76ers and Channing Frye of the New York Knicks during a 40-minute morning courtesy call at City Hall the other day.

Belmonte and Rep. Nanette Castelo-Daza were invited by the stars to toss the ceremonial ball for the NBA Madness Celebrity Jam game at the Araneta Coliseum tonight.

Quezon City councilor and La Salle basketball coach Franz Pumaren accompanied the players and six San Antonio Spurs Silver Dancers to the Mayorís office.

A 10-man "musika" band played festive music outside the Mayorís office and the Silver Dancers, dressed in their stunning two-piece silver-and-black costumes, did an impromptu dance routine to the tune of "Hot Stuff." The band provided the rousing music for the Silver Dancers who showed up with their trademark pompoms.

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Conditioning is what sets Iguodala apart from the rest. "Iíve been blessed without suffering any injuries," said the 22-year-old leaper who has played and started in 164 regular season games since turning pro in 2004-05. "The key to staying healthy is not to overdo your workouts. When Iím not playing, I go to the gym for two hours in the morning and two hours at night. I donít focus on any one aspect of my body. I work the whole body."

Iguodala is actively involved in social work Last April, he donated $500 per point, rebound and assist he chalked up in a game against New York and turned over $19,000 to aid tornado relief victims in his Springfield, Illinois, hometown. He has also raised $42,000 for schools in Springfield and hosted a drive to collect over 2,000 new childrenís books for a Philadelphia community. At the Rookie Challenge during the All-Star Weekend in Houston last February, Iguodala was named MVP for compiling 30 points, six rebounds and three assists.

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 At the welcome reception hosted by Solar Sports for the NBA visitors in the Holiday Inn Galleria last Thursday, San Miguel Beer and Ginebra San Miguel strength and conditioning coach Kirk Collier came with 6-11, 240-pound Larry Turner of Tennessee State.

Turner, 24, is in town for six weeks to train with Collier. He played three years at Oklahoma University before transferring to Tennessee. Turner averaged 6.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in his first year with the Tigers last season. "Turnerís as good an athlete at the five (positions) as there is in the league," said Tennessee State coach Cy Alexander. "Heís an outstanding jumper and heís physically strong. Heís very athletic and he knows the game. The other thing that he has shown is he is a leader."

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The six Silver Dancers in town are Ashley Gonzales, Jemina Brown, Laura Castillo, Melissa Jones, Tina Zamora and Vanessa Castaneda. Their choreographer Raquel Torres-Garcia arrived with them.

Over 200 hopefuls attend grueling tryouts every summer for 16 slots on the Silver Dancers squad. Veterans and newcomers alike battle for jobs on a yearly basis.

The Dancers said itís an unbelievable experience to perform for the Spurs and they get a chance to watch all their regular season and playoff games. Asked who their NBA crushes are, one of them singled out Spurs guard Tony Parker while two others pointed to Iguodala and Frye who, by the wa y, were within hearing distance.

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Solar vice president for marketing Jude Turcuato said Alaska basketball team manager Joaqui Trillo has asked to meet with visiting NBA mascot Harry The Hawk of the Atlanta Hawks to get pointers on how to make the Aces own mascot E-Cow more appealing, attractive and morale-boosting.

Harry The HawkĖfeathers and allĖwill be featured at the NBA Madness Celebrity Jam program tonight. In a recent interview hatched somewhere in his Highrise Nest home at the Philips Arena rafters, Harry said he plays the center (of attention) position, insists he was picked first in the NBA draft over Larry "Bird" and Pat "Ewing" and says his dream is to receive a championship "wing."

Harry said his hobbies include stair-sledding, taking and making the half-court shot, dancing with kids playing musical chairs, pulling pranks on NBA referees and creating havoc wherever he goes.

On a serious note, Harry said being an NBA mascot is physically demanding. "I ride a unicycle," said Harry who has four children and logs about 40 to 50 hours a week as a mascot. "I juggle basketballs. I spin basketballs and shoot half-court shots. I made about 50 percent of my half-court shots last year."

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NBA Asia managing director Loron Orris said his dream is for a Filipino to someday play in the NBA. There have been Chinese, Korean and Japanese players in the NBA but not yet a full-blooded Filipino.

Raymond Townsend, a Fil-Am born in the US with Batangas roots, saw action for Golden State and Indiana in 1979-81.

NBA Asia senior manager for marketing partnerships Carlo Singson said the theme of this yearís NBA Madness is "watch, play and jam."

The watching began with the live telecasts of the recent NBA Finals then the playing started with the first of four-weekend Madness Mall Tours at Robinsons Pampanga last month and the jamming takes place at the Araneta Coliseum tonight.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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