HISTORY will be made on Thursday as an ex-pro is poised to snare the Conference Most Valuable Player award for the first time in the eight-year history of the developmental ranks.
Jeff Viernes and Gab Banal are neck-and-neck in the race for the top individual plum in the 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup, leading their respective teams to the championship round.
Viernes has been nothing but deadly for Che’Lu Bar and Grill as the former Phoenix and GlobalPort guard has cemented his reputation as one of the most reliable playmakers out of the PBA.
Unsurprisingly, he has led the conference in scoring with his averages of 18.8 points, on top of 4.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.0 steals to be the undisputed leader of this Revellers side.
Coach Stevenson Tiu has no doubt that his longtime stalwart deserves the honor than anybody else.
“Definitely, siya ang MVP namin. The way he carried yung team namin sa buong conference, kitang kita mo na gusto niya yun at gusto niya mag-champion,” he said.
Banal, though, has a solid case for his own to claim the hardware.
Netting a near double-double with his 14.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.4 steals, the ex-GlobalPort forward has been the rock for Go for Gold this conference.
His efforts have been nothing but huge, becoming the seventh player to log a triple-double performance in PBA D-League history over Marinerong Pilipino-TIP in the Scratchers’ semifinals clincher, as well as his scorching hot sniping in Game 2 of the Finals to level the series to one game apiece.
Those alone are enough to convince coach Charles Tiu that Banal should be this conference’s top guy.
“I know Gab wants the MVP and he deserves it. He’s been our best player all conference long. He’s very smart, very unselfish, and he helped us get to the Finals,” he said.
The plum will be awarded before Game 3 of the best-of-five Finals on Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Other candidates for the award are Jai Reyes of Go for Gold, Jessie Collado of Che’Lu Bar and Grill, Trevis Jackson and Jorey Napoles of Marinerong Pilipino-TIP, and Pierce Chan and Orlan Wamar of Centro Escolar University.
The winner will be decided through the votes of the print and online media, broadcast coveror, and the PBA Office of the Commissioner.
For the two leading candidates, however, the Conference MVP award is just the cherry on top of the sundae as they both have their eyes set on winning the grander prize: the championship.
“Come what may. I'm just trying to help my team win,” said Banal.
Viernes, for his part, explained, “Nag-promise ako sa owners and of course kay coach Steve, na pipilitin ko hanggang sa abot ng aking makakaya na matulungan ang Che'Lu Bar and Grill na makuha itong first championship nila sa D-League.”